Weight Gain is a Common Issue with Antidepressants, But Buproprion is an Exception

October 3, 2016 · Posted in Current Treatments · Comment 

weight gain on antidepressants

A 2016 study by researcher David Arterburn and colleagues in the Journal of Clinical Medicine suggests that taking an antidepressant for two years is associated with an increase in body weight. Luckily, bupropion (trade name Wellbutrin) is an exception that may be a good choice for obese or overweight patients.

The researchers analyzed links between which antidepressants patients in a large health system in Washington State were prescribed and their body weight two years later.

The researchers used fluoxetine (Prozac) as a reference. Most antidepressants did not differ significantly from fluoxetine in terms of the weight gain experienced by people taking the drug.

There were a few exceptions. Compared to non-smoking fluoxetine users, who gained an average of 4.6 pounds in two years, non-smoking bupropion users actually lost weight—an average of 2.4 pounds. (Smokers taking bupropion still gained an average of 6.9 pounds.)

Sertraline (Zoloft) was another exception. Sertraline users gained more than users of other antidepressants—an average of 10.5 pounds over two years.

Despite the FDA Warning to the Contrary: Antidepressants Do Not Increase Suicidality

March 15, 2013 · Posted in Current Treatments, Peer-Reviewed Published Data · Comment 


In 2007, the FDA began labeling antidepressants with a warning that patients aged 18-24 were at risk for increased suicidality during the first weeks of treatment. New evidence shows antidepressants actually have beneficial effects on suicide risk in adults. A study of all published and unpublished data on the SSRI fluoxetine (Prozac) and the SNRI venlafaxine (Effexor) published in 2012 by Gibbons et al. in the Archives of General Psychiatry showed that these antidepressants substantially reduced suicidal thoughts and behavior in adults and produced no increase in suicidal thoughts or behavior in children and adolescents.

The protective effect on suicidality in adults was mediated by mood, i.e. the patients’ mood improved and they became less suicidal. Children’s mood also improved on the antidepressants, but their risk of suicidal ideation did not change.

Editor’s Note: These are important findings.  When the FDA box warning on antidepressants and suicidal ideation appeared, antidepressant treatment of youth decreased without an accompanying increase in psychotherapy, and the actual suicide rate in youth increased.

We now know that childhood-onset depression carries a bigger risk for a poor outcome in adulthood than adult-onset illness.  In parallel, greater numbers of depressions are associated with more impairment, disability, cognitive dysfunction, medical comorbidities, treatment resistances, and neurobiological abnormalities.

It is important to treat illness in young people in order to prevent these difficulties, and the suicide warning should not deter the use of antidepressants. Patients should be careful about suicidal ideation in the first several months after starting an antidepressant, as other data suggest that this is a time of slightly increased risk of suicidal thoughts in children and adolescents.