My positive experience taking the antidepressant Wellbutrin / Bupropion, & why maybe you should try it too
post by Robert_Wiblin
score: 20 (12 votes) ·
To help provide useful advice for people dealing with mental health problems in the effective altruism community I've written up my experience trying Wellbutrin / Bupropion to treat mild depression. It starts:
This isn't professional medical advice, it's just my experience and amateur knowledge. I'm an economist not a doctor.
- I wasn't sure whether I should try antidepressants because I was only mildly depressed, but I gave Bupropion XL a go.
- It was easy to get, cheap, and I think it enhanced my life a lot.
- Studies suggest this is a pretty common experience, and Bupropion is likely the best antidepressant for some groups of people to try first.
- So if you're ever depressed and live in - or can visit - the USA, maybe you should consider taking it too.
- I note some kinds of people for whom it's probably not the best antidepressant to try first, and link to further research on the topic.
My experience in more detail
A lot of people suffer from depression or low mood and take antidepressants, or wonder whether they should take anti-depressants...
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comment by Milan_Griffes
· score: 10 (6 votes) · EA
Was chatting with Gwern about this. An excerpt of their thoughts (published with permission):
Wellbutrin/Buproprion is a weird one. Comes up often on SSC and elsewhere as surprisingly effective and side-effect free, but also with a very wide variance and messy mechanism (even for antidepressants) so anecdotes differ dramatically.
With antidepressants, you're usually talking multi-week onset and washout periods, so blinded self-experiments would take something like half a year for decent sample sizes. It's not that easy to get if you aren't willing to go through a doctor (ie no easy ordering online from a DNM or clearnet site, like modafinil)...
Finally, as far as I can tell, my personal problems have more to do with anxiety than depression, and anti-anxiety is not what buproprion is generally described as best for, so my own benefit is probably less than usual. I thought about it a little but decided it was too weird and hard to get, and self-experiments would take too long.
comment by Milan_Griffes
· score: 2 (2 votes) · EA
Nice. I love ideas with the shape of "Consider trying this thing because the costs are low, even if you're not sure if it will help or pretty sure it won't."
The main confounder I worry about is that I changed what I spent most of my time doing at work around that time, and I think that also improved my life.
Given confounders like this, it'd be great to see someone run a Gwern-style controlled trial on their Wellbutrin use. The value of information would probably be quite high.
It'd be sorta tricky to do given the on- and off-ramping effects of the drug, so perhaps should only be undertaken by someone with sufficient slack to accommodate.