FAQ: Medication

FAQ: Medication



Medicines, when taken as prescribed, can help control bipolar mood swings. Your doctor will vary the amounts and combinations of your medicines according to your symptoms, which type of bipolar disorder you have, and how you respond to the medicines. About 1 out of 3 people will be completely free of symptoms of bipolar disorder by taking mood stabilizer medicine, such as carbamazepine or lithium, for life.
It is important to talk to your doctor or psychiatrist to see what medicine choices may be available to you. Take into consideration, whether or not, your lifestyle allows you to take medicines on time every day. A medicine you only take once a day may work best for you if you have a hard time remembering to take your medicines. During your doctor’s appointment, ask about:

  • The side effects of each medicine
  • How often you will need to take the medicines
  • How the medicines may interact with other medicines you are taking
  • Whether it’s important to take the medicines at the same time every day
It is very important to be open and upfront about family and personal history with your doctor in order for them to safely treat you with medication. Be sure to inform your doctor if ANY of the following apply to you:

  • Dehydration
  • Dementia
  • Diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • History of stroke
  • Low blood counts
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Seizures
  • Suicidal thoughts, plans, or attempt; a previous suicide attempt by you or a family member
  • Unusual or allergic reaction to any medicines, foods, dyes, or preservatives
  • Pregnant or trying to get pregnant
  • Breast-feeding
Mood stabilizers are medicines that treat and prevent highs (manic or hypomanic episodes) and lows (depressive episodes).
Lithium is one of the oldest, least expensive, and most commonly used mood-stabilizers for Bipolar Disorder. Lithium as a salt, is available as: lithium carbonate and lithium citrate. In capsule, tablet, or liquid form: Lithobid, Lithane, Lithonate, Lithotabs, Cibalith-S, and others.
Findings show it effective in reducing symptoms/episode frequency with a response rate of 70% to 80% for the initial manic phase of Bipolar Disorder. Studies show that lithium effectively reduces the risk of suicide at least six fold. If you take lithium, you will need regular blood tests and monitoring of your kidney and thyroid function for drug toxicity levels.
The general classes of Mood Stabilizing medications used in the treatment of Bipolar Disorder are Anticonvulsants, Antipsychotics, and Benzodiazepines:

  • Anticonvulsants:
    May be helpful for bipolar depression and treating manic episodes. Common Anticonvulsants include:
    Lamictal (lamotrigine), Depakote (valproic acid), Tegretol (carbamazepine), Trileptal (oxcarbazepine), Neurontin (gabapentin), and Topamax (topiramate)
  • Antipsychotics:
    Improve manic episodes in combination with other medicines. Common Antipsychotics include:
    Haldol (haloperidol), Adasuve or Loxitane (loxapine), Risperdal (risperidone), (aripiprazole), Geodon (ziprasidone), Saphris (asenapine), Seroquel (quetiapine fumarate), and Zyprexa (olanzapine)
  • Benzodiazepines:
    May be used instead of antipsychotics or as an additional medicine during a manic phase. Common Benzodiazepines include:
    Klonopin (clonazepam), Ativan (lorazepam), Xanax (alprazolam), and Valium (diazepam)
If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you can. If it is almost time for your next dose, take only that dose. Do not take double or extra doses. If your unclear on how to proceed, contact your doctors office for instruction.
Common side effects of mood stabilizing medications include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Heartburn
  • Mood swings
  • Stuffed/Runny nose
  • Blurred vision
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Sensitivity to the sun
  • Skin rashes
  • Menstrual problems for women
  • Restlessness
  • Dry mouth
  • Bloating/indigestion
  • Acne
  • Unusual discomfort to cold Temperatures
  • Joint/Muscle pain
Antidepressants are commonly prescribed to treat depressive disorders. However, in bipolar disorder, a primary mood stabilizer is recommended. If an antidepressant is used with Bipolar Disorder, it’s usually added after an anti-manic drug has first been started.
Keep out of the reach of children. Store at room temperature between 59 and 86 degrees F(15 and 30 degrees C). Properly dispose any unused medicine after the expiration date by contacting your local garbage/refuse service.


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