Medication Monday: Lamotrigine

Welcome to the last Medication Monday for August! I’m so glad you decided to drop in and check out this week’s installment of Medication Monday, the weekly series that examine some of the mental health medications currently available on the market. As I remind readers every week however, it is not meant as a substitute for medical advice, merely a brief informative guide to help others understand some of the medications currently available. This week we are talking about the medication lamotrigine (Lamictal).

Lamotrigine interacts with the brain and is approved for bipolar patients as well as those with certain seizure disorders. According to research published by the National Institute of Health, lamotrigine can be a good alternative to, or compliment to, lithium as a first-line treatment for bipolar disorder without triggering manic moods. As I’ve noted several times before, certain antidepressants can trigger manic moods in bipolar patient, so it is important to know how a given medication interacts with bipolar disorder as opposed to major depressive disorder.

However, lamotrigine does have some side effects users should know about. These include dizziness, drowsiness, headache, vomiting, or upset stomach. In rare cases, lamotrigine can also cause a life threatening rash from Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, serious immune responses that may impact the liver and blood, and an increased risk of suicidal thoughts. Because of the Stevens-Johnson syndrome, extra risk exists for pediatric patients, and lamotrigine is not recommended for patients under two. Patients should let their doctors know immediately if they experience unusual bleeding or bruising, chills, confusion, drowsiness, fever, headache, muscle pains, nausea, vomiting, a stiff neck, rash, or unusual sensitivity to light.

However, I will also say that while it is important to know about all the potential side effects, you will not necessarily get all of the side effects. And your doctor or psychopharmacologist will have prescribed this medication because they believe the benefit would be greater than the possible side effect. That said, you should not hesitate to discuss any and all of your concerns with your medical provider.

It is also important to discuss other medications you are currently taking with your doctor. Lamotrigine is known to interact with depakote, other anti-convulsants, birth control pills, rifampin, and ritonavir. It is also known to increase the levels and effects of clozapine.

Lastly, I want to put all that medical mumbo-jumbo aside and say as someone who takes mental health medication myself, that it does help, the side effects are manageable, and I wish I hadn’t let the stigma prevent me from adding medication for my tool box for so long. Mental health medication really does help, and I hope this post has helped you.

Until next time, be well.

Additional sources: WebMD – Lamictal and NAMI – Types of Medication – Lamotrigine

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