Bipolar disorder (formerly called manic-depressive illness or manic depression) is a mental disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, concentration, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.
There are three types of bipolar disorder. All three types involve clear changes in mood, energy, and activity levels. These moods range from periods of extremely “up,” elated, irritable, or energized behavior (known as manic episodes) to very “down,” sad, indifferent, or hopeless periods (known as depressive episodes). Less severe manic periods are known as hypomanic episodes.
- Bipolar I Disorder— defined by manic episodes that last at least 7 days, or by manic symptoms that are so severe that the person needs immediate hospital care. Usually, depressive episodes occur as well, typically lasting at least 2 weeks. Episodes of depression with mixed features (having depressive symptoms and manic symptoms at the same time) are also possible.
- Bipolar II Disorder— defined by a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes that are typical of Bipolar I Disorder.
- Cyclothymic Disorder (also called Cyclothymia)— Is defined by periods of hypomanic symptoms as well as periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least 2 years (1 year in children and adolescents). However, the symptoms do not meet the diagnostic requirements for a hypomanic episode and a depressive episode.
What is Lamictal?
Lamictal is a brand of lamotrigine anti-seizure medication that is also used for the long-term treatment of a mood disorder called bipolar disorder. Lamotrigine belongs to a class of drugs called anticonvulsants or antiepileptic drugs (AEDs). A class of drugs is a group of medications that work in a similar way. These drugs are often used to treat similar conditions.
For people with epilepsy, this drug reduces the release of a substance in your brain known as glutamate. This action prevents the neurons in your brain from becoming too active. As a result, you may have fewer seizures.
For people with bipolar disorder, this drug may affect certain receptors in your brain that help controls your mood. This could decrease the number of mood episodes you have.
Lamictal is approved by the FDA for the maintenance treatment of adults with bipolar disorder. It has been found to help delay bouts of depression, mania, hypomania (a milder form of mania), and mixed episodes in those being treated with standard therapy.
What Happens If You Take Lamictal And Are Not Bipolar?
If you take Lamictal (lamotrigine) without having any symptoms of bipolar disorder or epilepsy, you are likely to experience some side effects particularly rash and suicidal thoughts which may continue to occur or worsen if you continue taking the medication.
The effect of Lamictal (lamotrigine) does not kick in immediately because it usually takes around 6 weeks for Lamictal (lamotrigine) to work properly. Anecdotal evidence suggests that people who take Lamictal (lamotrigine) without being bipolar are likely to have a bit of a meltdown and start acting irrationally like screaming.
However, it is important to note that abusing the medication in any manner can also result in higher doses of the drug in your system leading to overdose symptoms which can include:
- Clumsiness or unsteadiness (severe)
- Continuous, uncontrolled back and forth or rolling eye movements (severe)
- Dizziness (severe)
- Drowsiness (severe)
- Dryness of the mouth (severe)
- Headache (severe)
- Increased heart rate
- Loss of consciousness
- Slurred speech (severe)
If an overdose occurs, call your doctor or 911. You may need urgent medical care. You may also contact the poison control center at 1-800-222-1222. A specific treatment to reverse the effects of lamotrigine does not exist.
What are the likely side effects of Lamictal?
Lamictal oral tablet may cause drowsiness. Do not drive, use heavy machinery, or do other dangerous activities until you know how this drug affects you.
Lamictal can also cause other side effects.
More common side effects
The more common side effects that can occur with the use of lamotrigine include:
• back pain
• blurred vision
• double vision
• dry mouth
• nausea and vomiting
• sore throat
• stomach pain
• stuffy nose
• trouble sleeping
• trouble with balance and coordination
If these effects are mild, they may go away within a few days or a couple of weeks. If they’re more severe or don’t go away, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.
Serious side effects
Call your doctor right away if you have serious side effects. Call 911 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or if you think you’re having a medical emergency. Serious side effects and their symptoms can include the following:
• Serious skin rashes called Stevens-Johnson syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis. Symptoms can include:
o blistering or peeling of your skin
o painful sores in your mouth or around your eyes
• Multi-organ hypersensitivity, which is also called drug reaction with eosinophilia and systemic symptoms (DRESS). Symptoms can include:
o frequent infections
o severe muscle pain
o swelling of your face, eyes, lips, or tongue
o swollen lymph glands
o unusual bruising or bleeding
o weakness or tiredness
o yellowing of your skin or the white part of your eyes
• Low blood cell counts. Symptoms can include:
o bleeding from the gums
o frequent infections or an infection that won’t go away
o unexplained bruising
• Changes in mood or behavior. Symptoms can include:
o aggressive or violent behavior
o attempts to harm or kill yourself
o crankiness that’s new or gets worse
o dangerous behavior or impulses
o depression or anxiety that’s new or gets worse
o extreme increase in activity and talking
o panic attacks
o thoughts about killing yourself
o trouble sleeping
• Aseptic meningitis (inflammation of the membrane that covers your brain and spinal cord). Symptoms can include:
o being more sensitive to light than usual
o muscle pains
o nausea and vomiting
o stiff neck
• Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH, a life-threatening immune system reaction). Symptoms can include:
o enlarged lymph nodes
o high fever, typically over 101°F
• Irregular heart rhythm. Symptoms can include:
o a fast, slow, or pounding heartbeat
o chest pain
o feeling lightheaded
o shortness of breath
What other drugs can interact with Lamictal?
Lamictal oral tablets can interact with other medications, vitamins, or herbs you may be taking. An interaction is when a substance changes the way a drug works. This can be harmful or prevent the drug from working well.
To help avoid interactions, your doctor should manage all of your medications carefully. Be sure to tell your doctor about all medications, vitamins, or herbs you’re taking. To find out how this drug might interact with something else you’re taking, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
Examples of drugs that can cause interactions with lamotrigine are listed below.
Taking certain other antiseizure drugs with lamotrigine can lower the level of lamotrigine in your body. This can affect how well lamotrigine works. Examples of these drugs include: