Drugs for bipolar disorder

caileak.com – Drugs for bipolar disorder. People with bipolar disorder need ongoing treatment. In fact, even if you feel better, you should see a mental health professional regularly. Treatment usually involves a combination of medication and talk therapy.
Drugs for bipolar disorder
Psychiatrists usually recommend medication as the first treatment to get symptoms under control as quickly as possible. Once your symptoms are under control, you will receive maintenance treatment to reduce the risk of recurrence. Maintenance treatment also reduces the risk of minor mood swings turning into mania or depression. Several types of medications are used to treat bipolar disorder. These include mood stabilizers, antidepressants, and anxiety-relieving medications. Your doctor may prescribe more than one medication to get the most benefit.

Finding the right drug or combination of drugs is going to take some trial and error. You may need to switch medications because of side effects.

It can take up to eight weeks for the full effects of any medication to be seen. Usually only one drug can be changed at a time. This helps doctors better monitor and identify which ones aren’t working. The following types of drugs are used to treat bipolar disorder:


Lithium (as Lithobid) is a mood stabilizer that has been used since the 1970s. Helps control symptoms of acute mania. It is also effective in preventing periods of mania and depression from recurring.

Common side effects include weight gain and digestive problems. This drug can also affect your thyroid and kidneys. Periodic blood tests are necessary to monitor thyroid and kidney health. Lithium is a category D drug to be avoided if possible during pregnancy. However, in some cases, the benefits may outweigh the potential risks.


Anticonvulsants are mood stabilizers used to treat bipolar disorder. They have been used since the mid-1990s. Anticonvulsant drugs include:

  • divalproex sodium (Depakote)
  • lamotrigine (Lamictal)
  • valproic acid (Depakene)

Common side effects of anticonvulsants include weight gain, drowsiness, and difficulty sitting still. Anticonvulsants are also associated with an increased risk of suicidal ideation and behavior. Valproic acid is known to cause birth defects. Lamictal is known to cause skin rashes which can be dangerous. Tell your doctor about any new rash that appears while taking Lamictal.


Antipsychotic drugs are another treatment option. Some commonly prescribed antipsychotics include:

  • olanzapine (Zyprexa)
  • risperidone (Risperdal)
  • quetiapine (Seroquel)
  • lurasidone (Latuda)
  • aripiprazole (Abilify)
  • asenapine (Saphris)

Common side effects include weight gain, drowsiness, dry mouth, decreased libido, and blurred vision. Antipsychotic medications can also affect memory and attention. It is also known to cause involuntary movements of the face and body.


These include serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs), monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs), and tricyclics.

Antidepressants can be added to help manage depression in bipolar disorder, but they can sometimes trigger manic episodes. It is often prescribed with a mood stabilizer or antipsychotic to reduce the risk of a mixed or manic episode.

As with any medication, you should discuss the risks and benefits of taking antidepressants for bipolar disorder with your doctor. Here are some of the more commonly prescribed antidepressants:


  • desvenlafaxine (Pristiq)
  • duloxetine (Cymbalta, Yentreve)
  • venlafaxine (Effexor)


  • citalopram (Celexa)
  • escitalopram (Lexapro)
  • fluoxetine (Prozac, Prozac Weekly)
  • paroxetine (Paxil, Paxil CR, Pexeva)
  • sertraline (Zoloft)


  • amitriptyline
  • desipramine (Norpramin)
  • imipramine (Tofranil, Tofranil-PM)
  • nortriptyline (Pamelor)


  • phenelzine (Nardil)
  • tranylcypromine (Parnate)

Generally, MAOIs are rarely prescribed unless a patient has a poor response to a SNRI or SSRI. Common side effects include decreased libido, trouble sleeping, increased appetite, dry mouth, digestive problems, and menstrual problems.

When taking MAOIs, it is important to avoid alcohol and other drugs and foods, such as cheese, that can cause a rare but dangerous condition called serotonin syndrome.


These are a group of medications with anxiety-relieving properties. Benzodiazepines include:

  • alprazolam (Xanax)
  • chlordiazepoxide (Librium)
  • clonazepam (Klonopin)
  • diazepam (Valium)
  • lorazepam (Ativan)

Side effects can include drowsiness, poor muscle coordination, and problems with balance and memory. These medications should be used with caution due to the risk of addiction.


This drug combines fluoxetine and the antipsychotic olanzapine. Symbyax has both antidepressant and mood stabilizing properties. Side effects may include increased appetite, sexual problems, drowsiness, fatigue, and dry mouth.

If your doctor prescribes this drug, ask whether separate prescriptions for the two components are cheaper. Nothing is different from the combined pill. It is simply a new formulation of two existing drugs.

Medications and pregnancy

Some drugs, such as lithium and valproic acid, can increase the risk of birth defects in the fetus. Some medications can reduce the effectiveness of birth control pills. Always consult your doctor if you are using birth control to prevent pregnancy.

Also, if you are breastfeeding, you must consult your doctor about the medicine. Some medicines may not be safe for your child.