Depakote for Bipolar Disorder

Uses, Side Effects, Warnings, and Drug Interactions

Depakote label


Depakote (divalproex sodium, sodium valproate, and valproic acid) is an anticonvulsant (anti-seizure) medication that is also used as a mood stabilizer in the treatment of bipolar disorder. Depakene contains the same medication—the difference is that Depakote is coated, which is thought to decrease some of the gastrointestinal side effects.

Uses, Forms, and Levels

Depakote is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of manic or mixed episodes, with or without psychotic features. It's also approved to prevent migraines and treat epilepsy and is frequently prescribed for people who have hypomania. Like other medications, Depakote is sometimes prescribed off-label for other conditions as well.

This drug is available in a variety of forms and dosages, including capsules, sprinkles, extended-release tablets, delayed-release tablets, and syrup.

Depakote levels are routinely checked with blood tests to make sure you have neither too little nor too much in your system. Too little will render it ineffective while too much may be toxic.

Side Effects

The most common side effects of Depakote include:​

  • Somnolence (drowsiness)
  • Dyspepsia
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Abdominal pain
  • Rash
  • Constipation
  • Coordination problems
  • Agitation
  • Back pain
  • Mood swings
  • Blurred vision
  • Headache
  • Shaking
  • Changes in appetite
  • Unusual weight gain or loss
  • Hair loss

Let your doctor know if these side effects are severe or if they aren't going away.


Here are some of the warnings associated with Depakote:

  • There is some risk of increased suicidal ideation and behavior in patients being treated with this category of anticonvulsants.
  • There has been some correlation of Depakote with liver problems, so your doctor may check your liver function with blood tests.
  • Depakote can cause damage to your pancreas, and if this is diagnosed, it should ordinarily be discontinued. Symptoms that can indicate liver or pancreas problems include dark urine, nausea, vomiting, clay-colored stools, upper stomach pain, loss of appetite, low fever, or jaundice (yellowing of the skin or eyes). Emergency medical attention is needed if these symptoms appear.
  • In elderly patients, dosage adjustment and close monitoring of potential side effects is important.

Depakote and Pregnancy

Depakote should only be used with extreme caution if you're pregnant. Birth defects, such as spina bifida, are up to 10 times as likely to occur, and developmental problems, such as lowered IQ, have been reported. Talk to your doctor about your medication options if you're pregnant or are considering getting pregnant.

Depakote is excreted in breast milk. According to the FDA, strong consideration should be given to discontinuing nursing when Depakote is given to a nursing woman, as it may harm the infant. If you plan to nurse your child, make sure your doctor knows you're taking Depakote.

Drug Interactions

Taking Depakote and Lamictal (lamotrigine) together can increase the likelihood of serious skin rashes, including Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and toxic epidermal necrolysis. The Lamictal dosage should be reduced when it's co-administered with Depakote.

There are many other medications that can interact with Depakote and increase potential side effects, including common drugs, like aspirin. You should inform your doctor about all other medications, including over-the-counter medications, supplements, vitamins, and herbs, that you're taking along with Depakote.

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Article Sources

  • Medline Plus. Valproic Acid. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Updated July 15, 2017.