Lamictal Withdrawal Symptoms in Bipolar Disorder

Some bipolar patients say there are withdrawal problems

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Official clinical information about Lamictal (lamotrigine) contains few details regarding potential symptoms that may occur if you stop taking the drug. However, reports from people who have taken it and then stop indicate that some individuals may experience difficult symptoms when withdrawing from Lamictal.

Withdrawal Symptoms Are Rare

Obviously, all medications have the potential to cause both uncommon side effects and uncommon withdrawal symptoms.

The clinical trials that looked at Lamictal for bipolar disorder didn't note any significant withdrawal symptoms, and that makes the symptoms unlikely to be a regular occurrence in people taking the drug.

However, a quick internet search on the subject turns up a wide variety of anecdotal reports, calling withdrawal from Lamictal "a nightmare" and "hell." So even if these experiences aren't particularly common, they may occur.

Symptoms of Lamictal Withdrawal

Clinical trials do show that Lamictal discontinuation may cause seizures, especially in patients with epilepsy, but seizures were extremely rare among people taking Lamictal for bipolar disorder—only two patients with bipolar experienced seizures following abrupt discontinuation of the drug.

That said, Lamictal users report other symptoms, even if they taper off from the drug as opposed to stopping it suddenly. Specifically, when withdrawing from Lamictal treatment, people have reported that they have experienced these symptoms:

None of these effects were reported when the drug was first being tested, and they're not mentioned on the drug's label now, though it does caution patients not to stop taking Lamictal without first talking to their healthcare provider since to do so can cause serious problems.

As with any medication, withdrawal symptoms will depend on the individuals and their circumstances, such as how long they've been on Lamictal, their dosage, whether they stopped suddenly or tapered off, and other individual factors.

Taper Off Lamictal to Avoid Symptoms

Although patient information on Lamictal doesn't mention any potential withdrawal symptoms beyond seizures, as with most medications, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommends that people who are discontinuing the drug taper it off, rather than stopping it suddenly.

This recommended taper period should last at least two weeks, with about a 50 percent reduction in dose per week, the FDA says. Your doctor may recommend a different method of tapering, depending on your circumstances and the dosage you're taking. Report any odd or disturbing symptoms to your doctor as you're tapering off your dose.

If you're taking other medications along with Lamictal, the situation may be even more complicated. This is because Lamictal interacts with other drugs such as certain anti-epileptics and oral contraceptives. Your doctor will help you sort out the significance of these interactions.

In a few cases, you'll need to stop Lamictal suddenly.

This is because the drug can cause a potentially life-threatening rash and other dangerous reactions, and if one of these rare side effects occurs, you'll need to discontinue taking the drug immediately. If this happens to you, talk with your doctor about any withdrawal symptoms you experience.

Source:

GlaxoSmithKline. Lamictal Label. U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Published March 24, 2015.