Bipolar Disorder Treatment Medications What to Know About Lamictal (Lamotrigine) A Mood Stabilizer Approved to Treat Bipolar Disorder By Marcia Purse Marcia Purse Marcia Purse is a mental health writer and bipolar disorder advocate who brings strong research skills and personal experiences to her writing. Learn about our editorial process Updated on February 17, 2022 Medically reviewed Verywell Mind articles are reviewed by board-certified physicians and mental healthcare professionals. Medical Reviewers confirm the content is thorough and accurate, reflecting the latest evidence-based research. Content is reviewed before publication and upon substantial updates. Learn more. by John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE Medically reviewed by John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE John C. Umhau, MD, MPH, CPE is board-certified in addiction medicine and preventative medicine. He is the medical director at Alcohol Recovery Medicine. For over 20 years Dr. Umhau was a senior clinical investigator at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Learn about our Medical Review Board Print Parhamr / Wikimedia Commons Table of Contents View All Table of Contents Uses Before Dosage Side Effects Warnings and Interactions Lamictal (lamotrigine) is used as a mood stabilizer for people with bipolar disorder and as an anticonvulsant for people with epilepsy. When used to treat bipolar disorder, the drug helps reduce the occurrence of mood episodes. For people with epilepsy, Lamictal prevents seizures, and it may be used alone or together with another anticonvulsant. Lamictal belongs to the phenyltriazine class of anticonvulsants. It's not known exactly how it works, but it may stabilize mood by acting on sodium channels in the brain. Lamictal is taken orally and is available as a tablet intended to be swallowed whole, chewable tablet, or disintegrating tablet that is placed on the tongue. The generic form of Lamictal is called lamotrigine. Lamictal Uses For those 18 years and older, Lamictal is used for maintenance treatment of bipolar disorder to reduce the occurrence of mood episodes. Although not formally indicated, Lamictal may also be prescribed for other aspects of bipolar disorder and other mood disorders. Lamictal is also used to control seizures in people with epilepsy. For children age 2 and older, it's often prescribed together with another anticonvulsant medication, but it may be used alone for adolescents and adults age 16 and up. Off-Label Uses While Lamictal is indicated as a maintenance drug, some research shows it may also help someone who is experiencing acute bipolar depression. Lamictal may also be prescribed to treat unipolar depression. Before Taking Lamictal Before a doctor considers prescribing Lamictal, they will need to evaluate you for bipolar disorder. Your doctor will check to see if you're experiencing symptoms like: AgitationDelusions or hallucinationsDifficulty concentrating or remembering thingsDistractibilityExcessive fatigueExcessive talkingGuilt or hopelessnessImpulsive risk-takingInappropriate behaviorIncreased sexual desireIrritability, hostility, or aggressionLoss of interest in activities that usually give you pleasureLoss of interest in your health, nutrition, or physical appearanceProlonged periods of sadnessRacing thoughtsSleep disturbances, either sleeping less than usual or too muchSuicidal thoughts If you or a loved one is currently experiencing suicidal thoughts or an impulse to self-harm, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988 for help. If you believe the danger is immediate, call 911. A doctor will also determine whether you fit the criteria for bipolar I or II and rule out other similar conditions. Since Lamictal is a maintenance drug, the doctor will likely ensure that you're not currently experiencing an acute manic or depressive episode before beginning treatment. Your prescribing doctor should also reassess you periodically to make sure you still need maintenance treatment for bipolar disorder. Precautions and Contraindications There are some situations where you should not take Lamictal based on your preexisting conditions and other medications you're currently taking. If you've ever experienced hypersensitivity to lamotrigine in the past, you should not take Lamictal, as this medication carries a risk of a serious, potentially life-threatening rash. You should share with the doctor if you're pregnant or trying to conceive. Data from animal studies show that Lamictal may pose a risk to the fetus, but those results haven't been observed in people. Caution is warranted, but you should discuss the issue with your doctor. In some cases, the benefits of taking Lamictal might outweigh the potential risks. Lamictal does appear to travel through breastmilk, so talk to your prescribing doctor before breastfeeding while taking this medication. Let the doctor know if you have a history of liver and/or kidney problems. Caution may be warranted in these cases, and your doctor may need to adjust your Lamictal dosage. Talk to your doctor about all medications, supplements, and vitamins that you currently take. While some drugs pose minor interaction risks, others may outright contraindicate use or prompt careful consideration as to whether the pros of treatment outweigh the cons in your case. Certain drugs may cause problems with Lamictal, like: Specific anticonvulsants that can reduce the concentration of Lamictal in your blood, like Dilantin (phenytoin), Mysoline (primidone), phenobarbital, and Tegretol (carbamazepine) Oral estrogen-containing contraceptives, which can also reduce Lamictal concentration Valproate, which may increase your blood level of Lamictal and can increase the risk of developing a life-threatening rash In some cases, your doctor may need to adjust your dosage, while in others, they may recommend another medication instead of Lamictal. When pregnant or taking hormonal contraceptives and taking Lamictal, your doctor will monitor your lamotrigine serum levels frequently in order to make dosage adjustments as needed to prevent significant fluctuations in your lamotrigine levels. Other Anticonvulsants Anticonvulsants, also known as antiepileptic drugs or AEDs, are sometimes used as mood stabilizers for people with bipolar disorder. Other common anticonvulsants used in bipolar disorder treatment include: Depakote (divalproex sodium) Equetro or Tegretol (carbamazepine) Oxtellar or Trileptal (oxcarbazepine) Topamax (topiramate) Lamictal Dosage Lamictal is offered in a tablet form and available in a number of different formulations and strengths: Lamictal tablets, available in 25-, 100-, 150-, and 200-milligram (mg) strengthsLamictal orally disintegrating tablets (ODT), available in 25-, 50-, 100-, and 200-mg strengthsLamictal chewable dispersible (CD) tablets, available in 2-, 5-, and 25-mg strengths Lamotrigine is also available as an extended-release formulation called Lamictal XR. It produces more stable serum levels of the medication. To avoid the risk of a hypersensitivity reaction, Lamictal is usually started at a lower dose and gradually increased over a period of several weeks. The target dose of Lamictal is typically 200mg daily, though this may vary, particularly if you're taking certain other medications. Starter kits are available for both Lamictal and Lamictal ODT. These kits provide instructions on how and when to increase dosages, and the instructions vary based on whether you are taking Lamictal alone or with other drugs. The starter kit may be useful if you are starting Lamictal for the first time. All listed dosages are according to the drug manufacturer. Check your prescription and talk to your prescribing doctor to make sure you are taking the right dose for you. Modifications You can disperse Lamictal CD in liquid to make them easier to take. To do this, simply: Add the tablets to enough liquid to cover the medication (around 1 teaspoon).Wait one minute, or until the medication is dissolved.Swirl the mixture to make sure the medication is evenly dispersed. Then you should take the entire mixture (don't take a partial quantity). How to Take and Store Lamictal tablets should be swallowed whole. They can be taken with or without water or food, but if you have side effects like nausea, taking your medication with a small snack may help. Lamictal CD can be swallowed whole, chewed, or diluted in water or fruit juice. If you chew these tablets, you may want to drink a small amount of water or diluted fruit juice to help you swallow. Lamictal ODT should be placed on your tongue and moved around in your mouth until dissolved. These tablets will dissolve quickly and can be swallowed with or without water. They can also be taken with or without food. If you miss a dose of this medication, take it as soon as you remember. If it's almost time for your next dose, however, don't double up. Simply skip the missed dose and wait for your next dose. It may take several weeks before you start feeling positive effects from this medication. Be sure to keep taking your recommended dosage; don't stop because you haven't noticed any change. It is possible to overdose on Lamictal. If you or your loved one suspect an overdose of this medication, call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 or 911 immediately for help. Lamictal is rapidly absorbed, so it's important to act quickly. Lamictal Side Effects Common For people with bipolar disorder, the most common side effects of Lamictal are: Abdominal painBack painDry mouthFatigueInsomniaNauseaSleepinessStuffy, runny nose Severe Lamictal very rarely has been associated with severe, even life-threatening conditions, like: Acute multi-organ failureBlood disorders like anemiaCardiac rhythm and conduction abnormalitiesFever or enlarged lymph nodes, which may be signs of hypersensitivitySerious rashSuicidal behavior and ideationWorsening of bipolar symptoms or the emergence of new symptoms Signs of a Lamictal overdose can include: Abnormalities in an electrocardiogram (ECG)ComaImpaired coordination, slurred speech, stumbling, and fallingLoss of consciousnessUncontrolled, repetitive eye movements Lamictal Warnings and Interactions Lamictal carries a black box warning regarding a potentially life-threatening hypersensitivity drug rash. In some cases, a severe rash can develop and lead to conditions known as Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) or toxic epidermal necrosis (TEN), both of which require emergency medical treatment. The risk of developing a serious rash may be increased if: You're currently taking a valproate medication (like Depacon, Depakote, Depakene, or Stavzor)You have a history of hypersensitivity to other anticonvulsantsYou take more than the recommended dose of Lamictal or increase the dosage more quickly than recommended Children may also face a higher risk of developing a serious rash than adults. If you notice any type of rash while taking this medication, you should seek immediate medical attention. Severe cases require hospitalization, and once a hypersensitivity reaction has occurred, no matter how mild, Lamictal treatment should never be restarted. Other potential problems with Lamictal include: Blood problems and acute organ failure: Lamictal can lead to potentially life-threatening blood and organ disorders. Liver failure, blood clots, muscle breakdown, and blood abnormalities like anemia may be possible.Increased risk of suicidal thoughts and/or behavior: This warning accompanies the whole category of antiepileptic drugs. If you notice any signs of worsening depression, unusual mood changes, worsening bipolar symptoms, or the emergence of suicidal thoughts, seek help immediately.Other signs of hypersensitivity: While a rash is typically a clear sign of hypersensitivity, it's not the only one. Fever and enlarged lymph nodes can also indicate an adverse reaction.Problems operating machinery: Because Lamictal can cause dizziness and drowsiness, you should be cautious about operating a vehicle or heavy machinery while taking this medication. You should remain under the close care of your doctor while taking Lamictal. You should not stop taking your medication abruptly. If you decide to stop the medication, you may need to wean off slowly as withdrawal symptoms are possible. For bipolar disorder, dosages may be decreased by 50% each week over a period of at least two weeks. After discontinuing, your doctor should continue to monitor your symptoms for several weeks or months to watch for a reappearance of symptoms of mania or hypomania. Your doctor should also take into account other medications you may be taking that might cause the medication to remain in your body for longer than usual. Living With Bipolar Disorder 4 Sources Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Lamictal (lamotrigine) tablets. Reid JG, Gitlin MJ, Altshuler LL. Lamotrigine in psychiatric disorders. J Clin Psychiatry. 2013;74(7):675-684. doi:10.4088/JCP.12r08046 Polepally AR, Remmel RP, Brundage RC, et al. Steady-state pharmacokinetics and bioavailability of immediate-release and extended-release formulations of lamotrigine in elderly epilepsy patients: Use of stable isotope methodology. J Clin Pharmacol. 2015;55(10):1101-1108. doi:10.1002/jcph.522 Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Lamictal (lamotrigine): drug safety communication - studies show increased risk of heart rhythm problems in patients with heart disease. By Marcia Purse Marcia Purse is a mental health writer and bipolar disorder advocate who brings strong research skills and personal experiences to her writing. See Our Editorial Process Meet Our Review Board Share Feedback Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! What is your feedback? 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