Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
(Depakote): This drug works for bipolar disorder by controlling abnormal
electrical activity in the brain that may cause mood swings.
This medication can be used alone or in combination
with another medication.
Blood levels should be monitored.
Liver function is tested occasionally.
Do not drink alcohol with this drug; the combination
may cause excessive sleepiness.
Its most common side effects are drowsiness, nausea, diarrhea, tremor, and weakness.
Lamotrigine (Lamictal): This medication appears to be most useful for the depressed phase of bipolar disorder.
This drug usually is used in combination with another
Do not take this drug if you have kidney, lung, or
Possible side effects, though rare, include severe rash, lip and tongue
swelling, balance problems, and vision changes.
Olanzapine (Zyprexa): This medication is approved for
treatment of both acute mania and maintenance once the symptoms are under
This medication may be used in combination with an
antidepressant for treatment of depression in bipolar disorder.
One must be cautious of hyperglycemia in patients on any of the "atypical antipsychotics," of which Zyprexa is one. Patients who are
known to have diabetes need to watch for poorer control of their blood sugar. Weight
gain is possible, with or without problems with blood sugar.
There may be increased levels of blood lipids (fats) and weight gain, especially in children and adolescents who are prescribed this medication.
There is a possibility of so-called extrapyramidal side effects (EPS) at higher doses of this medicine. Oversedation or at least
decreased alertness may occur.
This medicine may be safer in pregnant women who
have bipolar disorder than some of the other medications mentioned above.
This is another of the atypical antipsychotic medications, and it has been
approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use in acute mania.
At higher doses, this medicine may cause
restlessness, tremor, or other EPS symptoms.
Other side effects are similar to those of
Quetiapine (Seroquel): This is another of the atypical
antipsychotic medications which has been FDA-approved to treat both the depressive
episodes and acute manic episodes in bipolar disorder.
This medication may be used alone or in combination with other medications.
The most common side effects are sedation and dry mouth.
Recent studies suggest that this medication is unlikely to increase the chance of suicidal thoughts.
Weight gain is minimal.
Reviewed by Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD on 4/15/2013