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Depakote for Bipolar Disorder

Updated on May 28, 2010
Divalproex ER 500 mg. (left), Depakote ER 500 mg. (right)
Divalproex ER 500 mg. (left), Depakote ER 500 mg. (right)

Depakote is one medication used to treat bipolar disorder. The generic name for Depakote is divalproex sodium. Depakote contains valproic acid and sodium valproate. Epilepsy and migraines are two other medical conditions treated with Depakote. Depakote for bipolar disorder is in a class of psychoactive medications known as mood stabilizers.

Bipolar disorder can cause episodes of depression and mania, though not everyone who has bipolar disorder experiences both depression and mania. Mood stabilizing medications like Depakote help to regulate the mood of people who have bipolar disorder. For psychiatric purposes, Depakote is most often used to treat people who experience mania with bipolar disorder.

Besides the original form of Depakote, this medication also comes in a time-released formula called Depakote ER and a capsule form called Depakote Sprinkles. Depakote ER has an extended release function that allows people to take Depakote only once a day. Depakote Sprinkles can be taken whole or the capsules can be opened and the contents mixed into soft food like applesauce. Whichever version of Depakote is prescribed, the patient should follow the doctor's instructions for taking the medication.

When considering the different medications for bipolar disorder, Depakote may be especially helpful for people who also suffer from migraine headaches. I've been very happy with Depakote for bipolar disorder because it has not only helped manage my bipolar disorder, but also drastically decreased the number of migraines that I get.

Like many medications, Depakote can cause drug interactions with other medications. Some of the medications that can cause drug interactions with Depakote are Tylenol, Topamax, and Valium. To avoid potentially dangerous drug interactions, doctors should be kept informed of any and all medication, prescription and over-the-counter, and any supplements that the patient is taking.

For the treatment of bipolar disorder, Depakote is often paired with an antidepressant medication like Paxil or Zoloft. The Depakote helps prevent episodes of mania while the antidepressant prevents or lessens the severity of the episodes of depression. Both medications are typically started at low doses that are gradually increased until the medication is at the therapeutic dose.

The doctor may order blood tests to determine if the level of Depakote in the blood is at the therapeutic level. Blood tests are also ordered periodically to test for any liver damage which is a potentially serious side effect of Depakote.

For information about the possible side effects, please see my article: Depakote Side Effects.


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