What is Depakote Used For?
Depakote is used in the treatment of seizure disorders, often in combination with other medications that can manage seizure disorders.
Bipolar disorder is also treated with Depakote, where mania or hypomania presents. Manic episodes are described as distinct periods of abnormally sustained elevated mood that is sometimes combined with other characteristics potentially including irritability and hostility. Other typical symptoms include machine gun-type speech, reduced need to sleep, grandiosity, absence of good judgment, motor hyperactivity, and what can appear to be an expansive flood of fanciful ideas.
Depakote is also used to prevent migraine headaches, but not in the case of pregnant women.
Off-label uses include alcohol dependency, to quell impulsivity and aggressive behavior. Depakote is also sometimes used as an adjunctive medication in the management of schizophrenia or other disorders.
Depakote, (valproate), is an anti-seizure medication that can cause paradoxical seizures which are potentially life-threatening, on abrupt withdrawal of the drug. It is used in the treatment of some seizure disorders, i.e., epilepsy, manic episodes of bipolar disorder, or to prevent migraines
Where a drug does not have an adequately robust body of documented and accessible history of clinical trials to rely on, one might be well-advised to research such medication as carefully and as thoroughly as possible to make an informed decision before beginning a prescription. Some of these important information will be outlined below.
It is vital to note that Depakote (valproate, et al.) was approved for treating bipolar disorder after only very short trials were done on hospitalized acute mania patients. No long-term trials were ever completed that demonstrated the long-term safety or effectiveness of Depakote. Nonetheless, Depakote has been prescribed to millions of people since its approval in 1983. There is a much larger body of evidence that has accumulated post-marketing of the drug that includes adverse side effects, symptoms of withdrawal, and other information which we will cover below.
Always seek reliable medical advice before starting or stopping a prescription drug such as Depakote.
Depakote Alternative Names and Slang
Other trade names for the generic valproate, sodium valproate, or divalproex delayed release, include Depakene, Depakote ER (extended release), Depakote Sprinkles, Stavzor, and Alti-Voproic.
The drug is available in a liquid capsule, tablet or in syrup forms. Depakote Sprinkles are designed so that if a person cannot swallow it in capsule form it can be sprinkled on applesauce or other type of soft food. One capsule of Sprinkles is meant to be used all at once.
Depakote Side Effects
Depakote is often administered as an adjunctive medication, for instance with antipsychotics, SSRIs, SNRIs, or other mood-stabilizing drugs. It may be difficult to ascertain in such circumstances exactly what drug is causing what side effect; therefore each patient should be monitored carefully in this regard for reactions needing medical attention.
There are some known severe side effects that require careful monitoring while on Depakote, including:
- Hepatotoxicity: liver failure, leading to fatality, which may follow symptoms such as weakness, lethargy, vomiting, anorexia, and facial edema. Especially if a person has a prior history of liver disease, regular physical examinations as well as serum liver tests should be done to monitor the person closely for signs of liver toxicity.
- Birth defects are linked to taking Depakote during pregnancy, where the infant may develop deformities of the limbs, heart, craniofacial and neural tube defects leading to spina bifida, and others. Birth defects where epileptic mothers took Depakote occur 4 times higher than in babies born to epileptic mothers who took other medications.
- Lowered cognitive scores after in utero exposure to Depakote: has been studied and shown as significantly lower in children born to epileptic mothers taking Depakote compared to children born to mothers taking some other AED or no AED. Since it has not been established if there is a specific period of risk during pregnancy for such birth defects including lowered IQ, the consensus is that women of child-bearing age should not be prescribed Depakote. However, should pregnancy occur while on a prescription of Depakote, the drug should not be withdrawn abruptly due to risk of seizure and other reactions, and possible fatality to the fetus.
- Fatal pancreatitis: in both adult and children are linked to Depakote. Where this condition presents, it can progress rapidly or slowly, but is life-threatening. Some warning signs of pancreatitis can include nausea, vomiting, pain in the abdomen, anorexia, and the patient should be immediately evaluated for hemorrhages and other symptoms of pancreatitis.
- Suicidality: a two-fold increase in suicidal ideation and behavior in both adults and children. Four suicides occurred within a twelve-week trial.
- Abnormal bleeding
- Other: side effects include rash, somnolence in the elderly, dizziness, indigestion.
Depakote Withdrawal Symptoms
Of prime importance is not to abruptly stop using Depakote. Always get medical advice and guidance before stopping an AED.
The most commonly reported Depakote withdrawal symptoms are:
- Return of prior symptoms, i.e., mania, psychoses, seizures
It may become necessary or desired to stop Depakote. How to quit Depakote and Depakote alternatives are what we specialize in at Alternative to Meds Center. We have protocols for tapering Depakote and bridging in natural alternatives to Depakote that can make the withdrawal from Depakote gentle and sustainable. Except in certain circumstances where continuing the drug is not possible, i.e., life-threatening, Depakote, as with all similar medications, should be gently tapered off with proper monitoring, support, and guidance.
If tapering is done correctly it can be a mild procedure. Done too fast, it can be extremely difficult and can introduce undesirable risks to health.