What Lamictal (Lamotrigine) is Used For
Lamictal is used for epileptic seizure prevention and control, and to treat the manic and depressive episodes of adult bipolar disorder.
It is approved for use in children as young as 2 years old as an anticonvulsant medication to prevent epileptic seizures.
Lamictal (Lamotrigine) Alternative Names and Slang
Lamictal is the brand or trade name for the generic drug lamotrigine. There is no known slang or street name for the drug, and there is no evidence that the drug has been associated with street or illicit use or sale. There are many alternate names for Lamictal, including domestically:
And just some of the international names include:
- Lamictal CD
Lamictal (Lamotrigine) Side Effects
In April 2018 the FDA issued a new warning regarding anti-seizure medications including Lamictal precipitating a rare but life-threatening reaction. This reaction is described as a severe immune system inflammation, called HLH or hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis which can quickly escalate, especially if not treated quickly, and can lead to death.
Some signs of HLH include persistent fever and low or absent natural killer cells, and certain other characteristics in the blood that are markers for HLH. Mortality rates for HLH are 50%, and it occurs in children more often than in adults, which is a concern since Lamictal is approved for patients aged two years of age and older. (1)
Other severe though rare side effects that can present include:
- Kidney failure
- Severe rash
- Stevens-Johnson syndrome (life threatening ulcers, eruptions, blistering, peeling, open sores and discolorations of the skin with other complications involving the mucous membranes or other areas, requiring immediate cessation and emergency treatment in ICU or burn unit)
- Impaired liver function
- Anemia (low red blood cell count)
- Loss of hearing
- Dyskinesia (involuntary movement disorder)
- Tumor in breast tissue
- Blood disorders
- Decreased white blood cells
- Decreased blood platelets
- Meningitis (inflammation of brain, rigidity, intense fever and pain, can lead to coma or death)
- Epididymitis (infection/inflammation of the testicles)
- DRESS syndrome (severe rash, hypersensitivity event, that has a 10% mortality rate)
- Hypersensitivity drug reaction (allergic type reaction to a drug)
- Erythema Multiforme (mucous membrane/skin reaction can be mild or can be life threatening in rare cases)
- Lowered resistance to infection
- Purplish spots on the skin
- Stopped breathing
- Multiple organ failure
- Repeating seizures, loss of consciousness between episodes
- Toxic epidermal necrolysis (similar to Stevens-Johnson syndrome, the skin falls away, leads to sepsis and requires emergency treatment)
- Vasculitis (inflammation of the blood vessels)
There are also many more frequent side effects to be aware of in taking Lamictal, including:
- Altered mental states
- Mood swings
- Joint pain
- Loss of appetite
- Weight changes
- Painful menstruation
- Neck pain
- Involuntary eye movements
- Irritable, easily upset or angered
- Worsening depression
- Loss of coordination
- Pain in stomach
- Back pain
- Insomnia, interrupted sleep
- Flu-like symptoms such as sore throat, runny nose, nasal inflammation, etc.
- Double vision or blurring of the vision
- Dry mouth
- Chest pain
- Tiredness, fatigue
- Sensitivity to light
- Swelling of the hands, feet, limbs
- Stiff neck
- Fainting, losing consciousness
It should be noted that since many very young children are placed on Lamictal for epilepsy disorders, that careful monitoring should be on-going for any signs of these or other unusual or adverse reactions to this drug.
Lamictal (Lamotrigine) Withdrawal Symptoms
Lamictal withdrawals can be mild, moderate or severe and medical oversight is recommended to anyone considering withdrawal from the medication. If the withdrawal is too sudden, some people have reported seizures. Gradual cessation is the recommended way to come off Lamictal. Some people will have little to no withdrawal symptomology, some may have much more severe discomfort.
Some of the other symptoms to watch for during withdrawal may include:
- Changes in mood, temperament
- Unusual sensations, i.e., prickling or tingling
Discontinuing/Quitting Lamictal (Lamotrigine)
Lamictal should never be stopped abruptly, unless as in the case of HLH, or Stevens-Johnson syndrome, or other dire situations as noted above, where there is a medical emergency that requires such measures as a life-saving maneuver. These require immediate hospitalization.
In the vast majority of cases a gradual taper is the recommended procedure for coming off a mood stabilizer to avoid a sudden shock to the body that could leave the person in a worse off state than before the prescription was initiated.
Lamictal influences two amino acids, aspartate and glutamate. These are excitatory neurotransmitters, which Lamictal restricts the release of, thereby causing a calming effect. When gradual Lamictal tapering is occurring, more of these excitatory agents may start to release into the system and this may cause rebound excitability.
Lamictal restricts presynaptic permeability of the excitatory amino acids aspartate and glutamate. When a person is withdrawing from the medication, it is generally accepted that more of these excitatory amino acids, with stimulatory neuromodulating capabilities, will begin to flood into the synapse, and there may be a rebound excitability. Aspartic acid and glutamic acid are the acidic versions of asparate and glutamate. This can be further compounded if foods containing versions of aspartate and glutamate are consumed during the withdrawal period. Therefore, foods such as diet sodas, processed foods, and artificial sweeteners (which break down into aspartate) should be restricted. One can do a search for foods that contain aspartate and glutamate to be sure these can be avoided. This modified diet may help significantly during Lamictal withdrawal.