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Valproic Acid Withdrawal Symptoms, Depakote Side Effects, Treatment Help

Last Updated on September 19, 2022 by Carol Gillette

Alternative to Meds Editorial Team
Medically Reviewed by Dr Samuel Lee MD

Valproic acid withdrawal may impact many aspects of life. However, if done correctly, with 24/7 oversight and attentive care, and never too abruptly, the process can produce positive changes.

Anticonvulsant drugs are not entirely understood, even by the manufacturers. But research suggests that the drug acts upon the neurotransmitters (such as GABA) to boost their ability to quiet stimulating factors, hence its use as an anti-seizure medication.

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Withdrawal Symptoms — Valproic Acid (Depakote, Depakene)

In cases where the side effects become unbearable, a person may decide to come off the medication. Unless properly managed cessation methods are used, a person may suffer harsh valproic acid withdrawals. In addition to relieving unwanted valproic acid side effects, an important benefit is that impaired memory will likely return to normal after valproic acid is discontinued.9

Valproic acid withdrawal symptoms may include:
  • return of manic or depressive conditions, suicidality**
  • resurgence of seizures
  • tremors
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • nausea, abdominal pain
  • insomnia
  • mood swings, irritability
  • dizziness
  • confusion

**Suicidal thoughts are linked to valproic acid, in both long-term and short-term usage, according to the FDA.1

Coming off Valproic acid too quickly, and without proper nutritional and other support, could trigger seizures, tremors, and suicidal ideation. Therefore we highly recommend seeking medical care and careful, especially attentive oversight during the tapering process. This is our specialty and we can help. At Alternate to Meds Center, our programs are designed to significantly mitigate these reactions should they begin to emerge.

What is Valproic Acid Prescribed For?

Valproic acid is prescribed to treat:
  • psychosis
  • sleep issues
  • migraine headaches
  • mania related to bipolar disorder
  • epilepsy
  • seizure disorders

Side Effects of Valproic Acid Treatment

The FDA black box warning states that various symptoms of abdominal distress may indicate immediate intervention is needed for possible hemorrhage, pancreatitis, or other life-threatening events stemming from valproic acid use. Side effects of valproic acid are diverse and well-documented in the medical literature.1,10-17

Side effects of valproic acid may include:
  • Hepatoxicity – liver damage
  • Mitochondrial toxicity – damage to or reduction of the number of mitochondria, the parts of the cell that generate energy
  • Hyperammonemic encephalopathy – raised ammonia levels leading to coma, death, or other adverse outcomes
  • Hypersensitivity syndrome reactions – lowered white blood cell levels, inflamed muscles, kidneys, and liver, cell death, immune system overload, fever, skin rash
  • Neurological toxicity – injures and kills neurons
  • Metabolic adverse effects – glucose intolerance, diabetes, weight gain
  • Endocrine adverse effects – abnormalities in the thyroid, gonadal and other glands, dysregulation of hormones
  • Teratogenicity – major birth defects at a rate 3X the norm including autism symptoms, deformation of limbs, decreased intelligence, verbal communication skills
  • Thrombocytopenia – heavy menstrual bleeding, lowered platelets, other bleeding events
  • Depression
  • Myalgia – aching muscles

The Alternative to Meds Center Program for Valproic Acid Withdrawal

For over ten years, the center has provided medication discontinuation programs and has helped many thousands of clients to reach their goals with success. Our program uses a multi-phase approach to ensure a gentle, safe experience. The speed of withdrawal from Valproic Acid will depend on individual factors, such as tolerance level, general health, dosage, how long a person took the drug, and many other factors. In most cases though, clients are typically able to get to zero within eight weeks. Where more time is needed, (no one is pushed faster than they are comfortable with) the client is given instructions to coordinate with their doctor so that they can continue and complete the rest of their withdrawal steps when they get back home under medical supervision.

Safe, Holistic Treatment for Valproic Acid Withdrawal

valproic acid treatment helpClients arrive at the center, are welcomed, and are settled in comfortably. Then, they can proceed with the lab testing segment of the program. These tests, along with the intake assessment interviews, provide essential information allowing the clinical staff to plan and start the client’s tailored treatment. Each client will have been asked to bring their medication with them and will continue taking their usual meds until the withdrawal process when they will begin to be adjusted. However, before dose reduction begins, ten days of toxin removal is the next step. This sequence of steps gives the client some significant advantages. Clients typically start seeing improvements in sleep, appetite, energy, and general feelings of well-being, which will make starting the withdrawal process much more comfortable.

A wealth of therapies during each phase of the program provides physical, emotional, spiritual, and healing support.

Rehabilitation of neurochemistry benefits from such adjunctive treatments as massage, mineral baths, low-temperature sauna, nebulized glutathione treatments, Reiki, yoga, cranial-sacral massage as well as learning relaxation techniques, and other tools for life.

Also, a clean, mostly organic diet, accompanied by targeted nutritional supplements, and IV nutrient therapy provides a solid foundation for healing.

Many Therapies for Assisting Valproic Acid Withdrawal

cbt for valproic acid withdrawalCounseling sessions of many different genres are also available: CBT, DBT, Adventure therapy, art therapy, Rational Emotive Behavior therapy, and addiction counseling represent a few favorite examples.

Life Coaching is another highly beneficial endeavor, where a person is encouraged to design a meaningful, enjoyable, and satisfying life.

In a safe, comfortable, and compassionate setting, one can freely discuss and begin to resolve the barriers that prevented success in areas of life that may have needed some resolution and TLC. When making major changes to your lifestyle, as you are when coming off valproic acid, you can benefit from the support to be gained from both private counseling sessions and peer group support.4

Equine-Assisted Therapy at Alternative to Meds Center

equine-assisted therapyOur clients can opt for participation in Equine-assisted therapy, which is highly popular with clients. In a controlled, safe atmosphere a person can develop improved physical balance and movement, but also a sense of personal confidence and the capacity to care for and relate to these gentle creatures.2,6,7

The horses used in equine therapy have been hand-selected for their quiet and affectionate dispositions. The therapeutic value of connecting and interacting with animals can have many positive effects both emotionally and physically.

Equine-assisted therapy has begun to emerge internationally as a positively impacting form of holistic therapy for mental health. Alternative to Meds Center is pleased to offer this option to clients.

Education in Orthomolecular, Nutritional, and Environmental Medicine

Alternative to Meds Center also offers a wide range of orthomolecular/biochemistry/nutrition classes as part of the valproic acid withdrawal program. These classes are extremely popular, and help educate program participants about the protocols and therapies used during their stay. The curriculum covers an exceptional set of training videos and other training tools that the founder, Lyle Murphy, created for clients who are in treatment for withdrawal from valproic acid and other medications.

education at Alternative to Meds CenterWe are excited that after decades of a kind of drug monopoly on treatment, the fields of natural medicine, orthomolecular medicine, and other subjects of holistic health treatment are becoming more widely available and implemented internationally. According to a 2019 survey of Norwegian psychiatric patients, half requested non-drug treatment. It is exciting to report that In Norway, since 2016, drug-free options for mental health treatment are now mandatory across all regions of the country. We continue to hope that other countries will soon begin implementing similar options for effective and humane non-drug psychiatric treatment options.3,8

In our program, the study of these materials also features question and answer modules, as well as open discussion periods. The course explains important details concerning safe, proper medication withdrawal and provides instruction and insights on how and why the removal of toxins can facilitate the process. Also provided is much highly practical information on how supplements work. In this way, clients are empowered and much better able to support and maintain their healthy neurotransmitter system during and after withdrawal from valproic acid, and well after leaving the program. Medical practitioners are invited and warmly welcomed to participate in our professional symposiums on request.

Find Out More About Valproic Acid Withdrawal at ATMC

It is easier than you might think to enroll in our program. We are located in Sedona, nestled near the magical Red Rock Mountains. There are plenty of opportunities for hiking, memorable photo ops, and leisure activities nearby.5

Please call the number on this page for more information on how you may benefit from a tailored holistic program for improving mental health naturally. If you are interested in insurance information, we can get you a quote from your provider, which typically will cover at least a percentage of the fees. Call today and start learning more about what health benefits are available to you or your loved one as a participant in our program for safe and gentle valproic acid withdrawal.

1. FDA label Depakene/valproic acid [cited 2020 Sep 29]

2. Rigby BR, Grandjean PW. The Efficacy of Equine-Assisted Activities and Therapies on Improving Physical Function. J Altern Complement Med. 2016 Jan;22(1):9-24. doi: 10.1089/acm.2015.0171. Epub 2015 Dec 14. PMID: 26654868. [cited 2022 Sept 14]

3. Heskestad S, Kalhovde AM, Jakobsen ES, Tytlandsvik M, Horpestad L, Runde IKS. Drug-free psychiatric treatment – what do the patients think? Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. 2019 Oct 2;139(14). Norwegian, English. doi: 10.4045/tidsskr.18.0912. PMID: 31592608. [cited 2022 Sept 14]

4. Tracy K, Wallace SP. Benefits of peer support groups in the treatment of addiction. Subst Abuse Rehabil. 2016 Sep 29;7:143-154. doi: 10.2147/SAR.S81535. PMID: 27729825; PMCID: PMC5047716. [cited 2022 Sept 14]

5. “Visit Sedona – Spiritual Inspiration – Wellness A visitors guide to Sedona Arizona [cited 2020 Sep 29]

6. Young C, Horton J. Canine and Equine Therapy for Mental Health: A Review of Clinical Effectiveness [Internet]. Ottawa (ON): Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health; 2019 Aug 30. PMID: 31682391. [cited 2022 Sept 14]

7. Bánszky N, Kardos E, Rózsa L, Gerevich J. Az állatok által asszisztált terápiák pszichiátriai vonatkozásai [The psychiatric aspects of animal assisted therapy]. Psychiatr Hung. 2012;27(3):180-90. Hungarian. PMID: 22781543. [cited 2022 Sept 14]

8. Nyttingnes O, Rugkåsa J. The Introduction of Medication-Free Mental Health Services in Norway: An Analysis of the Framing and Impact of Arguments From Different Standpoints. Front Psychiatry. 2021 Jul 19;12:685024. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2021.685024. PMID: 34366919; PMCID: PMC8340297. [cited 2022 Sept 14]

9. Pannangrong W, Sirichoat A, Wongsiri T, Wigmore P, Welbat JU. Valproic acid withdrawal ameliorates impairments of hippocampal-spatial working memory and neurogenesis. J Zhejiang Univ Sci B. 2019 Mar.;20(3):253-263. doi: 10.1631/jzus.B1800340. PMID: 30829012; PMCID: PMC6421120. [cited 2022 Sept 14]

10. Ali R, Nagalli S. Hyperammonemia. [Updated 2021 Nov 25]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: [cited 2022 Sept 14]

11. Francis P, Navarro VJ. Drug Induced Hepatotoxicity. [Updated 2022 Mar 18]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: [cited 2022 Sept 14]

12. Kumari R, Timshina DK, Thappa DM. Drug hypersensitivity syndrome. Indian J Dermatol Venereol Leprol. 2011 Jan-Feb;77(1):7-15. doi: 10.4103/0378-6323.74964. PMID: 21220873. Melkersson K, Dahl ML. Adverse metabolic effects associated with atypical antipsychotics: literature review and clinical implications. Drugs. 2004;64(7):701-23. doi: 10.2165/00003495-200464070-00003. PMID: 15025545. [cited 2022 Sept 14]

13. Melkersson K, Dahl ML. Adverse metabolic effects associated with atypical antipsychotics: literature review and clinical implications. Drugs. 2004;64(7):701-23. doi: 10.2165/00003495-200464070-00003. PMID: 15025545. [cited 2022 Sept 14]

14. Ma RC, Kong AP, Chan N, Tong PC, Chan JC. Drug-induced endocrine and metabolic disorders. Drug Saf. 2007;30(3):215-45. doi: 10.2165/00002018-200730030-00005. PMID: 17343430. [cited 2022 Sept 14]

15. Ornoy A. Valproic acid in pregnancy: how much are we endangering the embryo and fetus? Reprod Toxicol. 2009 Jul;28(1):1-10. doi: 10.1016/j.reprotox.2009.02.014. Epub 2009 Mar 13. PMID: 19490988.  [cited 2022 Sept 14]

16. Rahman M, Nguyen H. Valproic Acid. [Updated 2022 Jul 4]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from:  [cited 2022 Sept 14]

17. Jinna S, Khandhar PB. Thrombocytopenia. [Updated 2022 Jul 5]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-.Available from: [cited 2022 Sept 14]

Originally Published Sep 19, 2018 by Diane Ridaeus

This content has been reviewed and approved by a licensed physician.

Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee is a board-certified psychiatrist, specializing in a spiritually-based mental health discipline and integrative approaches. He graduated with an MD at Loma Linda University School of Medicine and did a residency in psychiatry at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle. He has also been an inpatient adult psychiatrist at Kaweah Delta Mental Health Hospital and the primary attending geriatric psychiatrist at the Auerbach Inpatient Psychiatric Jewish Home Hospital. In addition, he served as the general adult outpatient psychiatrist at Kaiser Permanente.  He is board-certified in psychiatry and neurology and has a B.A. Magna Cum Laude in Religion from Pacific Union College. His specialty is in natural healing techniques that promote the body’s innate ability to heal itself.

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Nothing on this Website is intended to be taken as medical advice. The information provided on the website is intended to encourage, not replace, direct patient-health professional relationships. Always consult with your doctor before altering your medications. Adding nutritional supplements may alter the effect of medication. Any medication changes should be done only after proper evaluation and under medical supervision.

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