Depakote Side Effects
Used primarily as an antipsychotic, Depakote can treat bipolar disorder. Divalproex sodium is the generic name. It is sometimes prescribed for migraine headaches and epilepsy as well because it can treat seizures.
Before starting this medication, it is important to understand how it works and the associated side effects and risks you may encounter. That’s why we created this guide.
It’s our hope that it helps you make an informed decision on medical care for yourself and your family.
How Does Depakote Work?
Essentially, Depakote works by restoring the balance of neurotransmitters within the brain. It increases the natural chemical our bodies produce that helps calm the nerves.
GABA, or gamma-Aminobutyric acid, is this neurotransmitter. It will stabilize mood and quiet the manic thoughts and feelings.
Divalproex sodium is made up of both sodium valproate and valproic acid. It appears as a white powder.
Several inactive ingredients are also in the mix, including vanillin, cellulosic polymers, talc, povidone, titanium dioxide, silica gel, diacetylated monoglycerides, and pregelatinized starch. Together, these ingredients can work to ease symptoms of mania in a bipolar patient.
The aggressiveness, hostility, wakefulness, motor hyperactivity, and rapid speech can all be tamed with Depakote.
The drug also works for epilepsy. People with both complex and partial seizures can take Depakote to prevent their minds from becoming clouded and losing consciousness which is part of what allows seizures to take place.
It may also be used at times for migraines to ease tension in the head.
How Long Does It Take for Depakote to Work?
The effectiveness of Depakote is going to be dependent on each person. Some may notice a decrease in symptoms after a few days of taking the medication while others require a few weeks before it starts to have an effect.
Your doctor will have you take a small dose to start and increase it over time until you have found an amount that provides the desired effects to control your symptoms. It is most often reported that patients have reached their maximum dosage within 14 days after beginning Depakote.
What Are Some Common Depakote Side Effects?
You may notice some common side effects when taking Depakote. These are usually not anything to be alarmed about and typically subside after your body has gotten used to taking the medication.
You may only notice these effects for a day or two after starting. If they continue to last longer, then a call to your doctor is in order.
These side effects include:
- Abdominal pain
- Blurred vision
- Lack of energy
- Low platelet count
- Chest pain
- Neck pain
- Leg cramps
- Difficulty breathing
- Urinary incontinence
- Runny nose
- Joint pain
- Heart palpitations
- Weight changes
- Changes in menstrual cycle
- Ringing in the ears
- Unusual dreams
More Serious Depakote Side Effects
There are some more serious side effects that can occur in those who take Depakote. These are not as usual but you should be advised that they are possibilities when taking this medication.
Less than 5% of patients tend to report these severe side effects. They include:
- Alopecia (a form of hair loss)
- Ecchymosis (bruised skin)
- Partial tablets in stool
If you find partial tablets in your stool, you need to speak with your doctor. Your body may not be handling the pills you’re taking due to an intestinal disorder. Things like an ileostomy or colostomy can cause this.
Do Depakote Side Effects Go Away?
Side effects can go away after a short time. You might even only notice some minor irritations for a day or two after first starting the medication.
After this, they should subside and you should feel back to your normal self, minus the symptoms that Depakote is now reducing that were due to your epilepsy or bipolar disorder.
Some side effects may persist, such as mild nausea after taking your dose. Making sure to follow your dosage instructions should help prevent this. Taking it with food often helps.
Are There Long-Term Side Effects or Harm Caused by Depakote?
Long-term side effects and harm can be caused by taking Depakote. Women who are hoping to become pregnant may not want to try this medication due to the fear of harm caused to the fetus.
It is also possible to experience liver toxicity and pancreatitis. You should be monitored closely while using this medication to ensure these long-term effects are not doing damage to your body.
Some people experience no severe reactions at all.
Is Depakote Highly Addictive?
Depakote is not typically seen on the list of highly addictive medications.
It is used by prescription only with close monitoring by a physician. Divalproex sodium is seen as a safe and effective treatment option for bipolar.
Depakote Drug Identification
The FDA approved the use of a form of Depakote in 1983. Its drug identification number is 018723.
Other forms, such as Depakote CT, have been discontinued, while Depakote ER (020782) is another option still available.
All divalproex sodium options are only available in tablet form that should be taken orally. They offer an extended release.
Your dosage of Depakote may be different than another patient’s. It will be set by your doctor, typically starting off at a smaller amount and working your way up to more if necessary.
The reason for needing Depakote also requires variation for the dosage amount.
There are three main dosage strengths, all in tablet form. You may be prescribed a 125 mg, 250 mg, or 500 mg pill.
You will swallow the tablet whole and should never crush or chew it. Patients experiencing mania due to bipolar disorder may be prescribed a heavier dose, with 750 mg taken in one day to begin.
If you use the medication for migraines, you may only need to take 250 mg twice a day. People who have seizures will need an even smaller dose, taken as prescribed by their doctor.
It is always necessary to follow the exact dosage prescribed by your physician. Do not take more or less without first consulting your doctor and ensuring it is safe to do so.
It is also important to note that you should not take additional doses if you happen to miss one. Simply take the next prescribed dose. Never double up, as this could cause adverse reactions.
Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
Pregnant mothers and women who are breastfeeding should not take Depakote.
There is the potential for fetal harm, including birth defects and a low IQ in those who are exposed in-utero and thereafter. Valproates have been linked to lower cognitive scores in children who were exposed in the womb.
There is also the possibility of neural tube defects. If you are hoping to become pregnant soon, you may want to try another option for medication and avoid using Depakote.
If you have been taking Depakote and become pregnant, you may not be advised to stop taking it immediately. This is especially true if you use the medication to control seizures.
Gradual discontinuation over time may be necessary. As always, consult with your doctor about your medications and the best time to start and stop taking them.
Is Depakote Right for You?
The answer to whether Depakote is right for you will vary from one individual to the next.
If you feel okay with the side effects you’ve seen listed and have talked to your doctor about the possibility of this medication helping with your bipolar or epilepsy, then this may be right for you. Of course, you may want to try the medication for a while and see how you feel before determining if it is, in fact, the correct medication you should be using to control your symptoms.
A similar alternative may be necessary if this version does not work effectively or caused adverse reactions.
Children under the age of 2 should never be prescribed this medication. It is usually only given to those 10 years of age and older.
It may also not be recommended for older adults. If seniors are given the medication, they may need to start at a much lower dosage and be watched carefully to ensure no liver damage or other serious side effects take place.
If you have liver disease, take certain medications that may cause an interaction, have urea cycle disorders, or mitochondrial disease, then Depakote is most likely not the right medication for you. It can cause more harm than good in these cases.
When to Consult Your Doctor
You should always consult your doctor before beginning a new medication such as Depakote.
It is also advisable to consult your physician after you’ve experienced more than one side effect or severe symptoms. Minor discomfort and nausea are to be expected, but if you continue to feel ill for several days with no relief, then speak with your healthcare provider right away.
Any alarming symptoms should prompt you to head to the emergency room immediately.
Risks of Depakote
One of the most serious risks of Depakote is that of hepatotoxicity. Hepatic failure, or liver failure, tends to occur most often within the first six months of starting a treatment involving forms of valproate.
Depakote is a form of valproic acid that works as an anticonvulsant. If you begin taking this medication and notice severe vomiting, lethargy, weakness, malaise (which is an extreme feeling of discomfort or tiredness), or facial edema, then it is important to seek medical attention.
Pancreatitis is another life-threatening risk people have when taking valproates. This can occur at any time between the initial use and up to several years after taking the medication.
Therefore, it is always a concern and you should be on the lookout for any associated symptoms. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience severe and persistent abdominal pain, continuous vomiting, or a loss in appetite and weight that is long-lasting.
You should not take Depakote if you have urea cycle disorders. Encephalopathy, a severe and sometimes fatal brain disorder, can occur.
It has not been indicated in many cases but is a possibility you should be aware of before taking the medication. Unexplained weakness, severe mood changes, mental confusion, and weakness should all be reported to your doctor.
An increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior is also possible. If you already experience suicidal thoughts, you may want to speak with your doctor about other options.
It is also advisable to keep the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline in mind in case you do experience thoughts like these. You can speak with someone at 1-800-273-TALK, or 1-800,273,8255. Your doctor is also someone you can reach out to in this case.
An allergic reaction is also possible, as with anything you take. It is very rare but possible.
Swollen lymph nodes, a rash, itching and swelling, trouble breathing, and fever may be a sign of an allergic reaction to Depakote. Seek medical help if you experience these symptoms.
Depakote Drug Interactions
It is not advised to take Depakote if you take other medications that interact negatively. Hepatic enzyme-inducing drugs are some to avoid.
Phenytoin, Carbamazepine, Rifampin, Phenobarbital, and Primidone are some that fall under this category. Your doctor should closely monitor you if you do need to take these medications or stop taking them and start taking Depakote immediately to ensure no damage is done to your liver.
Other drugs that can cause interactions include Warfarin, Amitriptyline, Diazepam, Lamotrigine, Ethosuximide, and Zidovudine. It is possible that the Depakote could prevent them from metabolizing correctly or the two could interfere with one another’s effectiveness.
What Other Drugs and Treatments are Available?
Other anticonvulsants and antipsychotics may be taken in place of Depakote.
Certain mood stabilizers, such as lithium, Depakene, lamotrigine, and carbamazepine are alternative options. Antipsychotics, such as Zyprexa, Abilify, Geodon, Seroquel, and Latuda are other possibilities.
The main downside reported with many of these options is the fact that they have the potential to cause weight gain. It’s important to speak with your doctor about this possibility.
If you are already overweight, then an option that does not cause this may be best suited for your needs.
Depakote may be a great medication to take if you experience bipolar disorder or epilepsy and need to decrease your symptoms or frequency of them happening. Consider the risks and side effects and speak with your doctor about whether you believe Depakote may be right for you.