Depakote for bipolar disorder is most useful for treating people whose diagnosis is well established and fits into the clinical profile for Bipolar Type 1, especially for men.
“Depakote” is a brand name – the actual drug is valproic acid. The generic name for this medication is divalproex.
Depakote / valproic acid is traditionally used as an epilepsy medication as opposed to a bipolar medication.
There is a long history of Depakote use in bipolar disorder therapy as a first line mood stabilizer, second only to lithium.1
Clinical research indicates that benefits usually outweigh any potential harms.
Depakote is commonly regarded as a “mood stabilizer”.BUT NOTE: it is ONLY FDA approved for bipolar mania, NOT for bipolar depression.
According to Dr Jim Phelps, Depakote is a good choice of bipolar medication for people who:
Need medication that will kick in fast and have a strong effect.
Are not worried about gaining weight.
Are rapid cycling.
Are experiencing significant manic symptoms.
Depakote is produced by US pharma giant Abbott Laboratories.
Women seem to suffer more side effects than men, perhaps because of the effect of Depakote on the female hormone estrogen.
In the US, the FDA has approved Depakote use in treating: 1. Mania in bipolar disorder 2. Epilepsy 3. Migraine.
Watch out for constipation, hair loss, sleepiness, and weight gain (although there are others).
One of the most important implications is that Depakote creates a risk of birth defects and MUST NOT be used by pregnant women.2
NIMH also provide this important warning re young women and PCOS:
“Valproic acid may increase levels of testosterone (a male hormone) in teenage girls and lead to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) in women who begin taking the medication before age 20. This condition can cause obesity, excess body hair, disruptions in the menstrual cycle, and other serious symptoms. Young girls and women taking valproic acid should be monitored carefully by a doctor.”
Depakote tablets can be a little like horse pills. Big and scary looking, and hard to swallow.
There is a novel solution for this – a capsule you break open to use the “sprinkles” inside.
The sprinkles truly can be FUN! For responsible adults, they mix well with low fat yoghurt or cottage cheese.
For kids (or irresponsible adults), the sprinkles can go into instant pudding, applesauce, or on a banana split or other ice cream sundae.
With so many bipolar medications, you may be wondering why only Depakote comes in “sprinkles”? The answer – Depakote is first and foremost an epilepsy drug. Kids with epilepsy need medication from when they are very young, and sprinkles may be the only thing they will eat 🙂
Depakote sprinkles rock and Depakote bipolar disorder therapy in sprinkle form does stand apart as one bipolar medication you can actually have fun with.
There are serious issues with Depakote side effects, its lack of efficacy in treating depression or preventing suicide, and its unsuitability for many women and especially young women.3