How Does Lamictal Work on Depression?

Lamictal may work for your depression. Credit: Stewart Cohen/Blend Images/Getty Images

Uses

Lamictal is the brand name for a medication called lamotrigine. Lamotrigine is an anti-convulsant, which means it is often prescribed as a treatment for epilepsy. However, Lamictal can also be used to treat depression. It is most commonly used to treat depressive episodes in patients with bipolar disorder, although it can be used to treat depression in patients who do not have bipolar disorder (also known as unipolar depression). Lamictal may be prescribed for patients who have not had their depression adequately controlled by other anti-depressants or mood stabilizers (in the case of bipolar disorder).

Mechanism

Lamotrigine is not chemically related to other anti-convulsants or anti-depressants, which makes its mechanism of action somewhat difficult to ascertain. However, its proposed mechanism of action involves its ability to inhibit certain proteins on nerve cells, called voltage-dependent sodium channels. In this case, lamotrigine prevents certain nerve cells from being activated (via these sodium channels), which stops the nerve cells from releasing chemicals that activate the regions of the regions of the brain involved in depression. Because depression is thought to be related to abnormal brain chemistry, lamotrigine can help balance out the chemicals in the brain and relieve the symptoms of depression.

Dosing and Side Effects

The typical dose of lamotrigine is 100 to 200 milligrams per day, according to psycom.net. It can take up to one month for lamotrigine's full effects to become evident. Lamotrigine can also interact with other anticonvulsants (such as valproate or carbemazepine), so its dosage may need to be modified for patients taking these medications. The most common side effects from taking lamotrigine are dizziness, headaches and double vision, as well as nausea and unsteadiness. In some cases lamotrigine can cause agitation or mania, which can be treated with small doses of lithium. Lamotrigine can also cause a very serious and life-threatening rash, especially in people under the age of 16. As a result, lamotrigine is only approved for treatment of depression for people over the age of 16.

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