Lamictal (lamotrigine) for Bipolar Disorder: Reader Question

med questionHello Julie,

I was taking 800 mg a day of lomictal. I dropped to 600 for six. Then two weeks ago, I dropped to 400. The dose is still way above “normal”. I just don’t think I need these meds. I totally get and appreciate mental illness. I have been on meds for 28 years. I am a high functioning professional — 12 months ago my life took a huge turn — for the better. I retired and several other external circumstances changed. I want to quit all meds and try it on my own — again, I am not anti meds in any way, nor am I feeling above them. I just wonder if meds have always been the first answer for me and adjusting, increasing and changing them for 28 years has gotten me where I am.

Am I way off for feeling this way? Any constructive input would be greatly appreciated.

 

The side effects of tapering down have not been pleasant, but have not been unbearable. I would like to just take the leap and cold turkey the last 400 mg — again input appreciated. 

Tammy

**********

Hello Tammy,

I was on 700 mg of Lamictal for years. It really helped. Then I didn’t need it any more. Bipolar disorder changes. If you are able to manage this illness through lifestyle changes, this means you can change the way you use medications as well. The biggest issue for all of us is preventing mania. Depression has a big treatment window, mania can catch us in hours. I suggest the Health Cards if you want to manage this illness on your own- with meds ready for triggered mood swings. I don’t say this to everyone, but if you have a plan in place for the mania, you can try a different way to stay stable. This means a lot of people around you looking for symptoms. You can ready about the Health Cards on my books page- these are what I use every single day- especially since my recent move to Europe. Wow, talk about triggers! The Health Cards keep me safe and stable.

I suggest talking with your health care professional when going off Lamictal- there can be huge side effects from going down on the drug including twitching, teeth grinding, breathing problems and other brain/body related side effects.  I’m glad you’re getting through this ok. Think of how long it took to build up in your body- it can take this long to get off it. Also, there is no specific dose for Lamictal for bipolar disorder- 200mg is considered therapeutic and works for many people. I needed the much higher dose and then my depression was under control and I no longer use Lamictal. I would go back on it if needed. I call it the wonder drug. It’s especially effective for angry depression. It’s NOT a mania drug.  There are way too many health care professionals who don’t understand this concept.

When you use a treatment plan to manage all of your symptoms and prevent triggers, you can take much less medication. I’m excited for you, but truly suggest you have your symptoms lists ready to see if any show up as you go down. You might find you need a lower dose of the medications. Lamictal is an epilepsy drug and is used in higher doses quite regularly, but it can also help greatly at very low doses.

I don’t like medications, but I’ve needed them to stay alive. My goal is a strong plan with limited medications. We can all do this. Even people with bipolar disorder one can lower medications with a good plan. Some of us need meds for life, but why not take them in the smallest dose possible. Good luck!

Julie

 

7 comments to Lamictal (lamotrigine) for Bipolar Disorder: Reader Question

  • steven

    Everyone is different and you have been on lamictal for a very long time. I was on it for 5 years and titrated very slowly and went through freaking hell. Had to reinstate but at a lower dose. I was on 200 mg. you may want to or not want to read this.

    beyondmeds dot com/2007/12/20/lamictal-withdrawal-from-hell/

  • Dawn Lynn

    Hi, I was undiagnosed for 30 years. Eventually, no being on meds you will go downhill at some point. Also, bipolar disorder is a degenerative disease. Which means it will harm your brain when it is not being treated. Just something to consider. I only share because I have experienced how bad it can get untreated for a long time.

    • Hello Dawn,

      There is some good news. It’s not quite determined if bipolar disorder is degenerative. Brain scans are inconclusive. There is more concern with schizophrenia as brain scans tend to show degeneration more clearly. We definitely get worse if the mood swings are not treated, but I have a lot of hope that our brains can stay healthy once we manage this illness. Thank you for your comment! Julie

  • Hi, first of all, Julie, thanks so much for your wonderful book “Loving Someone with Bipolar Disorder”. It has been helping me understand myself soo much. I’m into raising my self-esteem and it helps me a lot to read books about how to be in a relationship with someone like me. After all, I love myself too, right? 🙂
    Anyway, re: Lamictal. I started taking it in October and went from 25mgs up to 100. Since each time I went up, I developed a maddening itch (which went away after a few days and was never the potentially deadly rash I’d been warned to look out for), I decided to stop at 100.
    The past couple of days I’ve been wondering if that dose was right for me as I’ve been in both depressive and hypomanic states almost consistently since at least February.
    Reading this thread and seeing that double that seems to be standard, I’m wondering…
    Luckily I see my psychiatrist monthly and don’t make a move without that consultation. Not in regards to medication anyway. Like you, Julie, I don’t like meds, but I do recognize their value in keeping me much more stable and functional than I am without them.
    I am very happy to have found your site (my former therapist recommended it highly last summer, but I didn’t visit it until I saw it listed on the back of Loving Someone…) And then when I did visit this site, I recognized your YouTubes as what I’d reviewed months earlier, looking up things to do with bipolar treatment. Your publishing advice for writers (which I am one) was soooo helpful!
    Thanks so much for your work, and being living proof that managing bipolar disorder is doable and so is having a long-term happy healthy relationships!

    Much appreciatively,

    Cassendre

  • Janeann

    Why have I only gone up to 300 mg on Lamictal? I have major weeks to months of depression and my psychiatrist is not hearing me. I have Bipolar II. I’m so sick of my bed, as I spend days there. I must get more help for the depressive states that hunker down and stay for three months at a time. When “normal” returns it for two weeks or less, before I’m agitated, angry, making too many new plans, only to crash into a depression and stay there for three more months… It’s so very scary. Just when I really, really think I can’t and won’t take the depression anymore, something flips the switch and I experience normal for a few days then hypomania, then depression. I had no clue that Lamictal could go to higher doses above 300 mg to help with the depression. I use heavy “doses” of candy and Pepsi as my way to make it through depressiove states. Now I’m told that I’m Pre-Diabetic. Sugar and Pesi have seriously kept me alive for 20+ years. I don’t know if it’s helpful to be on 300 mg of Effexor XR as a women with Bipolar II, or if that makes me worse. Maybe its time for a new psychiatrist. Julie, you are a light that has just come into my life. I, too, am 52 and celebrate that I’ve made it this far. I’ve been reading your books and articles and have been blessed to hear the words that you use… I’m not alone. Our brains have many similarities. I love your strategies! They are necessary. I will look into reducing the length of my depressive moods that come and stay. Thanks for your commitment to this disease.

  • Gabriella Paschall

    Julie,
    You say that bipolar people need to be on medication to manage it. Have you ever read or explored treating bipolar holistically through vitamin and mineral supplementation.
    My son was diagnosed bipolar 1 two years ago and won’t stay on medication. We have been reading that there are doctors and others that believe that bipolar and other mental health issues are due to lack of nutritional absorption. And that there are chelated vitamins and minerals out there to help with absorbtion. My son last September (2016) went to an alternative to meds facility that treated patients with these vitamins & minerals and fed them a mostly organic non allergy prone diet. Provided them with excercise and detoxification and other things. This treatment seemed to help him unfortunately though he only stayed 4 weeks rather than the recommended 8 weeks. Don’t think he was quite ready to help himself get better.
    I hope you will respond to this and let me know if you have explored this avenue and what you have found.
    Look forward to your reply,
    Gabriella P.

  • Gabriella Paschall

    Julie,
    In addition to above, have you explored lithium orotate. As my son was given lithium orotate also at the alternative meds facility he went to and have done much reading about the mineral that we all need for good brain function.
    Still waiting and looking forwaard to your reply.
    Gabriella P.

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