Why have I been prescribed lamotrigine?

Lamotrigine is used to treat depression associated with a bipolar illness when other treatments have not been effective and then keep you well. You may wish to discuss this with your prescriber who will be able to give you more information.

Medication is just part of the management of this illness. Other therapies are also helpful; you may wish to discuss these with your prescriber.

What exactly is lamotrigine?

In this instance, lamotrigine is being used as an anti-depressant or mood stabiliser. It is not a tranquilliser or sleeping tablet. It comes in a variety of strengths, both as tablets and dispersible tablets.

When you open the box and read the information leaflet you will notice that it talks about epilepsy but it is also licensed to be used for the prevention of depression in bipolar disorder. You may wish to discuss this with your prescriber.

Is lamotrigine safe to take?

It is usually safe to take as prescribed by your health professional but like many medicines will not suit everyone. Let your prescriber know beforehand if any of the following apply to you:

  • If you are taking other medication; this includes prescribed medication or any medicines you have bought over the counter from a pharmacy including any herbal remedies.
  • If you are pregnant, breast feeding, or wishing to become pregnant.
  • Previously had a reaction or rash when taking this medication or other anti-epileptic medication
  • Taking the contraceptive pill or other form of contraceptive
  • Suffer from liver or kidney disease
  • Suffer from Parkinson’s disease

Your prescriber will need to carry out some routine blood tests both before and during treatment to make sure there are no problems. They will discuss these with you.

What is the usual dose of lamotrigine?

The normal dose of lamotrigine is 100mg to 400mg, taken once daily, or split in two doses. To reduce the risk of developing serious side effects the prescriber will start you on a very low dose and only very gradually increase it. It may take a few months to reach the final dose.

How should I take my lamotrigine?

Follow the directions on the label. If you have any questions ask your pharmacist, nurse or prescriber. You should also read the information leaflet supplied with the medication.

What should I do if I miss a dose?

If you miss a dose and it is within a few hours of the normal time, continue to take it as normal. If it is longer, miss the dose and continue as normal when the next dose is due. Never double up on the dose.

When I feel better, can I stop taking lamotrigine?

No, if you stop your lamotrigine too early, your symptoms may return. To reduce the chances of this happening, it is advised you should continue to take it for at least 6 months after you become well, and sometimes longer. You should discuss this with your prescriber.

Is lamotrigine addictive?

Current literature does not suggest that lamotrigine is addictive.

What will happen to me when I start taking lamotrigine?

All anti-depressants work slowly and in this case, it will take a while to get to an effective dose. Although some people notice a change in the first week, normally it will take several weeks for the anti-depressant to have its full effect.

As with all anti-depressants, careful observations need to be made in the first few weeks of treatment to look for any increase in suicidal thoughts which may occur.

As with all medication, lamotrigine does have side effects. You may well experience these before you start feeling the benefits. Most side effects are short lived and will pass with time. The following table contains some of the more common and more important side effects of lamotrigine and what to do about them. It is not a complete list and not everyone will get all of those listed. Ask your pharmacist, nurse or prescriber if you are worried about anything else you notice that you think might be a side effect.

For details of the side effects table, please follow this link: Lamotrigine

Your prescriber will carry out regular blood tests to monitor for any changes and will discuss the results with you. The main reason for the very slow dose increase is to avoid the skin reactions, in particular Stevens-Johnson syndrome. Certain medications may slow this dose even more e.g. valproate, or speed it up e.g. carbamazepine.

What about alcohol?

Ideally do not drink alcohol when taking this medication. This is because taking them together can make you drowsier, sometimes severely. There is no safe drink and drive limit when taking this medication. Once people have been taking this medication for some time, they may be able to take small amounts of alcohol. Try a small amount in a safe environment and see how you feel. Ideally get someone else to tell you.

Lamotrigine stays in the body a long time, so there is no point missing a tablet to have a drink.

Useful information

talking-shop-leafletPlease click on the image to the left or follow this link to download a copy of our Lamotrigine leaflet.