Tegretol (Carbamazepine) Mood Stabilizer
Tegretol is a medication used to treat acute mania and bipolar disorder. It is effective in treating both depressive and manic symptoms as well as stabilizing rapid cycle mood changes, similar to Depakote. This medication is comparable with the popular bipolar medication Lithium although it is not as effective as Lithium in preventing depressive episodes. While taking Tegretol, blood levels should be checked weekly until Tegretol reaches its effective level at 8 to 12 mcg/ml. Blood levels should then be checked every month for six months followed by once or twice a year. The regular form of Tegretol requires dosages to be taken several times each day, although there is an extended-released form, which is taken once daily. If discontinuing Tegretol, dosages should be slowly tapered down to prevent the possibility of seizures.
Drawbacks of Tegretol
Although side effects can occur from Tegretol, most are mild and disappear over time. Common side effects include mild dizziness and drowsiness, unsteadiness and clumsiness, lightheadedness and mild nausea or vomiting. Less common side effects include headache, dryness of mouth, diarrhea or constipation, increased sweating, skin rash and itching. If these symptoms become serious or long lasting, then it’s necessary to call the doctor. A rare but serious side effect of Tegretol is agranulocytosis. This condition causes the bone marrow to not produce enough white blood cells, which are needed to fight infections. Therefore, individuals who take Tegretol should take notice of conditions such as sore throat, fever, mouth ulcers or easy bruising and if experienced, medical attention is required. This is not a complete list of possible side effects. If any serious conditions are experienced after taking Tegretol, immediate medical attention is needed. Tegretol doesn’t cause weight gain and that is an advantage compared to Lithium and Depakote.
Since because Tegretol rapidly absorbs moisture causing it to lose its potency, it should be stored in a tightly sealed container. It should be stored at room temperature away from moisture.
Studies on Tegretol
There have been five smaller studies conducted on Tegretol that have shown this medication to be effective at reducing acute mania episodes 70 percent of the time. Tegretol was also shown to be most effective after taking for two weeks. Additional studies have also suggested that this medication is effective in preventing depressive episodes as well as mania episodes when used alone or when combined with lithium.
Tegretol can reduce the effects of certain medications as well as some medications can reduce the effects of Tegretol. These include psychiatric medications such as Depakote, Topamax, Benzodiazepines and antipsychotics as well as antidepressants and oral contraceptives. Dosages may need to be raised or lowered depending on other medications being taken.
If pregnant women take Tegretol during their first trimester, serious congenital anomalies can occur. Tegretol use while pregnant can also cause low birth weights and congenital heart defects.