Friday, March 19, 2010

Starting and Stopping Depakote

After the doctors decided to stop Seroquel, since it was making him experience suicidal thoughts and violent rages, they switched him to Depakote. We were optimistic about this switch since we were moving from a antipsychotic drug to a mood stabilizer. Mood stabilizers are often the front line approach for helping people who are bipolar. Once the mood is stabilized, other drugs are added on top of that to help address other issues such as anxiety, depression or for some ADHD.

Our hopes for Depakote were dashed quickly when our son experienced an allergic reaction to it. He became itchy all over and felt his airways tightening up. We immediately gave him Benadryl as we drove him to the E.R., but fortunately by the time we arrived, the Benadryl had kicked in and he was feeling good.

So needless to say we needed to go back to the doctor to look for another medication. In the meantime, our son was only on Tenex and as a result, his awful nightmares came back immediately. He woke up everynight with frightening dreams of being killed and parts of his body being ripped off. Every morning we awoke to find him back in our bed snuggled between us to feel safe.

The next thing we noticed was how hard it was to sleep without the medication. One morning he woke me up at 4:30 am, bright-eyed, complaining that he couldn’t sleep. So to help with this, the doctor recommended we try using Melatonin as a sleep aid.

The other symptom that returned was his anxiety, he would start his school day off with the feeling that he needed to throw up as we approached his school and he would feel sick during class.

But the most painful symptom to return was his impulsive behavior. I’ll be writing more about that in my next blog, but for me, it was yet another moment of feeling like I was losing all control over my son to his illness.

During this awful week, my son brought up a very insightful point. As we were driving to the E.R. after he had an allergic reaction to Depakote I was explaining to my son that we needed to try another medication since this one didn’t work for him, I was also reminding him that the doctor told us that finding the right medication could take some time and that we needed to be patient. My son responded “Since the doctor’s are just experimenting on me to find the right medicine, what happens when they give me a medicine that worked for one kid’s brain, but it hurts me instead?”

After hearing his response I thought to myself...yeah son, I’m worried too. I totally understand my son’s fears. There is no perfect science to this and it is so hard to expose my son to so many unknowns. Especially after reading the possible side effects, but beyond that. Each drug added brings more typical side effects, such as drowsiness, headaches, stomach aches etc., all as his body tries to adapt to the new medication. Then, in addition to that, he has to endure the blood tests to make sure his liver isn’t being damaged or that his white blood cell count isn’t dropping. Also, as you can imagine, this stuff tastes awful, and he is too scared to swallow a pill, so taking these meds all throughout the day isn’t a picnic either. Which reminds me, we have even set our phone alarm to sound at every medicine time, he is now taking medicine 3x’s a day and a missed dose can cause harm to his body. This is a lot for one 9 year old to deal with, I am just grateful that he is so willing to participate and I pray everyday that we will find him the right medication, and as a result, my son will experience an abundant life filled with joy.


  1. I'm so sorry to hear about his reaction to the medication. That must have been so scary. Nice job giving him the benadryl.

  2. I know what you are going through, My son is also 9 and he has had seizures sine he was 3. He is taken Depakote along with keppra and zonagran, I feel so scared. He has been taken depakote for a month and a half and he has thrown up, he says he feels sick everyday, he has nightmares everynight and now he is imagineing stuff. he keeps getting a rash, and when I have talked to his doctor over the phone she seemed to not care and told me to take him to his doctor. She did not think that all this stuff that is happening to him is the meds. But it is. I need help.

  3. Anonymous- Wow, scary stuff! I would definitely take him to a doctor asap, I don't know if this is the case with Depakote but there is a reaction that can happen with some anticonvulsants that can cause a dangerous rash that can be life threatening. It's called the Stevens-Johnsons syndrome. This may not apply to Depakote, but I would check with your doctor.

    Also, liver toxicity and pancreatitis are listed as possible rare side effects to Depakote in my book The Bipolar Child". This might be something you may want to ask about. I’m not a doctor so I can't tell you what may be going on, but I just looked this up in a book for you. It wouldn't hurt to ask, I think they can check the liver with a blood test.

    I hope he feels better soon and his symptoms are just his body adjusting to the medication.