Mental health articles

OF mental health care and mentally ill

Medicines for the prevention of manic–depressive or bipolar disorders

Manic–depressive disorder is the only mental disorder for which there are specific medicines that can be used to prevent the illness from recurring. One of three medicines may be used:
• lithium carbonate;
• sodium valproate;
• carbamazepine.
Each of these medicines needs to be taken for a long period (usually a minimum of two years) and those taking them will require monitoring of the levels of medicine in the blood. Ideally, the decision to start using them should be made by a specialist. Lithium must not be used if there are no facilities for testing blood levels of the drug. If no specialist facilities are available, carbamazepine or valproate are safer to use than lithium. None of these medicines should be given to pregnant women.

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