It is well known that every single medication on the market has some sort of risk associated with it. If you listen to any of the commercials for pharmaceuticals, you will likely recognize the announcer listing a litany of risks, making you wonder if the treatment is any better than just suffering with the condition itself. The newest drugs to come under scrutiny are anticonvulsants, used primarily to treat epilepsy, but also conditions such as bipolar disorder. In a recent study, researchers found that these particular drugs increased the chances of suicide, attempted suicide, or violent death. However, it is very important to note that the underlying conditions being treated with these drugs already pose a substantial risk of suicide apart from any medication.
More and more physicians are prescribing anticonvulsants to those living with bipolar disorder because of their tremendous therapeutic effects on the condition. In 2008, the Food and Drug Administration issued an order to manufacturers that all of these drugs needed a warning label citing the risk of suicidal thoughts or actions. This study wanted to explore that risk further by examining the individual drugs. The researchers, using the HealthCore Integrated Research Database, examined 300,000 patients, ages fifteen and older, who began using anticonvulsants between 2001 and 2006. After thoroughly looking through the records, the researchers discovered 801 attempted suicides, 26 actual suicides, and 41 violent deaths, according to Business Week. What’s more is that the researchers found the most instances of these acts to occur if individuals were taking gabapentin (Neurontin), lamotrigine (Lamictal), oxcarbazepine (Trileptal), tiagabine (Gabitril) and valproate, compared with people taking the anticonvulsant topiramate (Topamax), reports Business Week.
Although this study concluded that there is a definite increased risk of suicide for those taking these medications, most people who suffer from bipolar disorder are already predisposed to suicidal tendencies. The researchers caution physicians against changing any treatment regimes at this time because the overall risk is still relatively low. What they do suggest, however, is that both patients and physicians be aware of these risks and monitor behavior closely. If you are being treated with these medications for your bipolar disorder it is important to have a support system, either in person or virtually, so that you can discuss any problems you may be experiencing. If you are having or develop suicidal thoughts, seek assistance immediately. It may be that the particular drug you are using is not working in congress with your body. Simply talking with someone can make all of the difference in the world.