What is Lamictal (Lamotrigine): Uses, Dosage, Interactions, & Side Effects

July 7, 2021

Lamictal is a prescription medication that goes by the generic name Lamotrigine. It comes in four forms that are all taken by mouth: immediate-release oral tablets, extended-release oral tablets, chewable oral tablets, and orally disintegrating tablets.

Lamictal (Lamotrigine) belongs to a class of medications called anticonvulsants, or antiepileptic drugs (AEDs). These types of drugs work by altering electrical activity in neurons or altering chemical transmission between neurons. This decreases excitation of certain mechanisms in the brain that may lead to seizures.

For that reason, Lamictal is most commonly prescribed to treat seizures or epilepsy. However, it has also been used for long term mood disorders such as bipolar disorder, and shows promise in being effective for treating anxiety.

If you’re thinking of taking Lamictal (lamotrigine), it can be helpful to have some background information before speaking to your doctor to see if it might be right for you. Here’s everything you need to know.

Lamictal (Lamotrigine) for Depression

Lamictal is not normally prescribed for treating depression on its own. Instead, it has a distinct place in pharmacology for treating bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is marked by shifts in mood, usually fluctuating between symptoms of depression and symptoms of mania.

There are a number of mood stabilizing medications available, but what makes Lamictal unique is that it is the only one that lifts the depressive symptoms rather than suppressing the manic symptoms. This is because it is believed to act on serotonin reuptake

For that reason, it can be useful for treating those on the bipolar spectrum, as the depressive symptoms often outweigh the manic ones. Plus, Lamictal doesn’t tend to come with many of the unwanted side effects that are common among other antidepressant medications.

Lamictal (Lamotrigine) for Anxiety

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of Lamictal for treating seizures and bipolar disorder. However, it has not been approved to treat anxiety disorders. If a doctor prescribes this medication for your anxiety, it is known as an “off-label” use.

There are few studies that show the efficacy of Lamictal for anxiety on its own. 

With that said, some research suggests that it works especially well for individuals who experience symptoms of anxiety as a byproduct of their bipolar disorder.

Lamictal has also been used in combination with SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) for people who are resistant to other types of treatment for mixed anxiety and depression symptoms.

Lamictal (Lamotrigine) Dosage

If your doctor prescribes you lamotrigine, you’ll likely start on a low dose and gradually increase over several weeks. The typical dose falls somewhere between 25 mg and 400 mg. Oral tablets are usually taken once or twice daily with or without food.

If you miss a dose, you shouldn’t double the dose or take extra to make up for forgotten doses.

Lamictal needs to be taken for some time before you start seeing the most positive results. Treatment of bipolar disorder usually requires lifelong commitment. If you happen to miss more than three days of your medication, contact your doctor, as they may need to adjust your dose.

Always follow your prescribing physician’s dosing instructions. 

Lamictal (Lamotrigine) Side Effects

As with any medication, Lamictal can come with some side effects. Some of the most common side effects include:

  • Drowsiness
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth
  • Sore throat
  • Fever
  • Tremors
  • Symptoms of anxiety

There are also more serious side effects that can occur from taking Lamictal. One that is most noteworthy is a life-threatening skin rash, also known as Stevens-Johnson syndrome. This is a rare, but serious condition that causes a rash on the skin that spreads and blisters over time. 

If you have hives, painful sores, shortness of breath, or blisters in and around your mouth, contact an emergency service immediately.

Another rare, but serious, possible side effect of taking Lamictal is aseptic meningitis. This causes serious inflammation of the protective membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord. If you experience intense headaches, fever, chills, vomiting, stiff neck, rash, unusual sensitivity to light, or confusion, you should see an emergency healthcare provider right away.

Some reports of a serious multi-organ hypersensitivity reaction have been associated with taking Lamictal. This may lead to kidney, liver, or heart damage. If you experience enlarged lymph nodes, fever, or rash, you should contact a doctor immediately.

Also, if you suddenly stop taking Lamictal without proper guidance from a doctor, it can cause seizures. You should never stop taking this medication without first speaking to your healthcare provider.

Drug Interactions with Lamictal (Lamotrigine)

Keep in mind that everyone’s body chemistry is different. You might not have a reaction if you combine Lamictal with other medications. Talk to your doctor for a comprehensive list of possible interactions that might be more in line with your individual risk factors.

This medication can interact with other medications. Namely, taking antiseizure drugs with Lamictal can decrease the effectiveness of both medications in your body. On the other hand, Depakote (Sodium Valproate), an anticonvulsant, can increase the effects of Lamictal.

Lamictal also shouldn’t be taken with certain heart arrhythmia medications, such as Tikosyn (Dofetilide). When used together, it can increase the levels of Tikosyn and lead to irregular or fatal arrhythmias.

Finally, taking Lamictal with oral contraceptives may affect how well either medication functions. If you’re on birth control, you may want to talk to your doctor about possible alternatives to Lamictal.

In Conclusion

Lamictal (Lamotrigine) is an anticonvulsant medication that is often prescribed to help reduce seizures or epilepsy. However, it is also FDA-approved to treat bipolar disorder and has shown some effectiveness as an off-label treatment for anxiety and depression.

Lamictal has some mild side effects, but there are some serious rare side effects that are possible. One is Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a deadly skin rash. Other possible serious side effects include aseptic meningitis or organ damage.

This medication should not be taken alongside other drugs without first speaking to your doctor. Its effects can be diminished if taken with certain anticonvulsants, heart arrhythmia medications, or birth control medications.

If you’re struggling with mental health issues, YANA Mental Health can get you on the path to recovery by pairing you with a doctor who will develop a personalized treatment plan just for you. If prescribed, medication will be sent straight to your door — quickly and discreetly. YANA provides quality mental health care on your terms, at your own pace.

Sources:

Neurology : Antiepileptic medications | The Royal Children’s Hospital Melbourne

The role of lamotrigine in the management of bipolar disorder | NCBI

Treating comorbid anxiety and depression: Psychosocial and pharmacological approaches | NCBI

Lamictal (Lamotrigine) | National Alliance on Mental Illness

Stevens-Johnson syndrome – Symptoms and causes | The Mayo Clinic.