Bipolar drug treatments have come a long way. Lithium was rediscovered in the 1940s—when, it was noticed, hamsters being treated for gout, calmed down. Later, lithium was tested on humans for treating mania and was approved for use in the 1970s.
Then came the discovery that brain activity in seizure disorders and mania was similar. As a drug treatment for bipolar, the anticonvulsant drug valproic acid came to the fore in the 1960s and was used in the 1980s to treat manic depression.
For milder symptoms, a bipolar drug such as lithium or valproate may bring relief; sometimes a benzodiazepine (an anti-anxiety drug) such as Ativan may be administered.
Different drugs have become available for the various stages and different phases of manic-depressive illness. In modern drug treatment for bipolar, it is not uncommon for 80% of patients to take more than two drugs—a combination that is often more beneficial.
Most doctors will prescribe a bipolar drug such as lithium or the anticonvulsant lamotrigine (Lamictal). Caution is required when using antidepressants because they can trigger a manic episode or rapid cycling; however, if symptoms are severe, it may be more important to bring them under control. In such cases, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) such as Prozac or Zoloft will be prescribed.
To prevent the return of depression, most doctors will combine an antidepressant but with an antipsychotic to stabilize mood. In drug treatment for bipolar, the combination of olanzapine and fluoxetine has been found to be particularly effective.
A patient suffering from severe mania or a mixed mood state will usually be treated with lithium or valproate (Depakote). Often, another bipolar drug is included, such as olanzapine; others drugs such as risperidone, ziprasidone, quetiapine or aripiprazole are also used.
Newer drugs such as Effexor, Remeron, or Wellbutrin are also called on in drug treatment for bipolar. Newer medications may present fewer side effects.
The main objective in treating symptoms of manic-depressive illness is to bring about a regulation of mood. A bipolar drug will be used to stabilize mood and is often the first treatment objective.
Ongoing research has shown that certain natural substances also have a powerful impact on the brain and its chemical messengers and that these substances act in the same fashion as drug treatment for bipolar, balancing and restoring cognitive functioning.
Omega 3 fatty acids are gaining increasing recognition because of the role they play in stabilization of mood. Studies are showing an efficacy with omega 3 that is on par with or exceeding results obtained with conventional medications; calcium and magnesium regulate nerve impulses and contribute to neurotransmitter production; SAMe is known to render significant antidepressant effects; and folic acid and B12 help the brain to manufacture serotonin and other chemical messengers. Each of these substances acts in a similar fashion as does a bipolar drug.
New studies have shown that when supplements are taken in tandem with drug treatment for bipolar, better results are obtained. Some patients have been able to decrease dosages of medications and in milder cases have been able to discontinue their use.
Newer treatments offer hope to those living with manic-depressive symptoms. It is always important to obtain appropriate direction from a qualified professional when undertaking any remedy or using a substance that acts in the same fashion as a bipolar drug.