CARBAMAZEPINE (e.g. ‘Tegretol’)
Car – bam – ay – ze – peen
Why have I been prescribed carbamazepine?
Carbamazepine is used to help treat mood swings, as happens in bipolar affective disorder or manic depression. People
with bipolar affective disorder have mood swings that are much more severe than the small changes in mood that
everybody experiences. With bipolar affective disorder, mood may be elevated or depressed (up or down).
When the mood is extremely elevated this is called hypomania or mania. People with hypomania feel very energetic and
elated but can be irritable and frustrated. They may talk very quickly, sleep very little and be full of ideas and plans. They
can be described as being “high”. Treatment is usually needed because when people are “high” they may make poor
judgements and can quickly become exhausted. Periods of depression will also occur in bipolar disorder. Symptoms
include feelings of sadness, tiredness and poor sleep. Antidepressants may be required to help lessen these obviously
unpleasant symptoms. Carbamazepine helps stabilise the mood. It reduces the highs and the lows.
What exactly is carbamazepine?
Carbamazepine is known as a mood stabiliser but it can also be used to treat other disorders. Many people with epilepsy
take it to stop them having fits. Carbamazepine may also help depression when taken with other antidepressants.
Your pharmacy stocks different brands of carbamazepine tablets. If your doctor prescribes the "Retard" tablet, make sure
you get this one every time from your pharmacist. A common brand or trade name of carbamazepine is ‘Tegretol’.
Why do I need to have some blood tests?
The first blood test is to check that it's safe for you to take carbamazepine. Your blood must be healthy. After a few days,
you may need another blood test. This will tell your doctor if you are taking the right dose of carbamazepine. If he or she is
satisfied, you will only need a blood test every three to six months.
Is carbamazepine safe to take?
It is usually safe to have carbamazepine regularly as prescribed by your doctor, but it doesn’t suit everyone. Let your doctor
know if any of the following apply to you, as extra care may be needed:
a) if you have glaucoma, porphyria, or suffer from heart, liver or kidney trouble;
b) if you are taking any other medication. This includes the contraceptive “Pill" and medicine from your pharmacist, such
as cimetidine (‘Tagamet’), theophylline or St. John’s wort;
c) if you are pregnant, breast feeding, or wish to become pregnant.
What is the usual dose of Carbamazepine?
The usual starting dose is 200mg twice a day. This is usually slowly increased to between 300mg and 500mg twice a day.
How should I take carbamazepine?
Look at the label on your medicine; it should have all the necessary instructions on it. Follow this advice carefully. If you
have any questions, speak to your pharmacist, doctor or nurse. Most medicines are now dispensed with an information
leaflet for you to read.
What should I do if I miss a dose?
Never change your dose without checking with your doctor. If you forget a dose, take it as soon as you remember, as long
as it is within a few hours of the usual time.
What will happen to me when I start taking carbamazepine?
For most people with bipolar affective disorder highs and lows occur quite rarely. Carbamazepine should make these highs
and lows less extreme or less frequent. So, it may take months or years to see the effects of carbamazepine. The best way
to know whether carbamazepine is working for you is to compare your highs and low before and whilst taking it.
Unfortunately, you might get some side effects before your mood gets any better. Most side effects should go away after a
few weeks. Sometimes, the level of carbamazepine in your body gets too high which can be dangerous. You need to be
able to spot the side effects that can mean a high level of carbamazepine. Look at the table over the page. It tells you what
to do if you get any side effects. Not everyone will get the side effects shown. There are many other possible side effects.
Ask your pharmacist, doctor or nurse if you are worried about anything else that you think might be a side effect.