Carbamazepine (Tegretol)


Carbamazepine, known by the brand name Tegretol, is an anticonvulsant medication which is used as a Mood Stabiliser. Carbamazepine is mainly used to treat epilepsy, however it can also be used for Bipolar Disorder and other mood disorders as a second strand of treatment if Lithium fails to work. Carbamazepine has helped many people control their symptoms. Carbamazepine is only available on prescription, and is available in both tablet and liquid form.


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It will take several days or even a few weeks for Carbamazepine to start working. It may take up to six months to find out if it is an effective long-term treatment. Carbamazepine should be used without interruption – you shouldn’t suddenly stop taking the medicine. The medicine should help control your symptoms.


It is unclear as to exactly how mood stabilisers work. It is believed that when an individual is going through a depressive or manic phase, that certain chemicals in the brain are unbalanced. These chemicals include the transmitters noradrenaline and dopamine – both of which are linked to regulating mood. Mood stabilisers are thought to help restore the balance in these chemicals – in the process stabilising an individual’s mood. Each different mood stabiliser has  intricate differences in operation, but they largely do the same thing.




The recommended starting dose of Carbamazepine for use in treating Bipolar disorder is 400mg per day, taken throughout the day. The maximum dose per day is 1,600mg per day. The normal dose is normally between 400mg and 600mg per day. You should swallow each tablet whole with a glass of water. Do not chew or crush the tablet. It is also possible to take Carbamazepine in liquid form. In this case, the dosage will be the same. Ask your doctor for specific information. In any case, your doctor or mental health professional will tell you exactly how to take Carbamazepine. Carbamazepine is typically taken on a long term basis, with the exact timescale ranging from patient to patient.


You will also need to undergo blood tests during your Carbamazepine treatment course. These will take place once every six months – including a test upon starting treatment.



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With each box of Carbamazepine, there will be an information leaflet enclosed. This will provide general information, along with an exhaustive list of side effects. Side effects from Carbamazepine shouldn’t last more than one or two weeks. It is natural to experience some side effects as your body gets used to the medication.


Common side effects of Carbamazepine include drowsiness, dizziness, headaches, vomiting, constipation and a dry mouth. It is also common to suffer from Leucopenia when taking Carbamazepine. This is when there is a low white cell count, which can cause more infections than usual.


Serious side effects include an allergic reaction (rash, breathing problems, swelling), intense pain, jaundice, swelling, memory problems, seizures, irregular heart beats or involuntary movements. You should contact your doctor or an emergency service if any serious side effect, allergic reaction or life-threatening condition arises from taking this medication.


An overdose of Carbamazepine should be avoided. An overdose can lead to sickness, and in extreme cases, death. If you have taken too much Carbamazepine, talk to a doctor or go to a hospital immediately. If possible, take the medicine with you.




You are implored to read the Patient Information leaflet that will come with your medication, as it will include important information. You should tell your doctor or mental health professional about any other medicine you are taking.


A small number of people who have taken Carbamazepine have experienced an increase in suicidal ideation. If you have any of these thoughts, immediately withdraw from Carbamazepine and contact your doctor.


The following medicines can react unpredictably with Carbamazepine: Anticonvulsants, anticoagulants, citetidine, omeprazole, Antidepressantsantipsychotics, the herbal remedy St. John’s Wort, antibiotics, antifungals, painkillers and heart medicines. This is not an exhaustive list – always ask your doctor for advice on combining medicines.


Exert caution when using Carbamazepine if you have liver or kidney problems, glaucoma or any blood disorder.


Don’t take Carbamazepine if you have heart problems, bone marrow depression, Porphyria or are taking any MAOI.


You shouldn’t suddenly stop taking Carbamazepine. There is a high probability of withdrawal symptoms taking place if you abruptly withdraw from the medicine. Therefore, unless your doctor specifically tells you to do so, do not suddenly withdraw from mood stabilisers. In the event you are to stop taking them, it is advised to slowly reduce the dose.


Drinking excessive alcohol can heighten the effect of mood stabilisers. Therefore, you should refrain from drinking excessive alcohol during treatment involving mood stabilisers. You shouldn’t drink grapefruit juice when taking Carbamazepine.


It is recommended that you don’t use mood stabilisers during pregnancy. Taking mood stabilisers during pregnancy has been linked to birth defects, such as heart issues. Moreover, breastfeeding should be avoided when using Carbamazepine.


Carbamazepine cannot be used by adolescents. The only mood stabiliser prescribed to adolescents is Lithium.


The use of illegal or recreational drugs isn’t recommended during a treatment course involving mood stabilisers, as they can react unpredictably.


As always, ensure you read the information leaflet that comes with your tablets. And ask your mental health professional or doctor for any specific advice.




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Other Mood Stabilisers