Valproate (Depakote or Epilim)


Valproate, known by the brand names Depakote and Epilim, is an anticonvulsant medication which is used as a Mood Stabiliser. Valproate is primarily used to treat epilepsy, however it can also be used for Bipolar Disorder and other mood disorders as a second line of treatment if Lithium fails to work. However Valproate is also occasionally used alongside Lithium. Valproate has helped many people control their symptoms. Valproate 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 Valproate to start working. It may take up to six months to find out if it is an effective long-term treatment. Valproate 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.






Valproate is available in both tablet and liquid form. Take the medicine by mouth. You should take Valproate with or just after eating food. Don’t crush or chew the tablets, instead swallow them whole. The normal starting dose is 600mg per day. The usual dose is between 1000mg and 2000mg per day, dependent on the severity of symptoms. The total dose is normally split into two sittings – once in the morning and once in the evening. The maximum daily dose is 2,500mg. For the liquid form of Valproate, your doctor will follow a similar plan to above. Ask your doctor for specific information. In any case, your doctor or mental health professional will tell you exactly how to take Valproate. Valproate is typically taken on a long term basis, with the exact timescale ranging from patient to patient.


You will need to undergo a blood test a few days into Valproate treatment. Then, you will undergo a further test around six months later. These tests monitor blood count and liver function.



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With each box of Valproate, there will be an information leaflet enclosed. This will provide general information, along with an exhaustive list of side effects. Side effects from Valproate 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 Valproate include nausea, drowsiness, dizziness, vomiting, weakness, weight gain and a headache.


Serious side effects include an allergic reaction (rash, breathing problems, swelling), intense pain, suicidal thoughts, low blood platelets, 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 Valproate should be avoided. An overdose can lead to sickness, muscle weakness, poor reflexes, loss of consciousness, sleepiness, breathing problems and seizures, with death a possibility. If you have taken too much Valproate, 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.


Many medicines can interact with Valproate. Aspirin and other painkillers, along with other anticonvulsants can increase the chances of experiencing side effects when using Valproate. Valproate can also increase the effect of other medicines like cancer medicines, HIV medicines, MAOI antidepressants, benzodiazepines, and anything that contains sodium. Malaria drugs, stomach ulcer medicines and some antibiotics can affect the effectiveness of Valproate.


Exert caution when using Valproate if you have diabetes, epilepsy, high levels of ammonia in the body or a skin problem.


Don’t take Valproate if you have heart problems, liver or kidney problems, a metabolic disorder or genetic problems.


You shouldn’t suddenly stop taking Valproate. 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.




Breastfeeding while taking Valproate generally isn’t recommended either.


Valproate 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.




Useful Articles:


Other Mood Stabilisers