Drugs for Treating Bipolar Disorder

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  • Drugs as a Treatment for Bipolar
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      • Side effects of lithium: common ones include freq urination, inc thirst, nausea, trembling of hands. Less common ones include acne/skin rash, bloated feeling & muscle twitching. 75% exp some
      • SE for lithium: Maj et al (1998) after 5yrs of starting treatment 88% had a 50% reduction in mean annual time spent in hospital and 43% had had no recurrence.
        • Suggests drugs do reduce symptoms and is quite effective
        • HE suggests it doesn't work for everyone as 57% would of had a recurrence
        • doesn't mean lithium cures bipolar just helps reduce symptoms as else 100% would of had no recurrence and spent no time in hospital
        • But study lacks val: no control group where none took any dose of lithium so we can't be sure the placebo effect didn't occur. Some patients started treatment but stopped at diff stages so data isn't comparable.
      • Easy to administer: very quick, simply swallow tablet/syrup, can do it themselves or doctor/nurse can assist, consumer = quite cheap, prescriptions are free to some people or £8 NHS cost, tax payers fund NHS and research needed to develop, manufacture and produce these drugs = very expensive
      • Long term solution: once the correct medication and doses have been found for the individual then for as long as they take the drugs, their symptoms are controlled. Many choose to stay on them for years to prevent relapse and are happy to do so. HE, their symptoms could return if they stop taking them and so, they aren't cured.
      • Not quick to take effect: finding the right meds and doses for a person can take a significant amount of time. Everyones biochem is diff and hence their chemical concs, in order for symptoms to reduce correct doses need to be found to balance chemicals
        • Each individual also reacts differently to diff drugs producing diff side effects
        • Also patients have diff symptoms and the severity varies
      • Antipsychs can be used against someones free will in extreme circumstances where other people are at risk. When manic = less in touch with reality and appear psychotic, doctors may admin these to calm them against will
        • Could be a form of social control as it may not be for the benefit of the person but to protect others. But usually last resort and isn't the case for other meds used like antidepressants
      • Better alternative: CBT can be used to identify unrealistic or negative thought patterns and change them to more realistic ones. Can help someone with it recognise early warning signs and improve their functioning.
        • better than drugs as there are no physical side effects and rather than just dealing with the symptoms it can prevent them in the first place and probably cure them as they deal with the underlying issue
    • AO1
      • Drugs are chemicals that are able to alter the biochem of the NS
      • taken to help restore the chemical imbalance thought to be present and causing the symptoms
      • Most patients prescribed mood stabilisers
        • compounds that are thought to balance neurot levels that control emotional states and behaviour
        • mainly to control manic/hypomanic episodes but can aid with depressive phases
        • EG: lithium, used since the 1960s and is widespread
          • Speculated that it reduces the potential for a brain neurone to respond to neurot assos with symptoms of mania hence reducing them
          • Patient does need constant lithium checks as too much can be toxic
          • tablet and liquid forms, admin by patients or doctors if necessary
          • A lot take lithium for 1-2 yrs but many stay on long term to prevent relapse
      • EG: antipsychotics where mood stabilisers are ineffective = asenapine
        • Unique chem, control the mania
        • Various forms, some patients may not need them but others could long term
      • EG: antidepressants to help manage depressive phases
        • Can trigger mania so are taken with mood stabilisers/antipsychs.
        • SSRIs, eg prozac, work by preventing the reuptake of serotonin so there is more in the synapse = elevation in mood
        • Several forms and self-administered. Whether they are necessary completely depends on the individual
  • All drugs to treat bipolar work by increasing/decreasing neurotransmitter levels to restore the chemical balance needed for normal functioning


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