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Nature of Anticonvulsants

Anticonvulsants are also known as antiepileptic drugs (AEDs). These are a class of medications that are used to prevent the incidence of epileptic seizures. Seizures are described as abrupt occurrence of convulsions or spasms which follow a general phase patterns of initiation, activity, and cessation. These inhibit excessive nervous activity in the brain and prevent spasms. People suffering from cerebral palsy are treated with anticonvulsants to effectively restrain or avert seizures . Taken along with antidepressants, these medications are useful in treating post-herpetic neuralgia. These are preferred drugs in treating convulsion disorders such as neurological dysfunction, epilepsy, and other disorders.

An imbalance in brain’s neuron activity causes spasms that may affect any part of the body. The occurrence of these spasms is a symptom of epilepsy. Anticonvulsants exert becalming influence on hyperactive brain in several ways by calming hyperactivity in the brain in different manners. Keeping this in view, medical professionals use these drugs in management of migraines, epilepsy, neuralgia, and other disorders. People, who suffer from manic depression with rapid cycling of mania and depression, are generally given these drugs to get them relief from symptoms.

Anticonvulsant Medications

Anticonvulsants can be broadly categorized as:

Barbiturates -- These medications, such as phenobarbital, help in increasing the susceptibility level of reactivity to electrical and chemical stimuli that cause spasms. In other words, they act as depressants. They reduce the activity of the entire nervous system. At low doses, they act as sedatives. At higher dosages, these drugs will inhibit thinking abilities, reasoning, and induce hypnosis.

Hydantoins -- These drugs help in controlling the extent of seizure. Phenytoin is one such a drug which aids in stabilizing the extreme brain activity caused by the stimuli. It is observed that occurrence of imperfections in new-born babies have increased with the usage of phenytoin medication. Dilantin is another medication of this category that is useful in treating seizures. But the severe after effect is hazy eye-sight, and gingival hyperplasia. Mephenytoin is similar to dilantin, but is a less powerful anticonvulsant.

Hydantoins are employed in decreasing extreme activity of the brain stem centers that are to be blamed for the ‘tonic-clonic’ seizure. Dilantin, like phenytoin, is the cause of birth imperfections in new-born babies.

Succinimides -- Ethosuximide is one such succinimide that reduces nerve signals. Ethosuximide is an anticonvulsant that will help in the treatment of ‘absence’ seizures which are not accompanied by other types of seizures.

Benzodiazepines -- These are used to provide relief to anxiety problems and are used as sedatives. They help control spasms. These are also used to bring sedation for medical and interventional procedures. These drugs are proved to very safe and very effective. These have replaced barbiturates. Alprazolam, clonazepam, diazepam, flurazepam, lorazepam, temazepam, triazolam, etc., are some of the benzodiazepines.

Valproic acid -- It can be used as a solo drug or in combination with other drugs in treating simple or complex ‘absence’ seizures, including ‘petit mal’, and is employed for treating ‘tonic-clonic’ seizures. People who suffer multiple seizures can be given valproic acid in combinations with other seizure drugs.

Carbamazepine -- It is another anticovulsant which is useful in treating psychomotor epilepsy and in combination with other medications, is useful in treating partial epilepsies. It helps in giving relief from pain in the case of trigeminal neuralgia. When used as a solo drug or in combination, they get relief from symptoms of acute mania and bipolar disorders.

There are other anticonvulsants such as primidone, etc. Primidone helps in reducing nerve stimuli in the nervous system, which controls seizures.

Anticonvulsant Dosage and Duration

The prescribed dosage and potency depends on the type of anticonvulsant, its strength, and the type of seizures for which it is being taken. This medication should be less toxic and be effective. It should also be able to treat multiple types of seizures or mixed seizures. The medicine should have long duration effect and should not be a sleep inducing drug. It should suit the person’s physiology and psychology. The cost factor has to be considered as patient may use it for many years. These medications should be administered in such a way that patients will not become tolerant to medication that affects the drug efficacy and potency.

Drug Ingestion and After Effects

The frequent after effects are disturbed bowel movement, mild queasiness or vomiting, mild giddiness, etc. These effects normally subside as the body fine-tunes itself to the drug intake. Other after effects are diarrhea, sleep disorders, aversion to bright lights, joint and muscle pains, perspiration, hair loss, involuntary muscle spasms, etc. These are minor problems and may not need any medical attention unless these effects intensify and persist for a long time.


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