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Lamictal Withdrawal Symptoms: List Of Possibilities

Lamictal (Lamotrigine) is a drug that is approved for the treatment of epilepsy and bipolar disorder. It works as a sodium channel blocker by inhibiting voltage-sensitive sodium channels. It is also thought to inhibit the release of glutamate at various areas throughout the limbic system. The drug has been found to be neuroprotective and is clinically effective at preventing the drastic changes in mood associated with bipolar disorder. In addition to acting as an antiepileptic drug and mood stabilizer, it is also used off-label as an antidepressant augmentation strategy.

Specifically, this drug is used to treat partial seizures, focal seizures, tonic-clonic seizures, and seizures resulting from Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (severe epilepsy). It was the first drug since Lithium to be approved for usage as a mood stabilizer and is commonly used as a maintenance medication for individuals with Type-1 Bipolar disorder. It has been found effective at preventing depressive episodes in bipolar patients, but isn’t as effective at treating manic symptoms.

Although this medication can work very well at managing epileptic and bipolar symptoms, some people don’t respond well to it. Others take this drug for an extended period of time and develop debilitating side effects. There is a black box warning associated with this medication in regards to developing Steven-Johnson syndrome and other life threatening skin reactions.

It is estimated that between 5% and 10% of people who take this medication will develop skin rashes and/or have unbearable side effects (i.e. aseptic meningitis, fever, fatigue, etc.). In many cases, the side effects associated with this medication outweigh the benefits of taking it. Most people will eventually want to withdraw from this drug.

Factors that influence Lamictal withdrawal include…

When it comes to withdrawing from any drug, there are going to likely be discontinuation symptoms. There are various factors that will play a role in determining the severity and duration of these symptoms. Factors such as: how long you took the drug, your dosage, whether you quit cold turkey, and personal withdrawal sensitivity can influence your discontinuation experience.

1. Time Span

How long have you been taking Lamictal? In general, people that have taken the time to titrate up to a therapeutic dose and have been on it for an extended period of time are going to become dependent on this drug for everyday functioning. When you consistently deliver a drug to your body and brain over an extended period of time, it will get used to having the drug influence its functioning.

Some would argue that using any drug for a long period of time creates dependency. The longer you have been on the drug, the more difficulty you are going to have adjusting to functioning (both physical and psychological) without it.

2. Dosage (200 mg to 400 mg)

Most people that are on Lamictal are on a dose between 200 mg and 400 mg. There are obviously individuals that are taking over 400 mg. People tend to titrate up to a dose that provides the most therapeutic effects. In general, the higher the dose that you are taking of this drug, the more intense the withdrawal symptoms. Additionally, withdrawal from a higher dose is thought to take longer in regards to tapering than withdrawal from a lower dose.

3. Cold Turkey vs. Tapering

In order to reduce severe withdrawal symptoms, it is important to titrate down from your current dose (i.e. conduct a taper). Tapering will give your body some time to gradually adjust to less of the drug. If you quit cold turkey, it can send both your body and brain into a chaotic state because they will be expecting to receive the drug.

People that have been taking Lamictal for an extended period of time have had to titrate up to their current dose. Therefore quitting cold turkey gives your body no time to readjust itself and is likely going to yield the most extreme withdrawal symptoms. Work with your doctor to come up with some sort of tapering protocol based on your current dosage so that you minimize your withdrawal.

For example, if you are at 400 mg, you may want to gradually reduce your dosage over the course of a 2 month period. It is also important to make adjustments in withdrawal based on how well you are coping. If you reduce your dosage by 50 mg and it feels like too much, you may want to go down by only 25 mg. During withdrawal, the name of the game is doing what works best for you.

4. Individual Factors

It is important to note that there are individual factors that play a role in withdrawal from every drug – Lamictal is no different. Some people may experience very minimal symptoms when they quit taking this drug, while others may experience severe symptoms. Withdrawal sensitivity is different depending on the person and that individual’s circumstances.

One person may have more social support, better habits, and a better tapering plan than another. Someone else may have a great tapering protocol, but that individual may be hypersensitive to withdrawal symptoms. It is important to recognize that how quickly you recover from withdrawal will largely depend on you as an individual – therefore it’s important not to compare how quickly you recover with others; you know your body and experience better than anyone.

Lamictal Withdrawal Symptoms: List of Possibilities

Below are some common withdrawal symptoms that you may experience upon discontinuation of Lamictal. Keep in mind that everyone has a unique withdrawal experience and that your symptoms may not be the same severity as someone else going through the same withdrawal. Although it is important to know what symptoms are caused by withdrawal, it is also important not to psyche yourself out.

  • Anger: Certain individuals report having strong feelings of anger that emerge during withdrawal.  If you are feeling excessive anger, realize that this can be a very tricky symptom to manage.  When you get really angry, try to take a look at your situation from a third person perspective – the anger is a result of withdrawal.  This anger should subside after a few weeks and/or improve with time.
  • Anxiety: A very common symptom associated with discontinuation of this drug is that of anxiety. You may feel more nervous than you normally do during withdrawal. This anxiety may become excessive and/or lead to panic attacks. The best way to combat anxiety is to engage in relaxation exercises and focus on healthy activities to lower your arousal. Recognize that until your neurotransmitters correct the imbalance that is inevitable when coming off of a medication, the anxiety will persist.
  • Balance problems: Some individuals have reported that they have trouble with balance when coming off of Lamictal. In some cases this could be due to too rapid of withdrawal, but in most cases it is just another discontinuation symptom. Your physiology will need some time to return to functioning without the drug. Just know that your balance should eventually recover.
  • Bipolar symptoms: Individuals that are on this drug to help manage mood cycling associated with bioplar disorder may experience a re-emergence of symptoms. If you notice that you are entering into bipolar depression and/or a manic (or hypomanic) phase, it could be triggered by withdrawal. It is important to work with your psychiatrist so that you don’t have to deal with a re-emergence of bipolar cycling.
  • Concentration problems: Many individuals experience impaired cognition and focus when they quit taking this drug. Not only are you going to be dealing with an array of physical symptoms, you may also have to cope with poor concentration for awhile. Your cognition and ability to concentrate should recover.
  • Depression: Some people report that when they withdraw from this medication, they spiral down into a very deep depression. Just know that this is very common and withdrawal from most psychiatric drugs leads to feelings of depression that can sometimes seem insurmountable. The deep depression that is caused by withdrawal will not last forever.
  • Dizziness: Do you feel dizzy after quitting this drug? It could be due to the fact that you tapered too quickly and/or quit cold turkey. With that said, general dizziness is an extremely common symptom. It is difficult to deal with and frustrating because your doctor will likely not be able to relate to this feeling when you describe it.
  • Fatigue: A lot of people report feeling excessive lethargy and overall fatigue when they stop taking Lamictal. If the drug was giving them some energy prior to taking it, this could be a counter-effect. In most cases, the fatigue is simply due to the brain and body trying to readjust and function without the drug that it had been receiving for a period of time.
  • Headaches: Many people have reported experiencing intense headaches (i.e. migraines) when they come off of Lamictal. Just know that this is a very common symptom to experience when you stop taking this drug. If they become bad, do your best to relax, drink plenty of water, and consider headache relief (over the counter).
  • Irritability: If you feel excessively irritable and every little thing is making you mad, aggressive, and frustrated, it is likely due to the fact that you are coming off of a medication. Unless you were highly irritable prior to taking the drug as well, the experience of irritability can be chalked up to withdrawal.
  • Mood swings: If you are bipolar and quit taking this drug that was used to stabilize your mood, it is obvious that you could experience mood swings immediately upon discontinuation. If you experience more severe mood swings than prior to taking the medication, it is likely due to the fact that some sort of imbalance was created by the drug. If you don’t have bipolar disorder and are having mood swings, just know that it’s a very common experience during withdrawal.
  • Nausea: Some individuals report feeling nauseated when they stop taking this drug. There is not really much that can be done to ease this particular symptom other than conducting a slow, tapered withdrawal.
  • Tingling: Many people report tingling sensations throughout their body when they initially stop taking Lamictal or miss a dose. This tingling may continue for a week or two, but eventually should get better as your body adjusts to functioning without the drug.
  • Vomiting: Yes there are cases of people exhibiting flu-like symptoms when they stop taking this drug. The combination of nausea and dizziness can pack a mean punch that leads some individuals to actually vomit. Keep in mind that this is a less common symptom, but it shouldn’t last more than a week after you withdraw.

Lamictal Withdrawal Duration: How long does it last?

Withdrawal from Lamictal will vary depending on the person. There is no specific withdrawal duration that universally applies to everyone. As I already mentioned, there are a variety of important factors that will play a role in determining how long you experience withdrawal symptoms as well as how severe they are. Someone who has taken this drug for many years at a substantial dose may have a very difficult time coming off of it compared to someone who has been on it at a lower dose for a short period of time.

Most people report feeling back to normal after 4 to 6 weeks of the drug being out of their system. As a general rule of thumb for more extreme withdrawal, I recommend judging symptoms after 90 days (3 months) of withdrawal. If you are transitioning to a different medication, the new medication that you are on may ease and/or mask the symptoms of Lamictal withdrawal. Many doctors may discount your reports of experiencing symptoms when you stop taking this drug.

I always recommend trusting your own experience in regards to symptoms. If you know that you are experiencing withdrawal or some sort of discontinuation syndrome, you probably are. Additionally don’t compare your withdrawal with that of others on forums – everyone is likely to have a different experience. Your best bet for ensuring quick recovery from withdrawal symptoms is to recognize them and do your best to cope with them knowing that you will eventually experience a full recovery.

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{ 205 comments… add one }
  • Suzy Podraza February 6, 2018, 6:45 pm

    Hello, I started withdrawing from Lamictal about 6 months ago from 200 mg once daily to the present at 75 mg daily. I notice EXTREME, I could jump- out-of-my-skin anxiety during the first few days of tapering. I was going to taper 12.5 mg (I cut my 25mg in half) every 2 weeks but I am thinking I should find another plan because I am in a lot of distress.

    I am not bipolar. I have anxiety and ADD but it was heightened when my child was debilitated due to a mental illness (we are not biologically related). I was given a biploar NOS dx and given the lamictal. That was 10 years ago and now that my child has moved out on her own, I am getting my life back and just went off 400 mg of Lyrica to nothing in 6 months and was fine.

    The lamictal withdrawal is a special kind of hell. I think my brain became so used to it that my neuroreceptors are retaliating. I am so done with meds. If I find that after stopping the lamictal that I really do have a mood DO then by all means I will embrace it but I don’t think so. Meanwhile this is hell and would not wish it on my worst enemy!

  • Andy January 21, 2018, 3:21 am

    I am currently tapering off lamictal 200mg and I’ve been on it for about 7 months. My experience with lamictal has been nothing but a setback. I was prescribed it this summer after having a mental meltdown, followed by severe anxiety attacks, major depression, intense mood swings, delusional and intrusive thoughts.

    Prior to these episodes I quit heavy drinking and kratom use cold turkey, got dumped by my then girlfriend, and had to dropped out of school because my brain chemistry went totally out of control. I had to move back home and live with my mom…that’s how bad it got. As I was starting lamictal and titrating up, I would wake up in the middle of the night 2,3,4 am and not be able to fall back asleep.

    I was prescribed benzos to help me sleep during the process and ended up taking Ativan every night for two months and then started abusing them and spiraling downwards into drinking. I ended up in a detox facility where they performed a rapid detox on me, essentially cutting me off cold turkey. That withdrawal was a f-cking nightmare.

    Anyways since the lamictal didn’t seem to do anything for me but cause, severe dizziness, memory loss, brain zaps, tremors, and extra depression I decided to withdrawal. The first taper I went down 50mgs and freaked out, and threw my phone in the ocean. I was paranoid, angry, depressed and delusional. So I decided it would be safer to taper 25mgs for two weeks at a time.

    I am now down to 50mgs starting tomorrow and will be off in 4 more weeks. Insomnia, dizziness, anxiety, and a dark depression have been my main side effects, but tapering slower helps. I notice each time I drop a dose I feel I come out of a fog, the depression is bad the first week of each drop, then seems to stable out towards the end of the second week.

    I’m going med free because these type of illnesses can be managed with diet exercise and amino acid therapy along with vitamins. Things that have helped me tremendously through this time have been: L-theanine, ashwagandha, magnesium calm, CBD oil for anxiety (the magnesium calm is like a natural benzo). Fish oil, turmeric, b-complex, zinc, NAC for depression and of course eating a green rich, organic diet, with clean meats, and no sugars.

  • Nancy January 16, 2018, 11:35 pm

    Hi Everyone, Thank you for all the amazing and compassionate comments. I have been taking Lamictal for 20 years, as I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression. It really helped for a while. I originally took 250mg but went down to 200mg quite some time ago. I don’t recall experiencing any withdrawal symptoms when I did that. On the advice of my GP, I weaned myself off of Lexapro. The withdrawal symptoms for that were hellish, but they subsided.

    I highly recommend looking into Dr. Kellyann Petrucci and Dr. Anna Cabeca for their advice on diet. I switched to their products from other products I was using and I like them much better. Dr. Anna does a course on menopause that I found incredibly helpful. For women around age 50, fatigue, fog brain, and irritability may be part of menopause. There are natural ways to combat those symptoms, mostly by changing your diet.

    I am in perimenopause, and had been barely able to function from fatigue. I lost 15 lbs by cutting sugar, alcohol, and grains. I also reduced the amount of fruit I eat. So it’s mostly protein and vegetables. I have also worked to balance my body’s pH, and am taking priobiotics. I went on hormone replacement and got a CPAP machine. I got my energy back. So I felt it was time to try to go off of Lamictal.

    Several weeks ago, I reduced my Lamictal by 25mg. I am experiencing anger, fatigue, and sadness. It’s not debilitating, but I’m glad to know what the source is now. I’m going to double-down on my diet, which is mostly ketogenic. Since I was able to go off of Lexapro successfully, I feel confident these symptoms won’t last. I don’t want to stay on this drug for the rest of my life.

  • AB January 9, 2018, 9:58 pm

    I stopped lamictal fully about 2 weeks ago and before that was at 25mg for two weeks. I was on about 100mg for 7 years. Has anyone have severe exhaustion and fatigue? Feeling like a virus. Sore throat? Any insight would be amazing. Thank you.

  • Nicole March 9, 2017, 2:20 am

    I never usually write on forums (I’m too lazy to register partly! Eek!) but I was really moved by so many comments and found it a real comfort to know that I’m not alone. So sorry to hear how terrible and debilitating withdrawing from this drug has been for so many of you. I’m currently coming off of lamictal at a dosage of 200mg daily. Also 300 mg of venlafaxine, another awful drug to come off, for bipolar II with recurrent depression.

    I know it’s maybe not advisable to stop these medications at the same time but I’ve had enough of them and want out. I’m down to 100mg of lamictal and 225mg of venlafaxine (Effexor) and am feeling a bit better. But the comments about the side affects from discontinuation coming late really scare me. I haven’t been able to come off of lamictal in the past and after going cold turkey one time due to no meds, was shocked at how ill I felt.

    Literally manic and mad. So far I’m a bit dizzy with pressure in my head and very tired. But I feel my old personality is already re emerging. I am crying a lot but honestly, it’s a relief to be able to feel again, after feeling numb for so long. These meds helped initially but after a while they always stop working and my depression gets worse than ever.

    So I’d rather face that depression med free if it’s there anyway despite ingesting all these chemicals. One thing that I know sounds crazy but has been invaluable in helping not just mentally but with other physical ailments is celery juicing every single morning. It was recommended by many holistic practitioners to me and helped a friend recover from awful physical illness when the doctors pretty much wrote her off.

    Also when it felt like withdrawal was really difficult to cope with, my diet has made a huge difference. An acquaintance of mine who is a doctor is bipolar and has come off of all meds with little symptoms and no longer has anything like the episodes of bipolar she used to get, has done it purely through food and supplements. But she changed her diet in a big way. Our guts play a major part in depression as well as many other illnesses.

    I am not advocating stopping meds in any way but what I am realising is that what I eat has played a major part in my recovery. As some others have mentioned above, magnesium has helped lots. Also with aiding sleep. A really good B vitamin complex also. But I cannot always afford these things. I feel awful for those of you in the U.S. and other countries where if you don’t have insurance suddenly or cannot afford medical care, you are just left med free, having to manage this alone.

    I now realise that here in the UK, where despite moaning about our NHS service, we are very lucky to receive medical care free of charge. It’s shocking how some of you have gone through this and I really feel for you. Another thing someone mentioned is walking. Sometimes when highly depressed or anxious or having no energy, forcing myself out of the door, even if for only 15 mins of walking helps, also with sleep.

    Hot yoga has literally saved my life at times, when suicidal. Sorry this post is soooo long but I hope this info can be of help to anyone suffering in some way. Sending healing thoughts to you all. All of your comments have helped me in some way, to know that we’re not doing this alone.

  • Jeff Baucom March 3, 2017, 3:57 am

    This drug has been a nightmare. I was given this medicine for bipolar disorder. I took 25 mg for 10 days and then 50mg for 10 days and then 100mg. I started have some neck problems and just thought I hurt it somehow, then double vision and tremors.

    I thought all of this was from a possible pinched nerve in my neck. I went and got a shot in my neck, when non of the problems I was having started going away I started looking into the meds I was taking. My doctor told me the only thing to be on the look out for way a rash.

    I am a tattoo artist and have been out of work for over a month now with tremors, I have been off the meds for a week now, no more double vision, but neck problems and tremors are still with me. Hoping they will be gone with in the next week.

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