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Depakote (Valproic Acid) Withdrawal Symptoms + How Long They Last

Depakote (Valproic acid) is a compound that is utilized as an anticonvulsant to help prevent seizures in epileptics. It also has mood stabilizing properties and is approved to help treat and prevent mania among individuals with bipolar disorder. In some cases it is prescribed for the treatment of migraine headaches as well. Other off-label uses for Depakote include: impulse control disorders and spasms.

Most people that use it for the intended purposes of treating epilepsy and/or mania in bipolar disorder find that it works quite well. Despite the fact that the drug can be very effective, the way it works is not well understood. Some hypothesize that it may work on voltage-dependent sodium channels and may increase GABA to prevent both seizures and mania. Studies in animals have lead researchers to believe that this may inhibit the reuptake of the neurotransmitter GABA in the brain.

Although many people take this medication for a period of time, some have a difficult time dealing with side effects. Various side effects include: hair loss, nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, indigestion, and vision problems. Additionally it may lead a person to gain weight and cause memory problems. The potentially debilitating side effects are reasons people typically end up withdrawing from this medication.

Factors that influence Depakote (Valproic acid) withdrawal

When coming off of any medication, there are various factors that play a role in determining how long the withdrawal process takes as well as the severity of discontinuation symptoms. These factors include things like: the time span over which you took the drug, the dose that you were on, whether you quit cold turkey or tapered, as well as other personal factors.

1. Time Span

How long were you taking Depakote? Those who were on it for a long term may have a more difficult time withdrawing than someone who was on it for a shorter term. In general, the longer you were on a medication, the more your body becomes dependent on it for functioning. Someone who is on Depakote for a few months is likely going to have an easier time coming off of the drug than someone who was on it for years.

2. Dosage

Individuals that were on a higher dosage tend to have a more lengthy withdrawal than individuals on a lower dose. When you are on a high dose, your brain and body become used to the higher levels of the drug for functioning. Therefore it takes longer to taper as well as readjust after you quit from a high level of the medication.

The initial starting dose of this drug is 25 mg/kg per day in an extended release (ER) formula. The dose is then titrated upwards to the lowest possible dose that yields therapeutic effects. The maximum recommended dose is 60 mg/kg per day. If you are at the upper end of the spectrum (e.g. 60 mg/kg per day), you may have a tougher time withdrawing.

3. Cold Turkey vs. Tapering

It is always recommended to conduct a gradual taper off of anticonvulsant medications. Since this is a drug that affects various neurotransmitters as well, it is important to gradually taper as opposed to quitting “cold turkey.” By slowly tapering, you are giving your body and brain some time to gradually adapt as you get used to functioning with less of the drug.

If you quit cold turkey, you may experience more debilitating withdrawal effects for a longer period of time. Quitting cold turkey essentially strips your nervous system of a stimuli that it was used to receiving for a long period of time. In some cases, by not tapering, it is thought that you may shock the nervous system and it may take even longer to readjust to functioning without the drug.

Most sources suggest tapering at a rate of 20% to 25% every 2 weeks.  You could taper slower or quicker, but this makes roughly for about a 2 month withdrawal period.  Even 25% may be too quickly for you if you have been on the drug for a long period of time at a high dose.  Take the time to work with a professional and come up with a custom plan to minimize withdrawal symptoms. To be on the safer side you could even reduce at a rate of 15% every 2 weeks.

4. Individual Factors

Other individual factors will play a role in determining the difficulty of your withdrawal. These factors include things like: social support, daily habits, and your individual sensitivity to drug withdrawal. People that get wrapped up in physical symptoms and/or those who constantly analyze every symptom that they experience during withdrawal may have a much more difficult time handling the process.

It is also important to note that some people may be on other drugs and/or transitioning to a new medication which may ease many of the withdrawal symptoms. It is important to avoid comparing yourself to what other people are experiencing and/or how long their withdrawal lasts. You may experience a much quicker withdrawal or yours may be much longer and more drawn out – it totally depends on your circumstances.

Depakote Withdrawal Symptoms: List of Possibilities

Below are a list of possible symptoms that you may experience when coming off of Depakote. Keep in mind that you may not experience every symptom listed below and that the severity of what you experience will largely be based on individual circumstances.

  • Anger: Some individuals report feeling anger to the point of rage when they initially come off of this drug. It may have to do with the fact that the drug itself tends to elicit a calming response – inhibiting the reuptake of GABA. When stopped, this may lead a person to feel more angry than usual.
  • Anxiety: If you notice that you feel more anxious and less relaxed, it’s largely due to withdrawal. It is pretty common to experience anxiety and have anxious thoughts when you initially stop this medication. If you didn’t have anxiety prior to taking this drug, you should gradually become less anxious over time.
  • Bipolar relapse: For those who have bipolar disorder and are on the drug to help control manic cycling, you may experience mania when you quit. When you take away the drug that was helping control the cycling, it is possible to experience a shift in mood.
  • Concentration problems: A very common problem that people report during the first couple weeks of withdrawal is concentration problems. These can be more severe if you quit cold turkey or taper too quickly. In general you may have a difficult time staying focused and completing work or school-related tasks.
  • Confusion: There are a combination of symptoms that contribute to feeling confused. These include things like: foggy thinking, poor concentration, mood swings, memory issues, and physical symptoms. The confusion should ease up as your brain gradually begins to function without the drug.
  • Depression: Another common symptom to experience is that of depression. Although Depakote does not prevent cycling into depression, coming off of it can lead a person to feel depressed. It could be in part due to neurotransmitter changes, particularly involving GABA.
  • Dizziness: Perhaps the most common symptom associated with the withdrawal process is that of dizziness. Many people report feeling extremely dizzy and or have sensations of vertigo. If you feel dizzy, just know that it will improve in time. If you quit cold turkey, this may be significantly more severe.
  • Fatigue: Do not be surprised if you feel pretty tired with low energy for the first couple weeks after you quit this drug. Do your best to work with the energy that you’ve got and eventually you should notice your energy levels increase.
  • Headache: Many people experience general headaches when they stop this medication. Individuals that were taking Depakote for migraines may notice rebound migraines upon discontinuation.
  • Insomnia: This drug tends to calm people down and can make individuals sleepy. When you discontinue, you may notice that you experience an inability to fall asleep at night. This may be in part due to anxiety and/or inadequate GABA.
  • Irritability: It’s pretty normal to feel irritable when withdrawing from this drug. Expect the irritability to slowly decline in intensity over the course of a few weeks following your last dose.
  • Mood swings: It is common to experience general mood swings (non-bipolar) upon discontinuation of this medication. One moment you may feel very angry, the next depressed, and the next very anxious. Just know that you may experience some general fluctuation in moods as you recover from withdrawal – these will eventually subside.
  • Muscle weakness: Some people tend to experience muscle weakness and/or pains when they initially quit this drug. This weakness should improve gradually over the course of a few weeks until you no longer feel weak.
  • Nausea: In some cases, people end up feeling nauseated if they taper too quickly or during the first week of withdrawal. This nausea may be unpleasant, but keep in mind that it will eventually subside.
  • Seizures: If you have epilepsy you may experience rebound seizures during withdrawal if you remain unmedicated.  It is always important to make sure that you slowly taper from AED’s or you could experience a seizure.  If you are unsure of a good tapering protocol, talk to a professional.
  • Sleep changes: You may experience changes in your sleep patterns during withdrawal. In other words, you may have difficulty falling or staying asleep or you may sleep too much. You may also have difficulty sleeping at normal times (e.g. sleepy during the day and unable to sleep at night).
  • Suicidal thinking: In some cases, the depression that people deal with during withdrawal can lead to suicidal thinking. If you are feeling suicidal and haven’t felt this way before taking the medication, you should recover to normal thinking in some time. In the meantime, be sure to see a therapist and talk about your feelings if they are extreme.
  • Tremors: Withdrawal can lead some individuals to experience shakes or tremors upon discontinuation. These can be minimized if a proper tapering protocol is followed, but if a person quits too quickly, the tremors may be severe.
  • Vision changes: It is common to experience vision changes while taking the drug. Some people experience similar vision changes when they withdraw as well. Over time your vision should return to normal functioning – give it some time.
  • Weight loss: Since many people gain weight when they take Depakote, it should be obvious that they are going to lose it when they stop taking it. If you gained weight while on the drug, you should eventually lose most of it as time continues to pass. The weight loss will not be immediate, but should occur gradually.

How long do Depakote withdrawal symptoms last?

There is no exact timeline for withdrawal from Depakote that applies to everyone. Your experience when coming off of any drug is going to be unique and largely based on individual circumstances. There have been cases of people withdrawing from this medication and feeling better within a week or two, and there have been other cases of people still experiencing withdrawal effects months after their last pill. In most cases, withdrawal symptoms should start to gradually lessen over a period of weeks to months.

The half life of the drug ranges from 9 to 16 hours, therefore the drug itself will be completely cleared from your system within 2 days. Although the drug will be cleared from your body in a relatively short-order, it doesn’t mean that you won’t experience any withdrawal following the second day. Depending on how long you took this medication, it may take a relatively lengthy time period for your nervous system to readjust for functioning without the drug.

Additionally this is a drug that is thought to affect neurotransmitters in the brain – particularly GABA. It may take some time before your GABA levels to reach normal levels after your withdrawal. During withdrawal do your best to realize that these discontinuation effects are not permanent – you will eventually recover to how you were before you used Depakote.

In the meantime, be sure to engage in healthy activities such as: exercise, eating right, and staying socially involved. Over time, you should notice that withdrawal symptoms gradually subside and you feel more like your old self. If you have gone through Depakote withdrawal and would be kind enough to share your experience in the comments section below, you may really help another person who is facing withdrawal.

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{ 130 comments… add one }
  • Phyllis September 30, 2018, 10:15 am

    Have bipolar disorder, was on lithium for 20 years and then depakote for 15. My psychiatrist called for an ammonia blood test which came out high, so he said cut the 500mg in half. It has been 2 months and I have had extreme anger, irritability, irrationality, forgetfulness.

    Am scared to be around people not knowing how I will behave. Will see the psychiatrist next week and hope he will give me something safe for sleep, and talk to me for more than 5 minutes. This is hard on my husband, and I depend on him a lot. It is 6 AM. Glad I can write here.

  • Cari September 10, 2018, 5:20 am

    I am trying to withdraw from the med, my pill is 500mg. I have been cutting it because the pharmacist says there is no smaller pill? But as I get smaller it is getting very hard. I wanted to do water titration to go very slowly but it says my pill is prolonged release and you shouldn’t use prolonged release with water titration weaning.

    What are you all doing? My body is very sensitive with many withdrawal symptoms. I need to do this slowly and can’t be guessing if I’m cutting the pill the same size every day. Please send advice.

  • Kat September 1, 2018, 3:27 pm

    I’ve been taking 1500 mg Dep ER for many years. No weight gain, but hair loss and possible liver issues long-term, have pushed me towards withdrawal. The first drop down to 1000 mg wasn’t too bad. Cannabis and BP meds plus Trazodone at night were most helpful. Next I dropped to 500 mg.

    About day 3-4 my anxiety increased, but worse than that has been the horrible head pain. I started feeling like I was going to fall. Vertigo and worries of seizures, even though I am not epileptic, have prompted me to increase back to 1000 mg.

    I need to see a neurologist to feel safe with this withdrawal. I feel this is a high dose from what I am reading. I withdrew from Effexor ER over the winter, and that was hard, but this is just as difficult. Mood swings, BP spikes, anxiety, and pain are slowing the process.

  • kt July 29, 2018, 12:01 am

    My 17 year-old son was put on Depakote for Primary Generalized Epilepsy. Has only had one seizure, but EEG’s show constant activity. He was first put on Keppra, which had HORRIBLE side effects. Now with Depakote has many side effects. My child can barely get out of his room.

    Depression, anxiety, weight gain, and lack of life have hit him hard. We are slowly weening him off Depakote. He was on 250 in the AM and 250 PM. We are removing 250 in the AM every other day for 1-2 weeks and then remove it completely for 1-2 weeks, then slowly do the night pill.

    The side effects have changed him so negatively. The doctor wants to try him on lamictal, but I just am not happy with the major side effects that they cause. We have had to put him on sertraline to counteract the side effects.

    Even when he was on Depakote his EEGs still showed his brain activity, so I am wondering if the meds really did anything for him. Just want my child back. He has lived in his room for months with no motivation to do anything.

    • nancy b. August 16, 2018, 10:59 pm

      Have you tried a high dose of CBD for your son? People have many testimonies on its effectiveness for seizures. It’s worth researching.

    • Sarah August 26, 2018, 3:18 am

      Hi, I’ve been on the same dosage for about three months for minor bipolar and would also like to taper off. How has this tapering method gone for your son?

  • CP July 9, 2018, 10:54 am

    Well I regret ever touching these meds. Was prescribe valproic acid CR 300mg twice a day (so 600mg a day) because I’d been going through a rough time and I’ve also been diagnosed as bipolar in the past which I think is incorrect too.

    I’d just had a very difficult period in my life lasting 2 years and was actually trying to get the doctor to send me to a psychologist but instead the doctor prescribed meds, in my desperation (was facing a possible divorce so I was extremely emotionally troubled at the time) I took the meds hoping they would help me cope with the hectic time I was going through.

    This was in December 2017. Within 2 weeks of taking them I had started gaining weight and after a about month and a half or so I stopped taking them because I had gain so much weight so quickly. So by the end of January or beginning February or so I had stopped taking them cold turkey. This was when the nightmare started.

    If I thought I was stressing before I took them, that was child’s play next to the extreme anxiety I started having, which must have been a withdrawal symptom but I didn’t connect it. By the 6th or 7th of March my husband encouraged me to start taking the valproic acid again because quite frankly it was like I was going off the deep end.

    Within 30 minutes if taking it I started to feel better (obviously my brain was craving the stuff like crazy, but I had no idea). Again the weight gain started rapidly. By the beginning of June 2018 I had gained 12kg. I decided enough was enough I couldn’t take the weight gain anymore, I don’t fit into any of my clothing, it’s ridiculous.

    So I tapered down to 300mg per day for a few days and then stopped cold turkey about 4 weeks ago now. It’s been awful. Anxiety levels are the highest in the morning. I wake up at 6 AM like clockwork with a sickening nervous feeling in the gut everyday and only after a breakdown of tears do I start to feel better.

    I struggled to concentrate or function. I know I wasn’t coping 100% before taking the meds due to marital issues and depression (I have hypothyroidism which also causes a bit of depression) but if I used to operate at 70/80% before, now I feel like I operate at 50% or less. Music is difficult to enjoy and singing used to be my passion.

    Now some times music makes me anxious or grinds at my nerves making me feel all stressed out. I seldom feel happy, just very flatline. I suffered with bad back pain for a while but that has passed now. I get headaches more often now too. I overall don’t feel like I have energy to do much other than the essentials.

    I just feel too anxious. I feel like I am having internal tremors in my heart or gut area in the early part of each day. Almost like there is some life threatening situation I am being faced with. I just can’t wait for this withdrawal period to be over. I just want to feel better.

    I feel like I have no confidence/faith in things being ok. I constantly feel anxious about things, things that will be ok. I cry everyday almost and then feel a better afterwards. This has been a very difficult experience. I wouldn’t recommend this medication to anyone.

    • MIchelle September 7, 2018, 2:28 pm

      Hi CP, I feel your pain. I came off this drug after 20 years of being on mood stabilizers, depakote for 7 years. I completely flatlined. Complete anhedonia/apathy. I got off of it a year and a half ago and still haven’t recovered. I may go back on it because I only got worse over time. How are you feeling? I just want you to know you’re not alone. -M

  • Mel May 31, 2018, 5:33 pm

    I’m supposed to be taking 1000 mg Depakote ER but a week ago I ran out of it and my prescriber hasn’t answered any phone calls to get me a refill. The first couple of days I was just dizzy and irritable but now it’s getting worse.

    My body feels really weak and my hands shake and I’m having crazy mood swings to the point where I cry almost every time I talk but I also want to start fights constantly. If anyone has stopped this dose cold turkey like this, please let me know it gets better, I just need my med back but I don’t know how long it is going to be.

    • Carol August 28, 2018, 6:12 am

      Mel, I just read your comment from back in May. I hope you were able to get through the difficult time and you’re doing better. I went through something similar last summer. I just waited for the time to come when my doc would be available. I regret that now of course.

      If this were to happen again I would immediately get in touch with my regular family doctor and have her prescribe. Unfortunately, my downward spiral was so awful I wound up in the emergency room and literally laughed hysterically for a couple of minutes then was calm then cried hysterically.

      This went on for quite a while before I went to my room and I was medicated. I’ve never in my life experienced so much anguish. Thank god, a year later, I am doing much better.

  • mara just use first name please April 14, 2018, 7:16 pm

    Divalproex Sodium (Epival) for bipolar disorder. First, my shrink had me on five different drugs, but the hypomania would not subside. I suggested Epival as it had worked well back in 1996 for mania however, it had too many side effects. So we tried the Epival again last December at 1000 mg day. It did make the hypomania subside however, the side effects were intolerable!

    There has been a rapid weight gain of 35 pounds over one year, two thirds of my hair fell out in clumps, & my hands shook as though I had Parkinson’s disease. Also, I had chronic diarrhea, extreme fatigue, a foggy brain, (no concentration) & blurry vision. So I told my shrink to discontinue it.

    First, she lowered the Epival by 250 mg day down to 500 mg day over one month & the side effects subsided. She managed to get me off three of the other drugs down to just the 500 mg Epival & 250 mg Seroquel. Then, my shrink said she wanted to keep me on the Epival 500 mg to prevent mania. I asked why when Epival isn’t even FDA or Health Canada approved for bipolar mania “prevention.”

    She said it should help, & that it was likely the Seroquel causing the 35 pound weight gain, saying she’d switch me to Latuda along with the Epival. I said the Seroquel did cause a 30 pound weight gain over the years, but now the Epival has added another 35 pounds. At 200 pounds, now I’m at risk for diabetes, stroke & heart problems.

    Strict dieting & exercising hasn’t dropped one pound over five months that I’ve been on the Latuda & Epival. I told my shrink that there has never been a scientific study proving that Epival works well to “prevent” mania, yet she still wants me to take it. Epival is such a potentially dangerous drug that I worry that taking it long term will cause acute liver failure, acute pancreatitis, or a blood disorder.

    I’m debating whether I should just take myself off the 500 mg Epival however, I do want to be honest with my shrink. She is a great shrink so I don’t want to lose her. Besides, if I did stop taking it myself & had hypomania or mania, she’d order another blood test & see that there was none in my system!

    Unlike Seroquel, the Latuda isn’t FDA or Health Canada approved for bipolar mania prevention – just depression. Although diagnosed with bipolar disorder back in 1979, I went for 17 years without a bipolar episode & where I was totally drug-free, so I think it is ridiculous to keep taking drugs every day for a lifetime just in case one has another episode.

    Fortunately, the only time that I have bipolar depression is when I’ve been on a drug cocktail. Back in 2013, one quack had me on five drugs then all the professionals thought I had DEMENTIA!!! A really good shrink dropped four drugs & the so-called dementia went away. Although we want to trust our shrinks, it’s a really good idea to educate ourselves re: these dangerous, toxic psychotropic drugs!!!

    Although we are told that psych drugs aren’t addictive, they may as well be because our brains & bodies become dependent on them, especially when taken long term. Although we are supposed to be partners with our shrinks, here in Canada our shrinks aren’t democratic. They don’t expect us mental patients to be as educated as them re: psych drugs.

    Although they make like they know what these psych drugs are actually doing to our brains, not even the drug corps that manufacture them know that! The brain “chemical imbalance” theory is just something that the giant drug corps made up in order to sell their brain disabling drugs, as if they are capable of fixing brain chemical imbalances.

    As Dr. Joanna Moncrieff, UK psychiatrist, author, professor points out: “No drugs have shown to stabilize or normalize moods. All drugs prescribed are sedatives.” Antipsychotic drugs & anticonvulsants are such potent tranquilizing drugs! Read: The Myth of the Chemical Cure, Dr. Peter Breggin: Your Drug May Be Your Problem, & Toxic Psychiatry. They should be available at the library.

    Forgot to mention the worst side effect of Divalproex Sodium (Epival) at 1000 mg per day. I was unable to walk properly as my balance was so affected by this drug. That was also a Parkinson’s disease-like effect.

    Every time I tried to walk it felt like I was going to fall! It is well documented that Epival can cause parkinsonism or Parkinson’s disease-like effects – trembling fingers, shaking limbs & incoordination. That didn’t stop until the drug was reduced to 500 mg day.

  • Frankenstein April 10, 2018, 4:19 am

    Been on valparin 800mg per day for 17 years. Tapered over 2 weeks and followed by complete withdrawal. Having a horrible time. Been nearly 5 months now. Initial few weeks had internal tremors for about 10 seconds the moment I get up. Anyone else had this?

    Been having vertigo with intermittent breaks. The dizziness is crazy. Uneven flooring increases the vertigo effect. Initial few months the level of dizziness was way too much. Felt cannot walk in straight line. Now it has reduced much. But it is still there.

    Anyone else experience these? Withdrawal symptoms said to last few weeks to months. How many months? Please write in your experiences. That way we will know, that the withdrawal symptoms do exist and I / we are not abnormal cases.

    • Michelle September 7, 2018, 2:30 pm

      On it for 7 years. Complete anhedonia for the past two years after withdrawal.

  • Kaz Miles March 20, 2018, 5:29 am

    Hello Again everyone. I do hope my post helps in some way. I wrote above 3 paragraphs on my journey which is no where as long as many who have been on this journey. However I feel all feedback is needed. My journey off Valium was hell and that is why I was put on valproate. When they pulled me off the Valium cold turkey, I had the implant put in and this was very successful for me.

    I have been off the valproate for 4 days and this is the fourth day. I was doing okay for 3 days – small amount of anxiety at night yet take amino acids and the road back recovery supplements for that and it helped big time. Third night the sleep was all over the place yet I slept for 6 hours which is a blessing.

    Last night (fourth night) it was 2 AM before I went to sleep. The fourth day and it was around 1 pm in the afternoon and it started, I had the dizziness on waking then it got worse throughout the day, brain fog, then the sickly feeling started and I almost vomited 2 times.

    The weird thing was I was feeling so dizzy and sick that I decided to finish work for the day. Thank goodness I am working from home today. I had to sit in my lounge chair to just rest. I just conked out and couldn’t wake up for 2 hours – something that has never happened to me.

    I stayed sleeping and my husband came and put a blanket on me and I woke up. I felt much better the sickness had gone, the dizzy sensation is there yet only light on. I did feel really foggy however was very hungry. I experienced strange sensations although I went with it and thanked my body for the healing which it is doing.

    I have been watching Marc’s posts here and each time I feel sick I know it is coming out of the body and I am accepting all of this with grace. It is true that if we fight withdrawal, it becomes worse. I am exercising running, walking and biking this has all helped.

    My water intake is getting there and I eat very healthy, yet I felt like not eating at all today. It goes up and down and when I feel hungry I eat as I need to keep my energy up. I was on the Sodium Valproate for 4 and half months. I was on a very high amount for my body weight (1000 mg).

    I have come right down tapering to 10 mg and yes I am having these symptoms of withdrawals still. I am grateful I am off now, yet tapering was the way to go. I did a very slow taper as I came off this medication at 4 weeks and ended up at the Drs then in Hospital. They do not recommend even after 4 weeks you come off without tapering and I can see why.

    I am told it should be only 1 week of feeling this way and the second week will be much better, yet I will see, as I have read here so many different posts. I am really grateful though that I am now free of all medications and the only way is natural for me from now on. I wish you all the success and positive mindset you can muster up.

    I send you billions of hugs while you go through your determination to taper and be free of these awful symptoms. Stay strong and know it will get better. That is the mindset I am putting in place. I will write here how I am in another week and let you know.

    I am wondering if tapering down to such a small amount from 1000 mg to 10 mg would make any difference, let’s see. This afternoon I am feeling a whole lot better. I will go for a walk and a small run…

    • Cari September 11, 2018, 7:01 pm

      How were you tapering your pills to 10 mg? Is the drug offered that small by prescription? I was told where I am located that smallest pill available is 500 mg. The pill is scored so I went down to 250mg for a few weeks. Then proceeded to cut that in half so went down to approx. 125 mg and then proceeced to half of that after a month.

      So approx. 60mg or so. Problem is I’m having a very hard time cutting the pill now, but I need to go slowly, my body is very sensitive to withdrawal. It is also a prolonged release tablet so I don’t think I should even be cutting it, I’ve read it’s dangerous.

      Anyway… please let me know the brand you are using and mg available. Or any suggestions to taper slowly. I’ve read about tapering with water so I can get a more accurate amount better than cutting and reduce very slowly, but because it is prolonged release you can’t put it in water.

      Please send any suggestions. Hope you are doing well.

  • Melissa February 25, 2018, 10:33 pm

    I have been on Depakote on & off for over 8 years now. I am on 1000mg at bedtime. The reason that I started taking it, was my psychiatrist said it would make the Zoloft & Klonopin be “more effective” for depression & anxiety.

    I want to wean off the medication, because it has done absolutely nothing & after 8 years of taking it, my psychiatrist finally agrees. The Depakote has had so many negative side effects – liver levels very high, weight gain, horrible damage to my teeth, etc. etc. etc.

    My psychiatrist said I should not go through ANY WITHDRAWALS, but I have been on so many anti-depressants & medications in the past and have ALWAYS gone through the confusion, dizziness, nausea, increase in anxiety, worsened depression, etc.

    I am worried because my doctor wants me to cut back to 750mg. for 7 days, then 500mg. for 7 days, then 250mg. for 7 days and then STOP!! This just seems QUICK!! Any feedback/suggestions?

    • Kaz Miles March 20, 2018, 5:43 am

      Hi Melissa, I am not a Dr yet I have had lots of experience around medications and especially this one. That is a very quick and rapid taper off this medication. I was only on this medication for 4-6 weeks and was taken off it cold turkey and had horrible symptoms. I was so sick that they put me back on and I tapered off it.

      It has taken 12 weeks of tapering to come off at only after 6 weeks on it. I did it very slow and actually went down when I got to 750 mg a 100 mg at a time, that is what my body liked better than 250 mg drops. Everyone is completely different, yet I did not need to suffer anymore after a year and 2 months of tapering from valium which almost took my life.

      It is quality of life that is most important and tapering makes you almost hold your breath. You stop living because everything revolves around the medication and tapering. I ended up in a Private Mental Health Clinic for 6 weeks while I tapered of and got down to 100 mg and it was the best thing I did. However not any people can do this.

      I had burn out from tapering off the valium and was exhausted now I had to taper of the sodium valproate which I should never of been left on for 6 weeks. Do it at your pace and listen to your body and work with it. I am only 4 days off, yet I know that the body is doing what it needs to do to heal. I am not sure how long before by brain and body repair, yet I know I can see the light at the end of the tunnel now.

      Be kind to yourself. I remember asking the nurses in hospital “Have you ever had to taper off a medication like this one?” – And they said ‘no’. I told them then you would not know what it is like and you cannot really comment. Until someone goes through this process they can only imagine.

      It can be a holy hell. It makes me angry that Drs assume what is right for you on guess work. And yes it is guess work on there part. The medical system almost killed me so I listen to my body and forums like this to make the best decisions for myself.

      Our bodies are smart and they can repair. Hope all goes well and change your tapering to suit you if you start feeling really horrible. I did and had a really good tapering for the most of 10 weeks. All the best. Big hugs.

      • Sonia March 21, 2018, 7:42 am

        What did you use in tapering? How do you measure 10% of the tablet?

        • Kaz Miles March 26, 2018, 11:14 pm

          Hi Sonia, I used a flumazenil implant to get off of Valium. I was treated in Perth by Dr O’Neil who is the creator behind this amazing program. I have been 5 months free of Valium and 2 weeks off Epilim now.

          This second week hasn’t been the best yet I know it won’t last. The nervous system is re-adjusting so the anxiety has been high and moods up and down.

          I am taking St John’s Wort which is helping Lots and dime other supplements. In tapering you can buy liquid and 100 mg tablets to break into 50 mg or less with the liquid.

  • John March 19, 2017, 11:42 pm

    Finally free of Depakote! It took me basically 8 months of reducing 300 mg at a time from 1200 mg a day. The reduction periods varied from 4 weeks at the start to 2 months before the last reduction. I was on Depakote for 27 years because of epilepsy having had 2 grand mal seizures in my teens.

    The symptoms was actually the worst when I was on only 300 mg a day. Headaches, nausea, that nervous jagged feeling, anxiety, heart palpitations, difficult sleeping etc. But now that I am free it is like discovering the world of normal emotions again.

    Music is more amazing, movies, and my body feels lighter and with more energy. And my hair is coming back! :D So it is a long difficult process but it is worth it. You can do it folks! Get rid of this terrible drug!

  • Douglas Miller March 10, 2017, 11:44 pm

    I’ve been on depakote 1500mg/day plus keppra 1000mg/day for about 12 years. 2 years ago my previous neurologist decided to take me off depakote rather quickly only because of possible liver problems medication may cause. Less than a week after being totally off depakote I was rushed to the ER after onset of multiple complications: vision loss numbness and tingling, difficulty breathing, confusion, and could not comprehend or understand words.

    Very scary moment, almost the same symptoms as a massive migraine on steroids but worse….Fast forwarding to today being 2 years later I’m being taken off depakote and increasing keppra. Unfortunately this time my blood-work had come back with liver enzymes showing more than double what they should be and no choice but to wean me off depakote.

    Very nervous and scared of going through same episode as before even though more precautions are being taken. Currently weaning off and at 500mg depakote/day and 2000mg/day keppra for 5 more days then no more depakote and 2500mg/day keppra. Been seizure free since 2005 when keppra was added to depakote. My diagnosis was right frontal lobe/complex partial seizures.

    I hope my information can help someone cope and understand what symptoms may arise and that there not alone… For all of you dealing with situations similar or alike, stay strong and positive. Faith and Blessings!

  • Brett March 3, 2017, 8:54 pm

    Really appreciate this site. On Monday, I will be admitted for a VEEG, and attempt to come off of Depakote/Zarontin. I’ve been on both for 42 years and have been seizure free for 35 years. I just want to see what life is like without 8 pills per day!! The comments here concern me, but I will give it a shot!!

    • Nicola October 2, 2018, 2:57 pm

      I was on 500mg in the morning and 1000 on the night. I’m coming off my choice with the drs help. I’ve been on them for several years. I feel irritable, depressed, sleep all of the time, and sweats and shivers. Basically I am feeling horrendous.

      Before I went on them I suffered depression and spent most of the time in bed. They didn’t help the depression but I didn’t sleep all day. My dad is 86 fit and well and it is him that has been telling me to come off all of these drugs for years.

      He doesn’t take any drugs. Next I need to come off mirtazapine and strong painkillers. It’s a downward spiral being on so many drugs. I don’t want to be 86 and still on unnecessary drugs.

  • John holtson February 12, 2017, 1:18 am

    Quit taking the drug cold turkey as insurance went away. Worst withdrawal was in the first week. Using melatonin to help with sleep. Sort of lethargic going into third week. Getting by OK with lazy days when I’m off of work. Drinking more water and trying to get good nutrients. I use caffeine to feel more peppy during the day. Walking and showers help too.

  • Nate February 8, 2017, 3:10 pm

    I stopped taking 500mg daily of depakote, cold turkey, 9 days ago. I am a 39 year old man with bipolar disorder. I stopped taking it because of muscle weakness and worsening pain while exercising, and general feelings of apathy, not feeling myself.

    Symptoms weren’t bad until today. I have a terrible migraine headache, I can’t breathe deeply without coughing, I feel cold, my legs hurt, my nose is constantly running, my ears are ringing, brain zaps. Be careful with this stuff.

  • Anna February 4, 2017, 6:52 am

    I was taking 1500 mg of Depakote at one point, and have been slowly reducing over the last 6 months. A week and a half ago I took the final step down from 250 mg to nothing. The most noticeable and debilitating side effect is the muscle ache all over my body.

    And with that of course weakness. I also have never dealt with headaches like this in over 10 years. I knew my mood would temporarily get worse after quitting, but I did not expect these physical effects. Reading this article has made me feel a lot better that it is normal.

    My sleep was unaffected until last night. My mind was racing, and it took over 3 hours to fall asleep. But I was able to sleep in and get a decent nights rest. For me the key to not getting manic is to make sure I sleep every night. I hope it goes well tonight.

    My mood has been similar to other times I have gone off of a medication (or reduced). I feel flat and kind of sad. Maybe that is depression, but it is not too bad if I stay busy doing something. My mood is better today than it has been this whole week and a half.

  • Marcy McCahan January 26, 2017, 7:41 pm

    I’ve been on depakote for 16 years now. Started with a hospital stay where I was labeled bipolar wrongly I believe and that got stuck on me ever since through 3 different pdocs since I got out. When I was released back then I was on 1000 mg. Now I’m down to 250 mg. It was a long hard fight for a year of hell to go from 500 to 250. But I did it taking 125 mg sprinkle caps.

    You just open them up and dump out a little at a time and go slow. My brain is grabbing this stuff with all it can and does not want to let go so every little increment is very hard!!! So now I’m working on the last 250 mg. I have two pills left. 1 1/2 actually. It’ll probably take me a year :(.

    Then I have four more psych meds… but I feel all the above symptoms as you guys. I sleep a lot. I live like a hermit. Have a very short attention span. Have irritable bowel and acid reflux I think due to the drugs. Tons of hair loss. I feel older than I am. Etc., etc. etc. I think at some point life will happen again!! :)

  • Becky Price January 26, 2017, 2:11 am

    I have been on Depakote 500 mg. daily for migraines for about 35 years. I gained about 25 pounds when I started it. I am on a cocktail of medications for my headaches because I get them so frequently. Because I take so many medications and would like to lose weight, my neurologist has tapered me off my Depakote over the last month.

    This is my first week without any Depakote and I am eating Imitrex like M&M’s which I know isn’t good. I feel terrible today but am determined not to go back on Depakote, especially after reading everyone’s comments. I am so glad I found this article and these comments so I know what to expect. I am going to print it for my neurologist.

    • Jan July 26, 2018, 2:34 am

      How long did it take you to go completely off of Depakote? I also am on the same dosage but my doctor is tapering me down for a month. Please let me know. Thanks, Jan

  • L January 17, 2017, 10:46 am

    I’ve been on divalproex for only two weeks – prescribed for migraines. A week on it my stomach started to bloat, I’ve started having blood in my urine and off period bleeding. I have daily headaches now – when before I had irregular migraines, horrible constipation, sounds like I have aliens inside my tummy (so loud the stomach is upset), I’m shivering, extreme fatigue, swelling in my hands and legs, hands are tingling, ears ringing, leg muscle pain, dizzy, and the worst of all a LOT of abdominal pain.

    I’m going tomorrow for a full abdominal ultrasound to see if it has damaged or caused something to my internal organs. Has anyone had severe side effects like me so quickly after being on this drug? And have they gone away by simply stopping to take it? How did it take to go back to normal?

    This has been really hard to deal with as I’m alone with two small children to care for. Thank you so much.

    • L January 20, 2017, 9:20 pm

      Ultrasound has found that I have an hemorrhagic ovarian cyst. Doctor can’t really guarantee it is due to the medicine, but I’ve read online some cases. I’ve never had one before either. Indigestion and swelling have not gone away. Still fatigued. Can’t sleep. Waking up with headaches daily. I’m off the medicine for 4 days now. Hoping to get to normal soon.

      • L January 24, 2017, 5:40 pm

        I am almost back to my usual self. Very happy, took a week after quitting meds. Good luck to you all!

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