Latuda and its Happy Side Effect

I want to share with you the success I’ve had with a new medication.  I know a lot of you are frustrated with your meds and their inability to treat multiple symptoms without uncomfortable or dangerous side effects.

Most of you with bipolar are aware that there are only two medications that are FDA-approved specifically for treatment of bipolar disorder:  Seroquel and Lithium.  And many of you may have tried those two meds, with little or no success.  I fall into that category, and for several years I have bounced around between various prescriptions, trying a combination of this and that, hoping for some success.  I was looking for a medication that I could take singularly, without having to take a separate pill for each of my symptoms.

I think I’ve probably tried just about everything on the market, or combinations of those meds.  The aforementioned Seroquel and Lithium, along with Abilify, Tegretol, Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa, Cymbalta, Lexapro and Topomax all had their positive attributes.  Most of them treated one of more of my symptoms, but one alone was never enough.  I needed something for the depression, anxiety, sleeplessness and mania.  None of these seemed to be effective on its own, so I was always taking more than one pill at a time.

More frustrating than having to take several pills a day were the side effects.  I lost weight and gained weight, my hair fell out in clumps and my vision blurred.  I woke up several times during the night, or couldn’t wake myself in the morning without severe grogginess the rest of the day.  I had dry-mouth and night sweats, headaches and swollen hands and feet.  I had the shakes and increased  anxiety, short temper and extreme fatigue.  Some of the medications decreased my mania, but increased my depression.  The commercials for anti-depressants that said, “some people taking this medication may experience increased feelings of depression or thoughts of suicide……”?  Those disclaimers were meant for me.  It was incredibly frustrating.  I couldn’t believe scientists could put a man on the moon, but they couldn’t come up with a singular treatment for manic depression without the horrific side effects.

Eighteen months ago, I finally settled on a combination of ECT, Tegretol and Ativan.  The ECT treated my mania very effectively, and I continue still with those procedures because it is the only treatment I have found that stops my mania in its tracks.  The Tegretol made me fairly sleepy at night, but I still needed the Ativan to keep me asleep until morning.  However, after about a year of the Tegretol, I started experiencing chronic aches and pains every time I laid down.  Sleeping (if you can call it that) became very difficult.  I woke several times during the night with what the doctors initially thought was “restless leg syndrome”.  I saw a rheumatologist thinking it might be arthritis, and was then referred to a neurologist only to learn that he believed it was drug-induced lupus.  The only way he could be sure was for me to discontinue use of the Tegretol.  After taking nothing but the Ativan for about 6 weeks, I did start to feel better, but felt slightly depressed because I knew I couldn’t go back to the drug that seemed to work best for me.  I was then put on Abilify, which I found to be very effective at quickly treating depression.  Within a week, I felt my spirits lift a bit, but unfortunately I gained quite a bit of weight in a short amount of time and had constant muscle twitching in my hands.

That’s when a medication called “Latuda” was suggested.  Latuda is a fairly new drug with no generic that is being used “off-label” to treat bipolar disorder.  It’s actually a medication used to treat schizophrenia, but has shown significant benefits for bipolar patients.  My doctor told me that the FDA has not yet approved it for manic depression, but he thinks that might be right around the corner because of its success in treating the combination of depression and mania.

What side effects have I experienced from Latuda?  Well, it doesn’t make me groggy and the first couple of nights I took it I felt light nausea, but that went away quickly.  I have to take it with protein or it won’t work as effectively, but other than that I’ve noticed few negative side effects.  I have felt much less anxious, and I have not yet experienced that heavy weight of aggression, anger and anxiety that builds up and inevitably leads to a manic episode.  It is those symptoms that send me to ECT, and I’m hoping that if the Latuda remains truly effective, I might be able to limit or even eliminate ECT from my treatment plan.

More importantly is the positive side effect:  I feel happy.   Yeah, you heard me right.  HAPPY.  I’ve only been taking this medication for about two months, but so far I have felt better on it than on any other prescription or drug combination.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress while taking Latuda, but I wanted to throw the name out there in case any of you are as frustrated with your treatment plan as I have been.  Maybe ask your doctors about it?  It’s the first medication I’ve found to be truly effective in treating nearly all of my symptoms of bipolar disorder and just knowing that I may have found “the one” makes me feel better already.

18 thoughts on “Latuda and its Happy Side Effect

  1. I’m glad to hear you are experiencing some relief with Latuda.

    I am a fellow blogger with a mental illness and I’m currently working on a spiritual memoir entitled “Delight in Disorder: Meditations from a Bipolar Mind”. Currently, I’m working on “The Study” chapter where I reflect on books that have impacted my understanding of mental illness as well as list other works of art (books,movies,visual arts, music) worth exploring.

    I’d love for you to visit my site and share what you’ve found helpful. The post is here -

    http://writingforfoodinindy.wordpress.com/2013/05/14/madness-in-media/

    Hope to see you around.

  2. Your writing is flat out excellent in style, humor, content, and readability. I’m learning much from your work on this blog. One thing I’m learning is that I can have more respect for someone that I already highly respect and admire, because I have this “new window” open on that person into a room that I never new existed.

  3. I too love latuda. I still have to take it with other meds but it definitely changed my life for the better. Good for you for your perseverance in finding the right Med

  4. I’m very anxious to continue to learn how Latuda affects you. I’m on a daily cocktail of 6 meds. It took about 3 years of trial and error to get where I am today and I’m doing fine overall. But to go from a med cocktail down to just one pill a day sounds wonderful.

    • Well, I’m actually taking Latuda AND Ativan, because I still need the Ativan to help me sleep at night. And I do ECT (are you familiar with that?), so that helps, as well. But I used to take several pills a day and now I’m down to just the Latuda and Ativan. I find that I’m a tiny bit jittery right after taking it, but that goes away fairly quickly. It doesn’t make me sleepy like other meds used to, and I don’t wake up feeling groggy and thick-headed. Of course, I’ve only been on it a few months and in the past, my body has grown tired of certain meds and seems to build up a resistance to it and I have to switch to something new, but so far so good with the Latuda. Because it’s a pretty new drug, several doctors I’ve spoken to haven’t heard of it or haven’t prescribed it to their patients because they don’t have a lot of history to work with. However, I definitely think it’s worth inquiring about. Good luck! Please let me know if you try it – I’d love to hear how it’s working for someone else. Thanks for your reply!

      • Just wondering how you are still feeling taking the Latuda. My doctor has prescribed a cocktail of different meds that don’t seem to be working and Latuda was on of them. I was wondering if I just took the Latuda to see if it helps. I feel more depressed now than I did before I ever started taking the meds. I felt better when I wasn’t taking anything at all but I had terrible mood swings and anger fits.Just wanted to see how things have been since May for you as I may just start taking Latuda and Clonazepam alone to see if it works for me.

      • Hi, Heather –
        Funny you should ask! I just saw my psychiatrist about ten days ago and told him that I thought the Latuda was not working as well as it did in the beginning (February). He asked exactly what I noticed, and I told him that I was slightly shorter-tempered, and maybe a little more depressed. It worked so well when I first started taking it and I noticed such a positive difference in my demeanor, and I was concerned when I felt I wasn’t reacting to it as well six months later.

        It turns out I was on a fairly low dose (40mg) and he asked if I’d be willing to try 60mg, instead. I’ve been doing that for over a week, and I do definitely notice a positive improvement. I feel much like I did when I first started taking it – definitely less depression and I feel a little more tolerant of common annoyances. The only negative thing I notice is that about 30 minutes after taking it, I feel like my heartbeat speeds up a little and I feel a little panicky. Maybe that’s not the right word – I guess I feel a little bit jumpy for about half an hour after it kicks in, and then I calm down. So I’ve started taking it at night when I also take Ativan to sleep, and the Ativan seems to knock out the jumpy effects of the Latuda.

        So those are the only two meds I’m taking now, and it seems to be a pretty good combination. Maybe you are ready for an increase in the Latuda? Maybe it’s something that can be taken alone? My psychiatrist told me that Latuda has just been approved for use as a bipolar medication, making it the only official bipolar med on the market other than Seroquel. So maybe that’s all you need? Clearly I’m no doctor and am in no position to prescribe anything to you, but this is my experience and maybe you can use it as reference the next time you speak with your doctor.

        I’m glad you looked me up – I hope this was at least a little bit helpful. Good luck – keep me posted!

        C

  5. Just yesterday I started latuda for bipolar. Did u gained weight while taking latuda alone.? i am taking just latuda alone. like to take zoloft with it but researing whether it is a good combination..

    • I have not gained any weight. That was a concern for me prior to starting Latuda, but my doctor assured me that it is “weight neutral”, which means you should not gain weight as a result of taking it. However, that might change if it is taken with other medications. But so far, I haven’t had any problems with it.

  6. Thanks for all the info on Latuda, I have a friend with bipolar disorder and is taking Lithium which is working but she sometimes is still short-tempered at times. I have printed some of this information so that I can have her read it and possibly ask her psychiatrist about prescribing it for her. I first saw the commercial about this new drug on TV and thought maybe this new med. would help her as well.

  7. Does latuda make you drowzy and put you strait to sleep when you take it and if so do you feel growgy in the morning when you wake up from taking it. Im ready to start tonight for the first time as nothing else seems to work for me and hope latuda is the answer to my issues as it seems to be working for others.

    • Hi, Robert –
      I’ve now been taking Latuda for just over one year. I have not noticed any side effects since I first started. No drowsiness (I take it at night), no discomfort, no weight gain, nothing. And unlike when I was taking other meds, I do not wake up feeling groggy. I feel well rested and calm when I wake. When I first started taking Latuda, sometimes I felt my heart racing within five minutes of ingesting it, but that anxious feeling would go away after just a few minutes, and eventually it disappeared altogether and I no longer feel that, either. You do, however, need to be watchful for side effects that some people suffer, especially twitching or ticking of your muscles. Apparently, that can be dangerous. But again, I didn’t experience any of that. This is the longest I’ve been on any medication for my bipolar disorder, and I feel quite calm. I, too, have tried seemingly every other drug on the market with very little luck, so I am grateful that Latuda is working for me. I wish you luck. Please keep me posted!

  8. Hi there. I just started Latuda yesterday. I’m thankful that I came across your blog being that you have shared so much about your own experiences with it. It’s good to hear that it’s been over year and you are still feeling well.

    Before, I was on Effexor and Welbutrin but I noticed that things got progressively worse. So much so that I had a breakdown and couldn’t stop crying for two days. My doc now has me on Latuda and Doxepin. Both of which I take at night with a meal..

    I will report back soon to share my own experiences.

    • Hi Crissy – I’m so glad that you have the opportunity to try something that hopefully you will find helpful. I continue to have success with Latuda, and I don’t really have any negative side effects. I’ve just started seeing commercials for Latuda on TV, which means it’s finally getting some recognition for being effective. Please keep me posted – I’d like to hear how you are progressing.

  9. Actually, I did a lot of research. For example, Lamictal is effective in treating bipolar disorder, but it has not been approved for use SPECIFICALLY for that disease by the FDA. But doctors continue to prescribe because it does work for some people. Please feel free to refer to the following column I found for more information regarding “official” and “non-official” drugs used to treat bipolar disorder: http://www.healthline.com/health-blogs/bipolar-bites/why-do-doctors-prescribe-medications-not-approved-bipolar-label#2

    Additionally, I appreciate your reply, but I am not “spreading harmful misinformation”. I would hope that nobody goes out and uses a medication simply because a person read about it from a random blogger. That is a private decision to be made between patient and doctor. If I have made an error, I apologize, but I was using information obtained from my doctor and from articles like the one listed above for reference.

    Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

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