ANTIMANICS – INTRODUCTION
Antimanic drug, any drug that stabilizes mood by controlling symptoms of mania, the abnormal psychological state of excitement.
Mania is an abnormally elated mental state, typically characterized by feelings of euphoria, lack of inhibitions, racing thoughts, diminished need for sleep, talkativeness, risk taking, and irritability. In extreme cases, mania can induce hallucinations and other psychotic symptoms.
ANTIMANICS – INDICATION
Mania can be induced by the use or abuse of stimulant drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines. It is also the predominant feature of bipolar disorder, or manic depression, an affective mental illness that causes radical emotional changes and mood swings.
ANTIMANICS – INFORMATION
Mania is usually diagnosed and treated by a psychiatrist and/or a psychologist in an outpatient setting. However, most severely manic patients require hospitalization. In addition to an interview, several clinical inventories or scales may be used to assess the patient’s mental status and determine the presence and severity of mania. An assessment commonly includes the Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS). The Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) may also be given to screen out other illnesses such as dementia.
Bipolar disorder is characterized by cycling mood changes: severe highs (mania) and lows (depression). Episodes may be predominantly manic or depressive, with normal mood between episodes. Mood swings may follow each other very closely, within days (rapid cycling), or may be separated by months to years. The “highs” and “lows” may vary in intensity and severity and can co-exist in “mixed” episodes.
When people are in a manic “high,” they may be overactive, overly talkative, have a great deal of energy, and have much less need for sleep than normal. They may switch quickly from one topic to another, as if they cannot get their thoughts out fast enough. Their attention span is often short, and they can be easily distracted. Sometimes people who are “high” are irritable or angry and have false or inflated ideas about their position or importance in the world. They may be very elated, and full of grand schemes that might range from business deals to romantic sprees. Often, they show poor judgment in these ventures. Mania, untreated, may worsen to a psychotic state.
In a depressive cycle the person may have a “low” mood with difficulty concentrating; lack of energy, with slowed thinking and movements; changes in eating and sleeping patterns (usually increases of both in bipolar depression); feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, sadness, worthlessness, guilt; and, sometimes, thoughts of suicide.
Mania is primarily treated with drugs. The following mood-stabilizing agents are commonly prescribed to regulate manic episodes:
- Lithium (Cibalith-S, Eskalith, Lithane) is one of the oldest and most frequently prescribed drugs available for the treatment of mania. Because the drug takes four to seven days to reach a therapeutic level in the bloodstream, it is sometimes prescribed in conjunction with neuroleptics (antipsychotic drugs) and/or benzodiazepines (tranquilizers) to provide more immediate relief of mania.
- Carbamazepine (Tegretol, Atretol) is an anticonvulsant drug usually prescribed in conjunction with other mood-stabilizing agents. The drug is often used to treat bipolar patients who have not responded well to lithium therapy. As of early 1998, carbamazepine was not approved for the treatment of mania by the FDA.
- Valproate (divalproex sodium, or Depakote; valproic acid, or Depakene) is an anticonvulsant drug prescribed alone or in combination with carbamazepine and/or lithium. For patients experiencing “mixed mania,” or mania with features of depression, valproate is preferred over lithium.
Clozapine (Clozaril) is an atypical antipsychotic medication used to control manic episodes in patients who have not responded to typical mood-stabilizing agents. The drug has also been a useful preventative treatment in some bipolar patients. Other new anticonvulsants (lamotrigine, gubapentin) are being investigated for treatment of mania and bipolar disorder.
The most effective antimanic medications, which are used primarily for bipolar disorder, are the simple salts lithium chloride or lithium carbonate. Although some serious side effects can occur with large doses of lithium, the ability to monitor blood levels and keep the doses within modest ranges makes it an effective treatment for manic episodes, and it can also stabilize the mood swings of the patient with bipolar disorder. Lithium has a gradual onset of action, taking effect several weeks following initiation of treatment. The precise mechanism of its action is not known.