What’s in Your Cocktail…of Medications?

class of medications

If you are following the medical model of treating your illness, then you should be taking medications daily.


The clear majority of you know the difficulty in finding the right combination of medications.  It can take months or even years.  It took close to ten years for myself to find something even close to working.


For those of you newly diagnosed, you can learn more about what bipolar is HERE.


You can also join my Bipolar Bootcamp HERE.  I teach some good coping strategies and ways to lead a healthy life with this illness.


When it comes to medications, pharmaceutical companies go under intense investigation and scrutiny by the FDA before they can be released to the public.  The type of medication, fillers, and exact composition of each pill must be disclosed along with warnings and potential side effects.  This is for the safety of the consumer (us).


There are classes of drugs that specifically treat bipolar disorder.


If you have a new diagnosis of bipolar disorder, these classes can be quite confusing.


These classes of medications are as follows:



Mood Stabilizers


This class of medications is to stabilize the mood of the patient.  It is exactly what the name of the class of medication implies.  Sometimes if a patient has a severe case of bipolar disorder, they will have to take more than one mood stabilizer.  Some medications work on different pathways of the brain and that is the case with mood stabilizers.


One of the first medications to be used for mood stabilization was lithium.  It is still used today and is a natural salt.  Like some of the other medications used to treat bipolar disorder, lithium needs continual blood monitoring.


Anticonvulsants are used as mood stabilizers.  They have been shown to help some patients that have bipolar disorder.  These anticonvulsants are used to treat patients with seizures as well.





Antipsychotics are generally used to treat the manic side of bipolar disorder.  This class of medication treats hallucinations, delusions, and paranoia.  They generally have a sedating effect, which helps to bring the patient down from mania.


Some patients have their thoughts race and antipsychotics help slow those thoughts down.  These racing thoughts can be a result of mania or the patient can have this symptom all the time.  In this case, a patient may be on an anticonvulsant indefinitely.


There are two subclasses of antipsychotics named typical and atypical antipsychotics.


Typical antipsychotics are the older generation of antipsychotics.  They typically have a higher instance of side effects and are not prescribed as much today.


Atypical antipsychotics are the newer generation of antipsychotics.  They are supposed to have lesser side effects and easier to tolerate than the older generation.



Sleep Aids


Sleep aids are used to help treat insomnia and sleep disturbances.  They are generally prescribed for short periods of time, up to 7 days.  However, some patients may need to be on them for longer than 7 days.  Your body can build up a tolerance to the strength of this medication.





This class of medication is used to generally treat unipolar depression.  Sometimes a doctor will prescribe it for bipolar depression.


Most doctors will not prescribe an antidepressant to a patient with bipolar disorder type 1 unless they are on one or more mood stabilizers.  It is thought that putting a bipolar patient on an antidepressant without a mood stabilizer can possibly trigger mania.  This statement has not been substantiated and current studies are being done at the time this article was written.





This class of medication is used to treat both ADD and ADHD.  Almost all doctors will not prescribe stimulants to a patient with bipolar disorder because is it revs up the brain.  Hence, the name stimulant.  It can trigger a manic episode even if you are on a mood stabilizer and/or antipsychotic.


It is a fine line if you are dually diagnosed with both bipolar disorder and ADD or ADHD.


I remember a doctor once told me that prescribing a stimulant to a patient with bipolar disorder is “like pouring gasoline on a lit fire”.



When I was first diagnosed as having bipolar disorder, I did not exactly understand the significance of “cocktail of medication”.  Now, it makes perfect sense.  Taking multiple medications and from the various classes of medications creates my “cocktail”.


I have a medication holder that I fill up once a week to make sure I am taking my medication properly and at the right time.  One of my buddies has an alarm on his medication holder that goes off at various times during the day to remind him to take his medication.  I think this is a great idea if you are having a problem with medication adherence.


medications container
Container for Daily/Weekly Medications

Also, since I have younger kiddos at home, I make sure to lock up all my medications.  This is a great practice to follow even if you do not have bipolar disorder.


What medications are you on?  How do you remember to take them?  I’d love to hear your comments below if you are willing to share.


Until next time, take care of yourself.😊