Medications to Treat Epilepsy

Medications can be divided into older medications (called first-generation anticonvulsants) and more recently developed medications (second-generation anticonvulsants). Most drugs have dose-related side effects. Some patients tolerate bigger doses than others, but most medications cause dizziness and sleepiness at larger doses.

In December 2008, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that medications used to treat epilepsy must carry label warnings indicating that they may increase the risk for suicidal thoughts and behavior (suicidality). In recent studies, approximately one in 500 patients taking these drugs experienced this higher risk.

According to the FDA, patients who have epilepsy should read the patient information inserts provided with anticonvulsant medications carefully, should be monitored for changes in behavior, and should speak with a qualified physician about their epilepsy treatment.

Publication Review By: Gordon R. Kelley, M.D.

Published: 01 Feb 2002

Last Modified: 15 Dec 2014