Meds & Comprehension and Memory Loss
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Q:  Meds & Comprehension and Memory Loss

Our 15 year old daughter was diagnosed 1 1/2 yr for bipolar.  Over time we have found the right medications and she has been successful with 750 mg depakote, 300 mg wellebutrin and 37 1/2 mg effexor.  Although she is very happy and in control of her life with friends, she has had two horrible years with her academics.  She repeated 9th grade and ended her second year of 9th grade with 4 d's and 2 c's.  Before diagnosed she was A/B student and very active in all sports and activities.  Now we are faced with her comprehension and memory loss. Wondering if college will be out of the question because she won't be accepted. Could this be from her meds?  Possibly depakote.  Any assistance you could provide is most appreciated. 

Dear Ms. H' -- 
Tricky: is it the medications or the bipolar disorder that might account for this?  There's really no way to tell, that I know of, besides turning off one medication at at time to see if it might be a culprit, and Depakote would be one of the most likely in her trio, all right.  

I suppose we could also wonder about some "9th grade effect", as a third explanation. My son seemed to have something like this happen in 7th grade, with neither bipolar nor medications, so we'd have to keep that possibility in mind as well.  

"Comprehension and memory loss" do sound like the kinds of symptoms some patients contend with in association with their bipolar disorder.  I fear that's the most likely of these three, and yet, as a friend says, "medications are guilty until proven innocent".  The problem is that to prove the medication role one way or another, you have to risk the benefits they've caused, and that of course carries its own risks.  Sorry there is no prettier answer, at least that I know of.  (I suppose you could have some "neuropsychiatric testing" done to pinpoint the areas of deficit, but I've not heard of this approach for this kind of problem; it might at least demonstrate exactly where the problems lie, though). 

Dr. Phelps

Published September, 2004


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