On September 3, 2007, Associated Press Science Writer Malcom Ritter published an insightful article called “Scientists Test New Bipolar Remedies,” about scientists who are “casting a wide net to find better treatments for the crushing depression and uncontrolled manias of bipolar disorder.”
The article sheds light on various treatments/medications that hold out some promise for those with bipolar disorder, many of which have been discovered almost completely by accident, including the following:
- Scopolamine: Scoplamine patches are typically used as behind-the-ear patches used to treat motion sickness. During a study in which scoplamine was delivered intravenously to determine whether it could improve memory and attention in depressed people, some participants reported a quick and significant lifting of their depression, which, in some cases, lasted weeks or even months.
- Electrical fields: Some depressed bipolar patients who were having their brains scanned as part of an ongoing study reported feeling much better after the scans. Researchers are currently working toward testing a machine that can produce similar electrical fields to determine whether these fields can be effective in treating bipolar disorder.
- Riluzole: This medication, currently used to treat Lou Gehrig’s disease may be able to boost the levels of certain proteins in the brain, which may result in alleviating depression in people with bipolar disorder.
- Tamoxifen: This antiestrogen drug is commonly used to treat breast cancer in women, but may also be effective in treating acute mania. Tamoxifen inhibits protein kinase C, which is part of the second messenger system in neurons. Tamoxifen buffers the firing of the neurons. This could lead to the development of new medications that have the same beneficial effects but fewer of the potentially negative side effects of Tamoxifen.
Caution: All of these discoveries and other breakthroughs like them must go through extensive testing before they are ready for use in everyday practice. Don’t try any of these medications or treatments on your own. Always consult with your doctor first.
What I like most about this article is how the author described the process of looking for the underlying brain disease, because that is truly where we are at—trying to get at underlying neuropathology to do a better job of diagnosing and treating this complex brain disease. The genome (genetic) research is a huge part of this process and will most certainly be on the frontlines of future diagnostics and treatments for bipolar and other mood disorders. Without saying it directly, this article affirms the concept of bipolar as a brain disease, something we still need to make clear to much of the world.share