The newsletter of the Memory Disorders Project at Rutgers University

Antiepileptic Drugs

Antiepileptic drugs are drugs which are used to prevent or reduce the occurrence of seizures in patients with epilepsy; these drugs are also called anticonvulsant drugs.

Epileptic seizures appear to be caused when too many neurons in the brain become active at the same time; antiepileptic drugs are believed to inhibit or reduce neuron activity in the brain.

Antiepileptic Drugs Classification

Antiepileptic drugs include:

  • Phenytoin (trade name Dilantin);
  • Carbamazepine (trade name Tegretol);
  • Clonazepam (Klonopin);
  • Valproic acid (e.g., Depacon, Depakote);
  • And many others.

Antiepileptic drugs usually have a sedative effect, which means that they can cause drowsiness, confusion, dizziness and apathy. (In fact, many antiepileptic drugs are also used to treat people with anxiety or mood disorders.) It has been reported that mothers who take antiepileptic drugs while pregnant may double the risk of birth defects in their babies. Additionally, antiepileptic drugs tend to interact with other medications, meaning that the drugs may not work as intended or even cause harmful effects when mixed. 

Despite these dangers, many individuals with epilepsy can successfully control their seizures with the proper medication.

by Catherine E. Myers. Copyright © 2006 Memory Loss and the Brain