I have been experiencing a depressive episode for a few months now. It has ranged from mild to severe. I have experienced all of the major symptoms including depressed mood, loss of interest, changes in eating habits, problems with sleep, psychomotor retardation, fatigue, feelings of worthlessness, diminished ability to concentrate, and recurrent thoughts of death. That is a lot to handle for one person. I take medication daily in order to attempt to stave off symptoms of bipolar disorder. Something obviously wasn’t working. I went to my psychiatrist for help. She prescribed Latuda.
Latuda (lurasidone) is an atypical antipsychotic used to treat schizophrenia and bipolar depression. It is manufactured by Dainippon Sumitomo Pharma and marketed by Sunovion. It was approved in 2010 to treat schizophrenia and in 2013 to treat depressive episodes in bipolar I disorder. It can be prescribed alone as monotherapy or alongside mood stabilizers like lithium or valproate. Not only have studies shown that it is effective at treating bipolar depression, but it also can lengthen time between episodes.
When my doctor first prescribed Latuda, I was skeptical. I know someone who had tried it and, not only was it ineffective, it made them physically ill. I realize that one situation does not describe every experience, but still. My body is incredibly sensitive and I did not want a repeat situation of what I had seen. However, my psychiatrist was hopeful, so I agreed.
I started taking Latuda at 20mg daily. Like many psychotropic medications, it’s important to titrate up to an effective dose. It needs to be introduced slowly in order to let the body get used to it over time. This process allows the patient to find the lowest effective dose along with the fewest side effects.
I took 20mg daily for one week. I saw no difference, but that can be expected. It’s a low dose. The next step was up to 40mg, at which my psychiatrist was hoping to see a change. Not only did I not find it effective, I seemed to be getting worse.
I called my psychiatrist at this point to let her know and she suggested I increase the dose up to 60mg. Latuda has been shown to be effective in treating bipolar depression anywhere between 20mg and 120mg. It really depends on the person.
It has been two weeks since I was prescribed the 60mg and I believe it’s finally beginning to take effect. I feel like the clouds have lifted somewhat and I am able to breathe more freely. It’s an excellent feeling, for which I am thankful.
I still have bad days. It may be because the dose of the Latuda is still too low for me or it may be just a natural part of recovery. My psychiatrist wants me to stay at this dose for a while to see which. If it’s still only partially effective, we’ll increase my dose. Studies have shown the medication to be most effective between 80-120mg, although 80mg is indicated by the manufacturers to be the maximum dose.
I am experiencing side effects with the Latuda. For a couple of weeks I experienced restless limbs. It was irritating, but not debilitating. I also noticed that when I take it without food, I often experience severe nausea. However, Latuda should be taken with food as the body absorbs it twice as well compared to when it is taken without food.
The biggest side effect I have experienced from taking lurasidone is insomnia. It happens in about 11% of patients. Almost every night it takes almost two hours for me to fall asleep and I wake up throughout the night. If the medication weren’t working at all it would definitely not be worth it.
Basically, my experience with Latuda has been mixed. I have definitely seen a reduction in my depressive symptoms, but it has come with some moderate to severe side effects. However, these may dissipate as I keep taking the drug. Hopefully that will be the case and I will have found a medication that has effectively treated my severe bipolar depression.
Image credit: Shovona Ngela