Don’t miss our session at this year’s NADD Conference!

The Link Between Epilepsy Pharmaceuticals and Mental Health Side Effects

People with Epilepsy and their circles of support often notice higher rates of being depression, anxiety, and sometimes suicide.[i] [ii] There is a difference between causation and correlation; many times it’s not the Epilepsy, but instead it’s the medications for Epilepsy that cause these side effects.  Certain drugs succeed in suppressing parts of the brain to avoid seizures but end up suppressing serotonin and other functions, leading to depression. Since 2008, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has required makers of Epilepsy drugs to include a warning about increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors to those products’ prescribing information or labeling. While this may be true in some scenarios, it should not necessarily be applied to all drugs in this class.[iii] This session brings together a Developmental Disability Pharmacist, Developmental Disability Provider Agency, and data tools to help identify signs of Epilepsy medication and depression through the use of analytics. Efforts to evaluate the drugs people take can help improve outcomes.  We use data tools and machine learning to analyze patterns in service note documentation, changes in employment status, and other factors, coupled with medication classes to help provide suggestions for those individuals that may want to consult with their physicians about their medications.  In some cases, Pharmacists may be able to provide insights that are extremely helpful to a physician or a nurse.


[i] Harnod, T., Lin, C-L., & Kao, C-H. (2018). Evaluating clinical risk factors for suicide attempts in patients with epilepsy. Science Direct, 229(1), 79-84.

[ii] Haile, K., Awoke, T., Ayano, G., Tareke, M., Abate, A., & Nega, M. (2018). Correction to: Suicide ideation and attempts among people with epilepsy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Annals of general psychiatry17, 12.

[iii] Klein, P., Devinsky, O., & French, J. (2021). Suicidality risk of newer antiseizure medications: a meta-analysis. JAMA Neurol, 2021;78(9):1118–1127. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2021.2480