Valproic acid, or valproate, was originally used as an anticonvulsant (seizure medication) in the treatment of epilepsy. In the 1970s and 1980s a number of studies were conducted that found valproic acid to be effective in treating the mood swings of bipolar disorder. It received FDA approval for the treatment of acute mania in bipolar I disorder in 1995. While it is used extensively for mood stabilization in maintenance therapy (after the mania or mood episode has resolved), it has never received approval for this specific purpose from the FDA.
Valproic acid may be especially useful not only in the treatment of acute mania, but also for treating mixed manic episodes and in rapid cycling bipolar. It is mostly metabolized by the liver and has a half-life of between nine and sixteen hours in adults.
Typical doses for the treatment of bipolar disorder run in the range of 1,000–2,000mg per day. It’s usually given in two doses, which can take many forms. They include the generic valproic acid (available in both liquid and capsule form), Depakene (available in both liquid and capsule form), Depakote (available in pill form), Depakote ER (a slow-release once-a-day pill) and Depakote Sprinkles (capsules that can be taken whole or sprinkled into pudding or applesauce).