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Your Child & Medication for Bipolar Disorder

Does the Formula Add Up?


Updated August 24, 2009

As per the Juvenile Bipolar Research Foundation (JBRF), “Bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness) affects close to 1 million children and adolescents in the United States at any given time.” Just like adults, children struggle to cope with the many ways this disorder impacts their lives. It is only to be expected that the question of medication will arise at some point. This is a huge decision for you, the parent, to make. Following are a list of questions to consider and to discuss with your child’s doctor in weighing the pros and cons of using medications in your child’s treatment.

  • Is the medication approved by the FDA for use in children?
  • What empirical research is available relating to the use of the medication in children?
  • Does the medication have solid history and track-record in treating children?


  • Are there any non-drug treatments available?
  • Should therapy be considered in addition to the drug treatment?

    Potential Benefits

  • Is the child upset by symptoms to be treated?
  • Do the symptoms disrupt the child’s life?

    Side Effects

  • What are the potential side effects?
  • Do the benefits of the drug outweigh the side effects?
  • Will the side effects interfere with day-to-day activities?
  • Are there any problems that could arise with long-term use?

    Family History

  • Is there a family history of bipolar disorder?
  • Has a family member had a medication-induced episode?


  • How does your child feel about taking medication?
  • Do all caregivers agree?
  • Are parents, grandparents, etc. on board with the treatment plan?
  • What role, if any, will siblings play?
  • How closely will your child’s doctor monitor the treatment?


  • What are the policies of your child’s school?
  • Will you need to make special arrangements?


  • Does insurance cover this medication?
  • Will you have any out-of-pocket expenses?

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