Drug Safety

, Volume 26, Issue 5, pp 337–351 | Cite as

Avoiding Drug-Induced Switching in Patients with Bipolar Depression

  • Chantal Henry
  • Jacques Demotes-Mainard
Review Article


Antidepressant-induced switching is a major risk during the treatment of bipolar depression. Despite several clinical studies, questions remain regarding both the definition of these mood switches and the most appropriate therapeutic strategy to avoid this adverse effect.

This review will first briefly consider the current guidelines for the acute treatment of bipolar depression. We will then review the mechanisms of action of antidepressant and mood stabilisers, and the switches induced by various types of antidepressant treatments, or triggered by antidepressant withdrawal, as well as by atypical antipsychotics. We then will address the risk of mood switch according to the type of mood stabiliser used. The propensity to mood switches in bipolar patients is subject to individual differences. Therefore we will describe both the clinical and biological characteristics of patients prone to mood switches under antidepressant treatment. However, the clinical characteristics of the depressive syndrome may also be a key determinant for mood switches. Various data help identify the most appropriate drug management strategies for avoiding mood switches during the treatment of bipolar depression. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors appear to be the drugs of first-choice because of the low associated risk of mood switching. Antidepressants must be associated with a mood stabiliser and the most effective in the prevention of switches seems to be lithium. Whatever the mood stabiliser used, effective plasma levels must be ensured. The optimal duration of antidepressant treatment for bipolar depression is still an open issue — prolonged treatments after recovery may be unnecessary and may facilitate mood elation. Moreover, some mood episodes with mixed symptoms can be worsened by antidepressants pointing to the need for a better delineation of the categories of symptoms requiring antidepressant treatment. Finally, as a result of this review, we suggest some propositions to define drug-induced switches in bipolar patients, and to try to delineate which strategies should be recommended in clinical practice to reduce as far as possible the risk of mood switch during the treatment of bipolar depression.


Fluoxetine Lamotrigine Imipramine Venlafaxine Bupropion 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This work was supported by INSERM and the Programme Hospitalier de Recherche Clinique, Délégation à la Recherche Clinique de l’Assistance Publique des Hopitaux de Paris (APHP) (PHRC AOM 98152). The authors have provided no information on conflicts of interest directly relevant to the content of this review.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Service Universitaire de Psychiatrie, CH Charles PerrensBordeauxFrance
  2. 2.Neurobiologie Intégrative, Institut François MagendieBordeauxFrance
  3. 3.Centre d’Investigation Clinique, INSERM-CHU de BordeauxBordeauxFrance

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