Sounds like 'car-bam-a-zee-pean'

Carbamazepine is used to treat epilepsy, control some mood disorders such as bipolar disorder and for some types of pain such as nerve pain. Find out how to take it safely and possible side effects. Carbamazepine is also called Tegretol.

Type of medicine Also called
  • Belongs to a group of medicines known as anti-seizure medication (to prevent seizures), but it has many other uses.
  • Tegretol

What is carbamazepine?

Carbamazepine has many different uses including the treatment of epilepsy by preventing seizures, the control of some mood disorders such as bipolar disorder and the treatment of some types of nerve pain involving the face, head and neck (trigeminal neuralgia). Carbamazepine blocks certain kinds of nerve activity. In New Zealand, carbamazepine is available as:

  • Tegretol liquid (syrup) 100 mg in 5 mL
  • Tegretol 200 mg and 400 mg tablets (white tablets)
  • Tegretol CR 200 mg tablets (beige-orange tablets)
  • Tegretol CR 400 mg tablets (brown-orange tablets)


  • The dose of carbamazepine is different for different people.
  • Your doctor will start you on a low dose, and increase your dose slowly over a few weeks. This will help to reduce the risk of side effects.
  • Always take your carbamazepine exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much to take, how often to take it, and any special instructions.

How to take carbamazepine

  • Carbamazepine can be taken with food if you have stomach upset.
  • Take your doses at the same times each day, to help you to remember to take it.
  • Carbamazepine is available as a liquid or as tablets.
Formulation How to take it
Tegretol liquid
  • Measure the right amount using an oral syringe or medicine spoon.
    You can get these from your pharmacy.
  • Do not use a kitchen spoon as it will not give you the right amount.
    Read more: Tips on how to give medicines to babies and children.
  • The liquid is usually taken 3 or 4 times a day.
Tegretol tablets
  • You can swallow these tablets with a glass of water, juice or milk.
  • If you have swallowing problems, you can put the tablet in a small amount of water (5 to 10 mL) so it can dissolve. This may take a few minutes, then gently stir or shake it. Swallow all of the solution straight away. You could also ask for the liquid instead but the dose and times may need to be adjusted.
  • These tablets are usually taken 2 or 3 times a day.
Tegretol CR tablets

  • These tablets can be halved but do not crush or chew them, this could cause side effects.
  • Take these tablets with a glass of water, juice or milk.
  • These tablets are usually taken twice a day.
  • Missed dose: If you forget to take your dose, take it as soon as you remember that day. But, if it is nearly time for your next dose (within 2 to 3 hours), just take the next dose at the right time. Do not take double the dose.
  • Keep taking carbamazepine every day. It may take a few weeks before you experience the full benefits of carbamazepine. For people with nerve pain, carbamazepine can provide relief within a few days. Do not stop taking carbamazepine suddenly; speak to your doctor or nurse before stopping.  See tips to help you remember to take your medicines regularly.

Precautions before starting carbamazepine

  • Are you pregnant or trying for a baby?
  • Do you have problems with the way your kidneys or liver works?
  • Do you have a heart condition?
  • Do you have any problems affecting your bone marrow?

If so, it’s important that you tell your doctor before you start carbamazepine. Sometimes a medicine isn’t suitable for a person with certain conditions, or it can only be used with extra care.

What are the side effects of carbamazepine?

Like all medicines, carbamazepine can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.

Side effects What should I do?
  • Feeling sleepy, drowsy or tired
  • Feeling dizzy, or faint
  • This is common when starting carbamazepine and may last a few hours after taking your dose
  • Be careful when driving or using tools until you know how this medicine affects you
  • Limit or avoid alcohol
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome, you may need to adjust your dose.
  • Problems with your eyesight – blurred vision or seeing double   
  • Be careful when driving or using tools 
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome
  • Feeling sick (nausea)
  • Stomach upset
  • Try taking carbamazepine with food
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome
  • Headache
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome
  • Low mood, suicidal thoughts — thoughts of harming yourself
  • Talk to your doctor
  • Easy bruising, feeling tired, looking pale, getting sick often
  •  Tell to your doctor as you may need a blood test.
  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as skin rash, hives, itches, swelling of the face, mouth or lips, trouble breathing 
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116
Did you know that you can report a side effect to a medicine to CARM (Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring)? Report a side effect to a product


  • Carbamazepine interacts with many medications and herbal supplements, especially anti-viral medicines, anti-clotting medicines such as warfarin and oral contraceptives. Always check with your doctor or pharmacist before starting carbamazepine or before starting any new medicines.
  • It may also interact with medicines that are available without a prescription such as cough, cold and flu medication, or anti-allergy medication. Check with your pharmacist before taking any new medicines.

Learn more

Tegretol Medsafe Consumer Information Sheet
For adults: Carbamazepine New Zealand Formulary Patient Information
For children: Carbamazepine New Zealand Formulary for Children


  1. Carbamazepine New Zealand Formulary Patient Information
  2. Carbamazepine New Zealand Formulary for Children
  3. Tegretol Medsafe Data sheet
  4. Managing patients with neuropathic pain BPAC, May 2016
  5. Bipolar disorder: identifying and supporting patients in primary care BPAC, July 2014

Additional resources for healthcare professionals

Helping patients with epilepsy adhere to their medicines BPAC, NZ, 2017

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 20 Dec 2017