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History Of Use, John Cade, Administration, Precautions

Lithium has been the treatment of choice for manic-depressive illness for several decades. Lithium is a trace element found in plants, mineral rocks, and in the human body. Today, the major source of medical lithium is mines in North Carolina. Lithium is classified as an antimonic medication because of its ability to reverse mania, a mood disorder characterized by extreme excitement and activity. In addition, lithium is also effective in reversing deep depression, the other mood extreme of manic-depressive illness, and in decreasing the frequency of manic and depressive cycles in patients. Manic-depressive illness is now generally referred to as bipolar disorder, a term preferred in the psychiatric community.

While there has been a great deal of success in treating manic-depressive patients with lithium and returning them to a normal life, researchers are not exactly sure how it works. It is a non-addictive and non-sedating medication, but its use must be carefully monitored for possibly dangerous side effects. For some patients suffering from some symptoms of schizophrenia, lithium may be used in combination with other medications. Lithium is also used to treat people who suffer from unipolar depression.

Before lithium was in general use for the treatment of bipolar disorder, as many as one in five patients with this condition committed suicide. Many who suffered from this illness were never able to live normal, productive lives. Lithium therapy now allows many people with bipolar disorder to participate in ordinary everyday life. Seventy to 80% of bipolar patients respond well to lithium treatment without any serious side effects.

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