Lithium And Your Mood
Lithium has been used in treatment of bipolar disorder, or BD, far longer than any other mood stabilizer in the market today. In fact, it is the only drug approved for children diagnosed with BD to date. Although it is known to have a quite narrow ratio of being therapeutic to being toxic, most of its side effects are comparable to taking too much table salt. That being said, administrations of lithium often take place in clinics with facilities that are able to monitor lithium levels in the blood.
Physicians in Greek and Roman antiquity prescribed lithium salts to people suffering from bouts of mania and melancholia. At that time there was no distinction made for bipolar disorder as a separate mental illness, but the tranquilizing effects of lithium salts on patients afflicted with depression or mania were well documented. While preparations containing elemental lithium were not yet available in ancient times, physicians instruct patients to drink from alkali springs, which contain high concentrations of lithium salts.
In the first half of the 20th century, the Australian psychiatrist John Cade first noticed that the urate compound in the form of lithium induces tranquility in patients diagnosed with manic tendencies. Soon in 1970 after more thorough studies, the US Food and Drug Administration approved its use for manic illness. Lithium is now the “classic” medication for the present-day classification of bipolar disorder, which refers to the behavioral symptoms of the earlier category of manic depression.
Lithium And Neural Activity
Affects Excitatory Neurotransmitters
The mechanisms of action of lithium as a mood stabilizer is still under scrutiny, but in the past few years a number of theories have gained significant attention. The most prevalent explanation is its effects on the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate. It is believed that lithium exerts changes in endogenous glutamate by blocking the enzyme responsible for the conversion of gamma-aminobutanoic acid, or GABA, into glutamate. By so doing, lithium raises concentrations of GABA, the chief inhibitory neurotransmitter in the central nervous system.
Lithium and Brain Function
Restores Normal Brain Function
Another conjecture involves GSK-3B enzyme, which influences the circadian rhythm. Lithium ions are believed to produce a regulatory effect on this enzyme, deactivating it when needed. GSK-3B is implicated in a series of chemical reactions implicated in what is called the Wnt signaling pathway, which lithium salts inhibit and consequently create a mood-stabilizing effect. In other words, lithium restores normal processes in the brain that were disrupted by the activation of GSK-3B.
Influences Neural Plasticity
The most recent of these studies postulates that lithium creates a homeostatic effect on nitric oxide and promotes its activities in the nervous system. This is central to the purported role of lithium in neural plasticity, a phenomenon recently observed. These continuing researches as well as anecdotal evidence that are largely positive contribute to the presence of lithium medications in psychiatry. It is a widely accepted fact that lithium is far superior to placebo in reducing mood shifts, the reason why it remains a mainstay of treatment for bipolar disorder.
Lithium is available over the counter in 5mg dosages. You can find Lithium at your local or internet vitamin store.