74 thoughts on “Bipolar Medication Spotlight: Lithium

  • November 7, 2008 at 10:17 am

    The lithium toxicity symptoms listed on this site might be adjusted to be more accurate – see Kay Jamison’s bipolar bible for the list. My daughter began to have these symptoms and neither the idiot psychiatrist nor neurologist he referred her to knew what was happening. I was with her and just by chance turned to the list of lith. toxicity symptoms in Jamison’s book. Dashing to the ER and yelling “lithium toxicity”, she was at a blood level of FOUR and almost died. But after dialysis, she survived, did not go into a coma, and once again we tried for a competent psychiatrist.

    Manic depression is all over our family and we couldn’t do without lithium. It has been the one savior. The killer was Zyprexa, which a Medicaid doctor shoved my late, beloved son on. He died of profound hyperglycemia from the drug. I urge everyone that if they take atypical antipsychotics, especially the worst – Zyprexa – that blood glucose levels need to be checked on a regular basis.

    There is a lot of badmouthing of lithium, some of which comes from Pharma. That’s because it is a generic drug, and is cheap. No profit for Pharma.

  • November 9, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    I was diagnosed with Bipolar I rapid cycling three years ago. After being hospitalized for a month and such a list of meds it scares me now, I was finally rid of all but Lithium Carb and Ambien for sleep. I maintained on Lithium Carb 1350 mg at bedtime for 2 yrs. In August of this year I experienced a brain anuerism (no relation to my Bipolar I) and was in the hospital for one month.

    After being home for 1 1/2 weeks, I was rushed back to the hospital….I started out about 3 or 4 days before with almost a restless leg syndrome type thing going on…then came the tremors…then the involuntary muscle twitches til the day I returned to the hospital I was experiencing Parkinson extreme tremors and a seizure type activity….my speech was extremely slurred and studdering…I thought it was something gone wrong with my anuerism surgery or I would be thought a hypochondriac or a nervous nelly (in fact the ER doc did suggest I was “just overly anxious over my previous anuerism”) and this delayed my seeking medical attention when the symptoms started. My lithium level was 3+ and I was experiencing a toxcity. I wound up on the cardiac unit due to arrythmias for a week, I was off Lithium for about a month and restarted at 900 mg at bedtime. After several days the restless leg syndrome symptoms started again…then the tremors and I was taken off the Lithium once again.

    Would to God I could start taking Lithium again…I truly believed it saved my life and the life I lived prior to diagnosis. I was stable for 2 years and felt my prayers had been answered. Now I am on nothing and after all the other drugs and combination of drugs I was on before that left me “drugged”, washed out and fat I sometimes wonder what is worse but, worse is not Lithium in my humble opinion.

  • November 9, 2008 at 11:27 pm

    Sorry, I left out that to date, no one not my pdoc, neuro surgeon or neurologist can explain why I went toxic … levels were done freq while in the hospital with my aneurism and I continued on my routine dose of Lithium during that time. Cruel joke my body has decided to play on me I guess.

  • November 10, 2008 at 9:27 pm

    I’ve been diagnosed bipolar. I’ve tried many medications, including lithium, over the years. While I can understand from the three or four times I’ve been on it that it can work, I simply couldn’t tolerate the emotional detachment from people it engendered.
    It was like living in a fishbowl, where I could see out and people could see in at me, but there was a layer of glass between us and no possibility of connection.
    I had some weight gain and fuzzy thinking, the tremors and having to run to the bathroom, but they got better with time and dosage adjustment. But the detachment always was there.
    I’m taking Lamictal now and it seems to be working. The side effects (for me) are nil and people close to me comment on the difference they see. Please don’t misunderstand. I think lithium is a life saver, no question. But it’s good to hear other people’s experiences, too.

  • November 12, 2008 at 1:16 pm


    I’m a 27 year old female who was started on Lithium a week ago today. Started on 225mg Lithium, then a couple of days later, because I was tolerating it, went up to 450mg, and last night increased to 675mg (all per psychiatrist’s instructions–he said to increase slowly if I tolerate it and increase as necessary–that is, if I feel “good” at a certain level there is no need to increase anymore, etc. etc.). So, I’m at 675mg of Lithium, as I said, have been on Lithium for a week, as well as 40mg Celexa 1x/day, 300mg Lamictal 1x/day, and Klonopin 1mg/3x/day or as needed.

    I spent some time in the psych hospital 2 months ago due to major depression and for the first time was diagnosed as Bipolar II, R/O Bipolar I. Since then, it has become apparent to myself and I believe my psychiatrist that I do in fact have Bipolar I.

    When I was released from the hospital, having only added Abilify to my regime of anti-depressants (I’d used Abilify before with some pretty spectacular results) I was “Ok.” Really, I just wanted the h*ll out of the hospital.

    My psychiatrist prescribed Lithium for me for the first time last week because I was basically in a suicidal depression for two weeks–I had to quit my job this past Sunday night (called my boss at home), was hysterical in sobs, etc.

    Anyways, my questions regarding Lithium are:

    1.) What is the usual course of time before a person may see some benefit from Lithium in terms of a lifting of depression?

    2.) What is the minimum dosage usually of Lithium requiring blood work? (I haven’t had any blood work done. My psychiatrist indicated it was when I was up to 2 pills, i.e. 950mg, that’s when I would need blood work.)

    Thanks for any help. I just found this website today and am devouring it.


  • November 20, 2008 at 1:41 pm

    Hi Bridget –
    lithium can take 10-14 days to start showing benefit – but only after it gets to therapeutic level – so it often takes longer than that since we usually start at lower doses and work upward.
    In terms of when you need the first level it varies – but it sounds like you will be getting a level soon and that will be an important part of planning the treatment regimen.

    Good luck with your trial of lithium –

    Dr. Fink

  • December 28, 2008 at 9:52 pm

    Hey, I just have a few questions. I am bipolar 2. First of all I was on Geodon for about a month and had a dystonic reaction to it so I had to totally stop it “cold turkey”. I loved how it made me feel mentally, and I loved how quickly it helped my mood stabalize. It’s the best I’ve ever felt in my entire life, but I couldn’t take it. Then my doctor put me on lithium. I’ve been on it for about a week now and I’m more depressed than I’ve ever been in my life. I don’t see it doing anything. I’m afraid to have another dystonic reaction because it took a month for it to happen with the Geodon. I don’t know if I should just tough it out or call my Dr. or what. I don’t want to hurt myself and I’m worried because I don’t want to end up in the hospital either. What should I do?

  • December 29, 2008 at 4:26 am

    Hi, Jaimie–

    Dealing with bipolar and the effects of medication is already tough enough, so I would strongly advise you to contact your doctor rather than trying to “tough it out.” It may take awhile before the lithium level in your blood reaches its therapeutic level, but maybe your doctor can give you something else in the meantime. In addition, although lithium is effective in treating both poles of bipolar for some people, it’s not always effective in treating depression, even when it’s at therapeutic levels.

    In any event, if you’re not feeling right, that’s always a good sign that you need to consult your doctor.

    Wishing you the best.

  • January 2, 2009 at 10:09 am

    I have a 16 year old son with bipolar. We have had bad experiences with psych meds in the past. We are trying lithium orotate and are wondering what is a typical therapeutic dose? We are using 120 mg tablets from Advanced Research. We try to get him to take 5-6/per day, but have seen minimal improvement.
    Earlier someone mentioned using an orthomolecular psychiatrist. How do I find one in my area..Ohio?
    Thank you.

  • January 11, 2009 at 5:00 am

    Andrea .. that would be Andrea SAXION, wouldn’t it …. now is that “friend” a REAL friend or a made-up friend?..to help sales .. wink, wink…

    One dose of your touted “no side effects” has sent me into full-blown lithium toxicity.
    Were it not for medical background and pharmacology knowledge, I’d be clueless as to what is going on in my body and why I’m extremely thirsty and my kidneys ache.
    Lithium is TOXIC … this comment may upset your income stream .. oh Lith-a-Life investors/owners posting here “touting” the alleged safety of your product …. there is false advertising on your website that claims Lith-a-Life is “without side effects”
    Folks, read the side effects for lithium carbonate .. they’re the same for lithium orotate

    Why did I purchase this “wonder” product? .. I was duped by the radio commercials and the glowing testimonials .. now I can’t sleep because … well, let me put it this way .. get out a PDR .. or just google “lithium toxicity” .. all experienced with one dose folks.. thank God literally I didn’t take the labels starting recommended dose of 2 tablets

    I’m not bipolar ..just wanted some sleep

    yes, sarcasm intended .. lithium, regardless of form, is not a “one size fits all”

    be forewarned folks, I was duped into the “feel good” of the glowing testimonials and the half-life of this “wonder” supplement seems to be hitting me again

    what a rollercoaster ride .. don’t buy into it

  • January 11, 2009 at 2:39 pm

    in addition, lithium (IN ANY FORM) is contraindicated if you are ALLERGIC or SENSITIVE to any of its ingredients (had to take a Benadryl within an hour of taking the first dose of this “wonder” supplement) and lithium should also not be taken if you have heart or kidney disease, dehydration, low blood sodium or if you are taking diuretics.. lithium also interacts with SSRI’s and NSAID’s, just to name a few drugs it can interact with.. and washes sodium out of the body thereby causing potential electrolyte imbalances, especially if one is taking diuretics already

    source .. “The Pill Book” …

  • February 19, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    yo homie…
    im 17 and im [[going]] to start taking lithium.
    i want to know if im going to start to gain weight? or if im going to get bad acne and all these bad things that people are saying…

  • February 20, 2009 at 5:20 am

    I am bipolar 1.

    I’m 19. And I wasn’t diagnosed until four months ago. Although, throughout my life, there are point in my life that scream bipolar. It’s not easy to live with. I always thought I was, but when I was dismissed from a therapist that said I was an “ordinary girl” – I tried to believe it was true.

    In October 2008, I couldn’t take the depression, irritability, loss of interest, no appetite, loss of sleep, HIGH INTEREST in sex, and – worst of all, jumping straight back to, over talkative, happy, and energetic. I was spending money like crazy (which no one can afford when its pointless).

    I got help. My doctor said I was suffering from major depression. He put me on Wellbutrion (300mg a day). This worked fine, but not for long. Two or three weeks went by and I got over stressed, active, and paranoid.
    He added prozac
    Prozac. hate it. hate it. hate it. It drove me CRAZY! This is where my bipolar exposed itself to extremes. Prozac is one of the most well known antidepressants to bring out bipolar. It’s also, the most popular antidepressant for the ages of 15-23 or something to kill themselves on.

    I hate doing research on drugs, because you learn stuff like this, and it scares you.

    I finally went in and told my doctor to take me off the prozac. Then and there, after a two hour appointment – lithium (300mg 3x a day) was our conclusion. I stayed on the wellbutrion – just added the lithium.

    I’ve been on it now, since November. I’ve seen no positive effects. Early on, it seemed to make some positive change. But not much. I now seem to be getting worse. I’ve heard stories about lithium working, and not working. My level last time I had it checked was .7 – some have said to up my dose, get off the anti depressant, (which Ive heard has a huge effect)

    I’m not sure whether I like, or dislike lithium. Lithium has some scary side effects. But. If you are regularly checked, thyroid, kidneys, blood levels – so on, and so forth, it’s said to be a good drug. It has a lot of bad talk. But I’ve heard wonders.

    Not many seem to post on this anymore. So I was hoping to get opinions. I’m going to a new doctor tomorrow. So it’s unknown how it’ll go. But I hope my story has helped. And I hope everyone finds the right treatment…

    It’s not easy. I just hope I find mine, soon.

  • February 20, 2009 at 5:27 am


    I was worried about weight gain. EXTREMELY worried about it. my cousin is bipolar 1, and gained around 60 pounds on a bipolar medication. Which, I do not know. But it wasn’t lithium.

    When I was on prozac, i lost weight. Then again, prozac made EVERYTHING worse for me.

    Nearly in the past three months I have no gained much since I started lithium. 900mgs a day. I hear its hard to get the weight OFF once you gain it. I’ve heard it affects some greatly, some not really. WATCH WHAT YOU EAT. talk to your doctor about it! You get to choose which drug to take. You should know all side effects. Though, this isn’t one that should be your biggest worry. But it’s still good to know what you’re about to consume and what YOU are personally comfortable with. If you are bipolar, it is something you’ll live with forever. Whether you stay on medication, or go off, you should know how to handle it.

    I gained maybe 10 pounds back, from what I had originally lost. Then again, when I don’t eat with my lithium, I feel absolutely sick. Therefore, I eat more then what I normally would want to.
    (I take lithium 300mg 3x a day, morning, lunch, dinner) =900mg

    best of luck to you.

    p.s. I haven’t heard much of anyone getting acne. But know that every medication works different for everyone.

  • February 20, 2009 at 7:30 am

    I am also 19 and just diagnosed about two weeks ago, I was also on wellbutrin for 3 years and I always felt that I was trapped in a body that I could not handle or control, thank God I am a psych major….. Or I never would have know what it was! I am on a mood stabilizer right now that literally makes me through up all my food, and I am constantly in the bathroom. I refuse to take lithium.. To dangerous for my taste… Does throwing up all the time feel good absolutely not, however I have slowed down by ten fold… I would take the the throwing up every single day for the fact that I now feel that I can live a normal, health, lifestyle…

  • March 28, 2009 at 11:30 pm

    I’m 55 and was prescribed antidepressant meds when I presented with depression to my GP after ending up in the emergency ward with awful sideaffects I was prescribed a change of brand and kept on antidepressants. I rapid cycled, through depression, anxiety, mania and psychosis for 6 months till I asked my GP to prescribe Lithium after a particularly severe manic attack. I’ve been taking Lithium 750 mg daily and feel amazing. So much better and stable. Wish I’d done this years ago.

  • April 23, 2009 at 1:42 am

    I’m a journalist. I would like to interview someone who has gone through the process of revealing a mental illness to others. Please contact me at richardjdalton [at] gmail [dot] com
    Thanks, Richard

  • May 11, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    My general practitioner prescribed lithium carb about 8mths. ago. She never once did a blood test although, she did mention something about it to me. I’ve experienced more mania episodes more often , in fact two to three times a day. The fact that I can’t put my thoughts together bothers me terribly. I can’t seem to finish any projects I start anymore and I’m much more irritable. Though I know I’ll never commit suicide the thoughts are more prevalant. I can’t sleep at night and my joints hurt alot. I haven’t been able to see my doctor in over 5 mths because I no longer have medical insurance due to my layoff. As if my bipolarism doesn’t make me imposing enough to people, when I do get an interview I can’t get my thoughts together enough to focus. I basically wing it. I really am unsure of what to do at this point. With all the stresses of unemployment and having to sell what little we have (2 sons under 2,10yr.old daughter and wife) I’m afraid to stop taking it because I don’t know which way I’ll go. I will say that even though I go through the mania more frequently the time spans are usually no more than 1hr. She never did a blood test and I can’t afford to see her but atleast she calls them in for me. I’m lost right now and uncertain as to whether the drug is good or bad. Without an opinion either way, thats my story about lithium.

  • June 13, 2009 at 1:50 am

    I’m in my late 30s and was diagnosed with BP2 three years ago. Going back to high school I had experienced beneficial hypomania, insomnia, and mild depression. In my 20s and early 30s all symptoms increased with higher hypomania, lower depressions and increasing self medication. Eventually I kind myself starting new ventures, travelling, had a run away libido and was planning to kill myself.

    My physician responded to my symptoms by prescribing a series of antidepressants. The 3rd one I tried induced mild mania and panic attacks. A very skilled psychoatric nurse practioner saw me and prescribed lithium and lamictal. I wasn’t ready for the diagosis and got a 2nd opinion.

    The psychiatrist I saw also prescribed lithium (none of the doctors I’ve seen ever suggested an atypical antipsychotic). The effects were profound. In the first week I lost my interest in drinking. My heightened interest in extra-marital sex decreased. Impulsive shopping was less frequent. I got in fewer arguments, was less irritable, and was no longer suicidal.

    In my first winter I found that my depression could still knock me out. Finding it difficult to get out of bed, impossible to read, and just drowning in anhedonia I went back to my pDoc who suggested no anti-depressants but did suggest Lamictal (now, the same prescription the nurse practioner had prescribed.)

    I have found the lithium to be great for my hypomania and helpful but not enough for my depressive cycles. It did help with suicidal thinking and it had a huge impact on my drinking (I’ve basically abstained from drinkng because the lithium makes it so unpalatable for me). The Lamictal has really provided “floorboards”: in 3 years I’ve only had mild depressions usually just for a week or so.

    Lithium hasn’t been all good. My weight actually decreased but a did get mild tremors and sometimes induces some foggy days. Worst has been my thyroid which has been blown out by this crazy salt, making me first wildly hyper-thyroid and later hypothyroid. Now I take levithyroxine as well as my thyroid is basically non functional.

    It was hard for me to start taking all these drugs. But they have helped me keep my life together. I miss my thyroid but I’m thankful I kept my wife and kids. None of them really understand the condition but they’ve all remarked how much easier I am to live with. And I’m glad I didn’t kill myself. I really do credit lithium for saving my life and my family.

    And who knows, maybe this magical salt will help power the batteries of our plugin hybrids and electric cars, save the planet, and this rid lithium of the stigma it suffers once and for all.


  • September 25, 2009 at 10:50 am

    From a long-time user of lithium, I had my first psychotic manic episode in 1971, 38 years ago. After two manic and depressive cycles I was diagnosed as bipolar (manic-depressive illness back then) and prescibed lithium. I resisted my diagnosis and treatment. This resistence caused me to lose 10 years of my life as I was hospitalized numerous times and had to start over in school and in various jobs. When my son was born I again became manic and landed in the state hospital. As a new father I was determined not to let this happen again. I finally becamme compliant with lithium treatment. I have been free of any major manic or depressive symptoms for 28 years with only relatively minor side effects (ocassional diarrhea and slight hand tremor). Unfortunately, my mother died this spring which triggered my first manic episode in years. Somehow my serum lithium level had dipped low. My hospitalization was brief (less than a week) and I was back at work within a month. I have never tried any of the other mood stabilizers so I can’t say for certain that they would not be effective with me. My suspicion is that for me and most Bipolar I patients, lithium carbonate is the drug of choice. My psychotic poles are so extreme that I consider it a miracle that I can be so effectively treated with a simple salt.

  • November 30, 2009 at 6:26 pm

    I am a 33y/o female dx’d bp1 about 18 months ago. I started on lithium slowly and stood at 900mg for about 6 months, doc didn’t want to raise levels til I had labs..duh. So now with new pdoc I am up to 1200 a day and it seems to have made me a little more stable than when I was on 900. I am a much better person on the lithium but it jasn’t helped with my anxiety at all. My depressions are pretty much void but the hypomanic is always a good thing right? I would reccommend lithium to anyone…just make sure the warnings were there.

  • January 15, 2010 at 8:53 am

    Has lithium ever been known to cause symptoms ressembling those of Raynaud Sydrome? My fingers and toes get white-blue and numb at the same time everyday.

  • January 18, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    my 15 year old autistic son was just diagnosed bipolar.the psychiatrist is recommending lithiun.he is on a high dose of geodon now.the doctor wants to add lithium.any one taking both? i’m sooo scared.i want what’s best for him.

  • January 31, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    I was diagnosed with Bipolar II a week ago and have been taking lithium. Still early to say how well it’s working, but the side effects have been mild and are improving. Hopefully a low dose will work for me…I am concerned about the long term kidney effects. Had a full blown manic and mixed episode last month thanks to an SNRI anti-depressant being used for nerve pain. Very thirsty, a little foggy and always pissing, but if it will stop me from feeling like Sauron…it will be worth it.

  • February 16, 2010 at 10:43 am

    I started taking two lithium orotate pills at night and saw a huge improvement. I now take three at night before bed and two in mid morning after breakfast. I have been using lithium orotate for two years and have a good idea at how i react to it and how I act when off of it. When I go for many weeks or a couple months and stop using it, my bipolar symptoms gradually reappear and don’t leave.
    The lithium orotate is effective for me at this time to eliminate irresponsible behavior.
    I do not think it is placebo. Because the lithium orotate causes me to be more organized, level-headed and with less selfish, immature and impulsive behavior. It eliminates my manic behavior.
    I also wake up feeling normal instead depressed.
    This is totally not what I expected from taking it.
    I see a marked pattern that never changes when taking the lithium orotate.


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