Lithium salts are chemical salts of lithium used primarily in the treatment of bipolar disorder as mood stabilizing drugs. They are also sometimes used to treat depression and mania. more...
Lithium carbonate (Li2CO3), sold as Carbolith®, Cibalith-S®, Duralith®, Eskalith®, Lithane®, Lithizine®, Lithobid®, Lithonate® and Lithotabs®, is the most commonly prescribed, whilst the citrate salt lithium citrate (Li3C6H5O7), the sulfate salt lithium sulfate (Li2SO4), the oxybutyrate salt lithium oxybutyrate (C4H9LiO3) and the orotate salt lithium orotate are alternatives.
Lithium is widely distributed in the central nervous system and interacts with a number of neurotransmitters and receptors, decreasing noradrenaline release and increasing serotonin synthesis.
The use of lithium salts to treat mania was first proposed by the Australian psychiatrist John Cade in 1949, after he discovered the effect of first lithium urate, and then other lithium salts, on animals. Cade soon succeeded in controlling mania in chronically hospitalized patients. This was the first successful application of a drug to treat mental illness, and opened the door for the development of medicines for other mental [[problems in the next decades.
The rest of the world was slow to adopt this revolutionary treatment, largely because of deaths which resulted from even relatively minor overdosing, and from use of lithium chloride as a substitute for table salt. Largely through the research and other efforts of Denmark's Mogens Schou in Europe, and Samuel Gershon in the U.S., this resistance was slowly overcome. The application of lithium for manic illness was approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration in 1970.
Lithium treatment is used to treat mania in bipolar disorder. Initially, lithium is often used in conjunction with antipsychotic drugs as it can take up to a week for lithium to have an effect. Lithium is also used as prophylaxis for depression and mania in bipolar disorder. Also, it is sometimes used for other disorders, like cycloid psychosis, unipolar depression, migraine and others. It is sometimes used as an "augmenting" agent, to increase the benefits of standard drugs used for unipolar depression. Lithium treatment is generally considered to be unsuitable for children.
Mechanism of Action
The precise mechanism of action of Li+ as a mood-stabilizing agent is currently unknown, but it is possible that Li+ produces its effects by interacting with the transport of monovalent or divalent cations in neurons. However, because it is a poor substrate at the sodium pump, it cannot maintain a membrane potential and only sustains a small gradient across biological membranes. Yet Li+ is similar enough to Na+ in that under experimental conditions, Li+ can replace Na+ for production of a single in neurons. Perhaps most the most interesting characteristic of Li+, is that it produces no obvious psychotropic effects (such as sedation, depression, euphoria) in normal individuals at therapeutic concentrations, differentiating it from the other psychoactive drugs.
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