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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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From Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine,
by Paula Anne Ford-Martin
Mania is an abnormally elated mental state, typically characterized by feelings of euphoria, lack of inhibitions, racing thoughts, diminished need for sleep, talkativeness, risk taking, and irritability. In extreme cases, mania can induce hallucinations and other psychotic symptoms.
Mania typically occurs as a symptom of bipolar disorder (a mood disorder characterized by both manic and depressive episodes). Individuals experiencing a manic episode often have feelings of self-importance, elation, talkativeness, sociability, and a desire to embark on goal-oriented activities, coupled with the less desirable characteristics of irritability, impatience, impulsiveness, hyperactivity, and a decreased need for sleep. (Note: Hypomania is a term applied to a condition resembling mania. It is characterized by persistent or elevated expansive mood, hyperactivity, inflated self esteem, etc., but of less intensity than mania.) Severe mania may have psychotic features.
Causes & symptoms
Mania can be induced by the use or abuse of stimulant drugs such as cocaine and amphetamines. It is also the predominant feature of bipolar disorder, or manic depression, an affective mental illness that causes radical emotional changes and mood swings.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), the diagnostic standard for mental health professionals in the U.S., describes a manic episode as an abnormally elevated mood lasting at least one week that is distinguished by at least three of the following symptoms: inflated self-esteem, decreased need for sleep, talkativeness, racing thoughts, distractibility, increase in goal-directed activity, or excessive involvement in pleasurable activities that have a high potential for painful consequences. If the mood of the patient is irritable and not elevated, four of these symptoms are required.
Mania is usually diagnosed and treated by a psychiatrist and/or a psychologist in an outpatient setting. However, most severely manic patients require hospitalization. In addition to an interview, several clinical inventories or scales may be used to assess the patient's mental status and determine the presence and severity of mania. An assessment commonly includes the Young Mania Rating Scale (YMRS). The Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) may also be given to screen out other illnesses such as dementia.
Mania is primarily treated with drugs. The following mood-stabilizing agents are commonly prescribed to regulate manic episodes:
- Lithium (Cibalith-S, Eskalith, Lithane) is one of the oldest and most frequently prescribed drugs available for the treatment of mania. Because the drug takes four to seven days to reach a therapeutic level in the bloodstream, it is sometimes prescribed in conjunction with neuroleptics (antipsychotic drugs) and/or benzodiazepines (tranquilizers) to provide more immediate relief of mania.
- Carbamazepine (Tegretol, Atretol) is an anticonvulsant drug usually prescribed in conjunction with other mood-stabilizing agents. The drug is often used to treat bipolar patients who have not responded well to lithium therapy. As of early 1998, carbamazepine was not approved for the treatment of mania by the FDA.
- Valproate (divalproex sodium, or Depakote; valproic acid, or Depakene) is an anticonvulsant drug prescribed alone or in combination with carbamazepine and/or lithium. For patients experiencing "mixed mania," or mania with features of depression, valproate is preferred over lithium.
Clozapine (Clozaril) is an atypical antipsychotic medication used to control manic episodes in patients who have not responded to typical mood-stabilizing agents. The drug has also been a useful preventative treatment in some bipolar patients. Other new anticonvulsants (lamotrigine, gubapentin) are being investigated for treatment of mania and bipolar disorder.
Patients experiencing mania as a result of bipolar disorder will require long-term care to prevent recurrence; bipolar disorder is a chronic condition that requires lifelong observation and treatment after diagnosis. Data show that almost 90% of patients who experience one manic episode will go on to have another.
Mania as a result of bipolar disorder can only be prevented through ongoing pharmacologic treatment. Patient education in the form of therapy or self-help groups is crucial for training patients to recognize signs of mania and to take an active part in their treatment program. Psychotherapy is an important adjunctive treatment for patients with bipolar disorder.
- A less severe form of elevated mood state that is a characteristic of bipolar type II disorder.
- Mixed mania
- A mental state in which symptoms of both depression and mania occur simultaneously.
For Your Information
- American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th ed. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press, Inc., 1994.
- Maxmen, Jerrold S., and Nicholas G. Ward. "Mood Disorders." In Essential Psychopathology and Its Treatment, 2nd ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 1995.
- Whybrow, Peter C. A Mood Apart. New York: HarperCollins, 1997.
- Biederman, Joseph A. "Is There a Childhood Form of Bipolar Disorder?" Harvard Mental Health Letter 13 (March 1997): 8.
- Daly, Ian. "Seminar: Mania." The Lancet 349 (1997): 1157-60.
- American Psychiatric Association (APA). Office of Public Affairs. 1400 K Street NW, Washington, DC 20005. (202) 682-6119. http://www.psych.org/.
- National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). 200 North Glebe Road, Suite 1015, Arlington, VA 22203-3754. (800) 950-6264. http://www.nami.org.
- National Depressive and Manic-Depressive Association (NDMDA). 730 N. Franklin St., Suite 501, Chicago, IL 60610. (800) 826-3632. http://www.ndmda.org.
- National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). 5600 Fishers Lane, Rm. 7C-02, Bethesda, MD 20857. (301) 443-4513. http://www.nimh.nih.gov/.
- Bowden, Charles L. "Choosing the Appropriate Therapy for Bipolar Disorder." Medscape Mental Health 2, no. 8 (1997). http://www.medscape.com.
- Sachs, Gary. "Adolescent Mania: Underdiagnosed and Undertreated." Reported by Deborah Carver. Online Coverage from the 150th Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association--Medscape Mental Health. (May 1997). http://www.medscape.com.
Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine. Gale Research, 1999.
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