Lithium

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Lithium is a natural mineral that occurs in the environment, and is used as a Mood Stabiliser. Lithium is used to treat Bipolar Disorder and other mood disorders. Lithium has helped many people control their symptoms. Lithium is only available on prescription, and is available in both tablet and liquid form.

 

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It will take several days or even a few weeks for Lithium to start working. It may take up to six months to find out if it is an effective long-term treatment. Lithium should be used without interruption – you shouldn’t suddenly stop taking the medicine. The medicine should help control your symptoms.

 

It is unclear as to exactly how mood stabilisers work. It is believed that when an individual is going through a depressive or manic phase, that certain chemicals in the brain are unbalanced. These chemicals include the transmitters noradrenaline and dopamine – both of which are linked to regulating mood. Mood stabilisers are thought to help restore the balance in these chemicals – in the process stabilising an individual’s mood. Each different mood stabiliser has  intricate differences in operation, but they largely do the same thing.

 

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Lithium Citrate (Liquid Lithium)

You can swallow this liquid version of the medicine. At first, the daily dose will be two to six 5ml spoonsful. This will be split into two doses – once in the morning, and once in the evening. Your doctor or mental health professional will tell you exactly how to take the liquid form. Lithium is typically taken on a long term basis, with the exact timescale ranging from patient to patient.

 

Lithium Carbonate (Tablet Lithium)

Swallow the tablets whole – don’t crush or chew them. The usual dose in adults can be anywhere from 400mg to 1,200mg per day. You should take the tablet at the same time each day. Lithium is typically taken on a long term basis, with the exact timescale ranging from patient to patient.

 

You will undergo a blood test within the first week of treatment to measure lithium levels in your blood. The dosage will be decided based on the results. You will subsequently have regular blood tests, normally once a month.

 

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With each box of Lithium, there will be an information leaflet enclosed. This will provide general information, along with an exhaustive list of side effects. Side effects from Lithium shouldn’t last more than one or two weeks. It is natural to experience some side effects as your body gets used to the medication.

 

Common side effects of Lithium include slight shaking, stomach pain, sexual dysfunction, weight gain, dry mouth and a metallic taste in your mouth.

 

Serious side effects include an allergic reaction (rash, breathing problems, swelling), signs of lithium toxicity (loss of appetite, vomiting, muscle weakness, lack of co-ordination, vertigo, tinnitus or slurred speech). Other serious side effects include any swelling, memory problems, seizures, irregular heart beats or involuntary movements. You should contact your doctor or an emergency service if any serious side effect, allergic reaction or life-threatening condition arises from taking this medication.

 

An overdose of Lithium should be avoided. An overdose can lead to fatal consequences. If you have taken too much Lithium, talk to a doctor or go to a hospital immediately. If possible, take the medicine with you.

 

 

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You are implored to read the Patient Information leaflet that will come with your medication, as it will include important information. You should tell your doctor or mental health professional about any other medicine you are taking.

 

You should avoid the following medicines when using Lithium: Antibiotics, Steroids, Theophylline, Diuretics, Urea, NSAIDs, medicines for heart problems, medicines for indigestion or Calcitonin.

 

Exert caution when using Lithium if you are taking AntidepressantsAntipsychotics or epilepsy drugs.

 

Don’t take Lithium if you have heart problems, liver or kidney problems, have a low sodium-diet or suffer from either Addison’s disease or Brugada syndrome.

 

Eating a healthy, balanced diet is very important when taking Lithium. Moreover, you should ensure you keep well-hydrated – and drink the same amount of liquid each day.

 

You shouldn’t suddenly stop taking Lithium. There is a high probability of withdrawal symptoms taking place if you abruptly withdraw from the medicine. Therefore, unless your doctor specifically tells you to do so, do not suddenly withdraw from mood stabilisers. In the event you are to stop taking them, it is advised to slowly reduce the dose.

 

Drinking excessive alcohol can heighten the effect of mood stabilisers. Therefore, you should refrain from drinking excessive alcohol during treatment involving mood stabilisers.

 

It is recommended that you don’t use mood stabilisers during pregnancy. Taking mood stabilisers during pregnancy has been linked to birth defects, such as heart issues. Moreover, breastfeeding should be avoided when using Lithium.

 

Lithium is licensed for use in adolescents (under 18).

 

The use of illegal or recreational drugs isn’t recommended during a treatment course involving mood stabilisers, as they can react unpredictably.

 

As always, ensure you read the information leaflet that comes with your tablets. And ask your mental health professional or doctor for any specific advice.

 

 

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When first being prescribed Lithium, you should be provided with a purple Lithium treatment pack. This pack includes an information booklet, a record book for blood test results, and a Lithium alert card – to show heath professionals that you use Lithium.

 

Useful Articles:

 

Other Mood Stabilisers

 

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