Should everyone take lithium?

Medication is a big issue for us who have some kind of mental illness. Do I have to take medication? What happens with my personality if I start taking medication? How is my cognitive abilities and emotional life going to be affected? Am I going to be addicted? Will the medication harm my kidneys and liver?

All those questions are normal and relevant to ask yourself. If you recently have got your bipolar diagnosis - or any other psychiatric diagnosis - you have the right to know what kind of chemicals you are going to put in your body and why you should take the specific medication your doctor wants you to take. A good doctor will have a thorough review with you and tell you everything about the pills you are going to take. It is your right to know and you should demand it from your doctor.

One important thing to know: It is very individual how you react to a specific mediciation. Again, your doctor should go through with you what the common side effects are of the medication. One specific medication do not work for everyone. A medication that works great for someone is not necessarily going to have the same great effects on you. 

No one can force you to take a medication. It is totally up to you to make the decision to take a medication or not. 

I want to share with you two interesting articles about one of the most common medication used to treat bipolar disorder ( BP ). It is often the "number one" choice medication among doctors to offer someone having bipolar disorder. It is what you call a "mood stabilizer" and it takes away the worst "highs and lows" of BP. You have probably heard the name: Lithium.

Wikipedia says the following about Lithium as a psychiatric medication:

"Lithium compounds are used as a psychiatric medication. A number of salts of lithium are used as mood-stabilizing drugs, primarily in the treatment of bipolar disorder, where they have a role in the treatment of depression and particularly of mania, both acutely and in the long term. As a mood stabilizer, lithium is probably more effective in preventing mania than in preventing depression, and reduces the risk of suicide in people with bipolar disorder.[2] In depression alone (unipolar disorder), lithium can be used to augment other antidepressants."

Like with most - if not all - psychiatric medication it is not exactly known why Lithium works against manic and depressive episodes. But the fact that it is working is well documented and lithium has been around as a psychiatric medication since at least the late 50´s.

I have never tried lithium. My doctor has offered me to take lithium, but I did not want to take it and it was mostly because I associated it with "truly insane" people. If I took lithium it would be a step closer to being locked up in an asylum. But since then I have meet many people having BP and who is taking lithium to treat their BP. And they are not in any way insane. They are very intelligent people living normal lifes  with jobs, family, friends and what have you.

So, if you like me are hesitant and have predjudices against lithium, you should click on the links below and read the articles 

I can add that I got one of the articles from a very skilled psychiatrist, and the other one from an equally skilled psychologist.

 

1. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/14/opinion/sunday/should-we-all-take-a-bit-of-lithium.html?_r=0

 2. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/bdi.12262/abstract?campaign=wolearlyview

 

All the best to you and take care :)

Janne Tikkanen