Lithium (medication)

Certain lithium compounds, also known as lithium salts, are used as psychiatric medication,[2] primarily for bipolar disorder and for major depressive disorder.[2] In these disorders, it sometimes reduces the risk of suicide.[3] Lithium is taken orally.[2]

Lithium carbonate
Lithium carbonate, an example of a lithium salt
Clinical data
Trade namesMany[1]
License data
  • AU: D
Routes of
By mouth, parenteral
Drug classMood stabilizer
ATC code
Legal status
Legal status
Pharmacokinetic data
BioavailabilityDepends on formulation
Protein bindingNone
Elimination half-life24 h, 36 h (elderly)[2]
Excretion>95% kidney
  • Lithium(1+)
CAS Number
PubChem CID
Chemical and physical data
Molar mass6.94 g·mol−1
3D model (JSmol)
  • [Li+]
  • InChI=1S/Li/q+1

Common side effects include increased urination, shakiness of the hands, and increased thirst.[2] Serious side effects include hypothyroidism, diabetes insipidus, and lithium toxicity.[2] Blood level monitoring is recommended to decrease the risk of potential toxicity.[2] If levels become too high, diarrhea, vomiting, poor coordination, sleepiness, and ringing in the ears may occur.[2] Lithium is teratogenic, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy and at higher dosages. The use of lithium while breastfeeding is controversial; however, many international health authorities advise against it, and the long-term outcomes of perinatal lithium exposure have not been studied.[4] The American Academy of Pediatrics lists lithium as contraindicated for pregnancy and lactation.[5] The United States Food and Drug Administration categorizes lithium as having positive evidence of risk for pregnancy and possible hazardous risk for lactation.[5][6]

Lithium salts are classified as mood stabilizers.[2] How lithium works is not specifically known.[2]

In the nineteenth century, lithium was used in people who had gout, epilepsy, and cancer.[7] Its use in the treatment of mental disorders began in 1948 by John Cade in Australia.[7] It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines,[8] and is available as a generic medication.[2] In 2019, it was the 205th most commonly prescribed medication in the United States, with more than 2 million prescriptions.[9][10]

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