Essay on Lithium and Bipolar Disorder

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Lithium and Bipolar Disorder


The drug lithium has been used for a variety of disorders such as gout, diabetes, and epilepsy for over 100 years. It was not until
1949 when John Cade discovered that lithium had a calming effect on guinea pigs that the possibilities of it being used for mania were explored (Paykel, 1992). Since then, lithium has been established as one of the primary treatments for manic depression disorder. In the body of this paper we will explore the chemistry of lithium, the synaptic transmitters involved, the parts of the neuron affected, the inhibitory and excitatory potential changes, the ion channels effected, the physiological changes, the primary behavior changes, the
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When lithium is combined with other atoms, several useful molecules can be created. For the purposes of this paper we will consider the lithium salts, such as lithium carbonate, lithium citrate, and lithium sulfate. These molecules, among others, are used in psychiatry for the treatment of bipolar I disorder.
Lithium carbonate (Li2CO3) has an atomic weight of 73.89, and is the most popular of the lithium salts in use today (Johnson,
1980). It is not clear why this is, as there does not appear to be a significant difference between lithium carbonate and the other lithium salts. For a complete listing of lithium salts currently in use, see table 1. Lithium salts are preferred for medical use because they are soluble in water, whereas natural lithium is found in silicate form and is therefore not water soluble. Lithium salts have a half life of approximately 1830 hours in the body, depending on the weight of the subject (Williams, 1973).


Lithium is usually taken orally in pill form, or injected directly into the bloodstream. In pill form, there are normal and time release doses available. Because the margin between a therapeutic dose and a toxic dose (therapeutic index) is so small, the time release form is more popular. In this way, the
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