Lithium is a naturally occurring element. It is the same element that is used in batteries. But it is a Godsend for people with bipolar d/o. It stabilizes our moods. It stops the swings altogether or at least stops them from being too extreme. In areas where the concentration of lithium in drinking water is high, the incidence of mood disorders is lower!!! It is a calming mineral that helps with mania and, to a lesser degree, with depression. The general dose is 900 mg per day. I was on 300 mg because of the few side effects I had (fine muscle tremors, frequent urination, hair loss, acne, weight gain, GI problems.) But that was not enough to control my mood swings, so I went up to 600 mg/day, and that was better, but my swings were still not controlled. Now I am on 900 mg per day. Even though my right hand shakes a LOT, more of my hair is falling out, and I may get acne now and then, however to be stable mood wise is very, VERY important to me. So I am taking hair skin and nails vitamins, using benzoyl peroxide and living with fine muscle tremors. I am confident that the 900 mg dose of lithium is going to keep me in the normal phase, without swings that are too extreme in either the depressive or manic direction.
Lithium possesses unique anti-suicidal properties that set it apart from other agents. With respect to cognition, studies suggest that lithium may reduce cognitive decline in patients. It is seen to have a protective effect on people’s brains. The neuronal cell death that is seen in people with bipolar disorder is decreased when they are on Li+. As neurons die, venticles in the brain increase, this is also seen to lessen in patients who take Li+!!! It even has been hypothesized that Li+ causes neuronal cell growth, thereby reversing the damage that bipolar d/o inflicts upon its victims. So I am very happy, thrilled in fact, to know that the Li+ I take is not only preventing this disease from having an effect on me, but it is also protecting and regenerating my neurons. :)))))
The molecular mechanism of lithium (Li+) seems to be related to its similarity to sodium (Na++). It is taken up by neurons through the same pump that pumps in Na+ (Yes there are pumps that pump ions, such as calcium (Ca++) potassium (K+), in and pumps that pump ions out of all cells, including neurons. Pretty amazing hunh?)
Evidence from both in vitro and in vivo studies has demonstrated that lithium exerts multiple effects on neurotransmitter/receptor-mediated signaling, ion transport, signal transduction cascades, hormonal and circadian regulation, and profoundly alters gene expression patterns.
Li+ reduces excitatory (dopamine and glutamate) but increases inhibitory (GABA) neurotransmission; however, these broad effects are underpinned by complex neurotransmitter systems that strive to achieve homeostasis by way of compensatory changes. For example, at an intracellular and molecular level, lithium targets second-messenger systems that further modulate neurotransmission. For instance, the effects of lithium on the adenyl cyclase and phospho-inositide pathways, as well as protein kinase C, may serve to dampen excessive excitatory neurotransmission. All this means is that Li+ affects molecules that are called second messengers (the neurotransmitter being the first messenger) and that normally transmit the signal, well Li+ stops the excitatory signals. Makes sense, as it a cracker jack mania buster!
Li+ also has inhibitory actions on inositol monophosphatase, inositol polyphosphate 1-phosphatase, glycogen synthase kinase-3, fructose 1,6-bisphosphatase, bisphosphate nucleotidase, and phosphoglucomutase enzymes. Some of these enzymes are involved in increasing activity of neurons in response to neurotransmitters, such as dopamine, serotonin, epinephrine, norepinephrine, and GABA. So again, Li+ stops excitatory signals from being passed from one neuron to another, thereby decreasing neuronal activity. This is good, because in mania your brain is working like gangbusters! And it needs to be slowed down. So Li+ does that.
If your doctor has prescribed Lithium for you, please take it. It is a wonderful medication, which will save your neurons, your brain, your relationships, and maybe even your life.