Lithium Articles 2

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Decreased risk of suicides and attempts during long-term lithium treatment: a meta-analytic review

            (Baldessarini, Tondo et al. 2006) Download

OBJECTIVES: To update and extend comparisons of rates of suicides and suicide attempts among patients with major affective disorders with versus without long-term lithium treatment. METHODS: Broad searching yielded 45 studies providing rates of suicidal acts during lithium treatment, including 34 also providing rates without lithium treatment. We scored study quality, tested between-study variance, and examined suicidal rates on versus off lithium by meta-analytic methods to determine risk ratios (RRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CI). RESULTS: In 31 studies suitable for meta-analysis, involving a total of 85,229 person-years of risk-exposure, the overall risk of suicides and attempts was five times less among lithium-treated subjects than among those not treated with lithium (RR = 4.91, 95% CI 3.82-6.31, p < 0.0001). Similar effects were found with other meta-analytic methods, as well as for completed versus attempted suicide, and for bipolar versus major mood disorder patients. Studies with higher quality ratings, including randomized, controlled trials, involved shorter exposures with somewhat lesser lithium superiority. Omitting one very large study or those involving lithium-discontinuation had little effect on the results. The incidence-ratio of attempts-to-suicides increased 2.5 times with lithium-treatment, indicating reduced lethality of suicidal acts. There was no indication of bias toward reporting positive findings, nor were outcomes significantly influenced by publication-year or study size. CONCLUSIONS: Risks of completed and attempted suicide were consistently lower, by approximately 80%, during treatment of bipolar and other major affective disorder patients with lithium for an average of 18 months. These benefits were sustained in randomized as well as open clinical trials.

Inositol phosphates and cell signaling

            (Berridge and Irvine 1989) Download

Inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate is a second messenger which regulates intracellular calcium both by mobilizing calcium from internal stores and, perhaps indirectly, by stimulating calcium entry. In these actions it may function with its phosphorylated metabolite, inositol 1,3,4,5-tetrakisphosphate. The subtlety of calcium regulation by inositol phosphates is emphasized by recent studies that have revealed oscillations in calcium concentration which are perhaps part of a frequency-encoded second-messenger system.

Lithium for maintenance treatment of mood disorders

            (Burgess, Geddes et al. 2001) Download

BACKGROUND: Mood disorders are common, disabling and tend to be recurrent. They carry a high risk of suicide. Maintenance treatment, aimed at the prevention of relapse, is therefore of vital importance. Lithium has been used for some years as the mainstay of maintenance treatment in bipolar affective disorder, and to a lesser extent in unipolar disorder. However, the efficacy and effectiveness of prophylactic lithium therapy has been disputed. Low suicide rates in lithium-treated patients have led to claims that lithium has a specific anti-suicidal effect. If so, this is of considerable importance as treatments for mental disorders in general have not been shown convincingly to be effective in suicide prevention. OBJECTIVES: 1. To investigate the efficacy of lithium treatment in the prevention of relapse in recurrent mood disorders. 2. To examine the effect of lithium treatment on consumers' general health and social functioning, its acceptability to consumers, and the side-effects of treatment. 3. To investigate the hypothesis that lithium has a specific effect in reducing the incidence of suicide and deliberate self-harm in persons with mood disorders. SEARCH STRATEGY: The Cochrane Collaboration Depression, Anxiety and Neurosis Controlled Trials Register (CCDANCTR) and The Cochrane Controlled Clinical Trials Register (CCTR) were searched. Reference lists of relevant papers and major text books of mood disorder were examined. Authors, other experts in the field and pharmaceutical companies were contacted for knowledge of suitable trials, published or unpublished. Specialist journals concerning lithium were hand searched. SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised controlled trials comparing lithium with placebo, where the stated intent of treatment was maintenance or prophylaxis. Participants were males and females of all ages with diagnoses of mood disorder. Discontinuation studies (in which all participants had been stable on lithium for some time before being randomised to either continued lithium treatment or placebo substitution) were excluded. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Data were extracted from the original reports independently by two reviewers. The main outcomes studied were related to the objectives stated above. Data were analysed for all diagnoses of mood disorder and for bipolar and unipolar disorder separately. Data were analysed using Review Manager version 4.0. MAIN RESULTS: Nine studies were included in the review, reporting on 825 participants randomly allocated to lithium or placebo. Lithium was found to be more effective than placebo in preventing relapse in mood disorder overall, and in bipolar disorder. The most consistent effect was found in bipolar disorder (random effects OR 0.29; 95% CI 0.09 to 0.93 ). In unipolar disorder, the direction of effect was in favour of lithium, but the result (when heterogeneity between studies was allowed for) did not reach statistical significance. Considerable heterogeneity was found between studies in all groups of patients. The direction of effect was the same in all studies; no study found a negative effect for lithium. Heterogeneity may have been due to differences in selection of participants, and to differing exposures to lithium in the pre-study phase resulting in variable influence of a discontinuation effect. There was little reported data on overall health and social functioning of participants under the different treatment conditions, or on the participants' own views of their treatment. Descriptive analysis showed that assessments of general health and social functioning generally favoured lithium. Small absolute numbers of deaths and suicides, and the absence of data on non-fatal suicidal behaviours, made it impossible to draw meaningful conclusions about the place of lithium therapy in suicide prevention. REVIEWER'S CONCLUSIONS: This systematic review indicates that lithium is an efficacious maintenance treatment for bipolar disorder. In unipolar disorder the evidence of efficacy is less robust. This review does not cover the relative efficacy of lithium compared with other maintenance treatments, which is at present unclear. There is no definitive evidence from this review as to whether or not lithium has an anti-suicidal effect. Systematic reviews and large scale randomised studies comparing lithium with other maintenance treatments (e.g. anti-convulsants, antidepressants) are necessary. Outcomes relating to death and suicidal behaviour should be included in all future maintenance studies of mood disorder.

Plasma folate and affective morbidity during long-term lithium therapy

            (Coppen and Abou-Saleh 1982) Download

In 107 patients on long-term lithium, those with lower plasma folate concentration had a higher affective morbidity than those with higher folate, both at the time and during the previous two years. The association was not the results of weight change or the concomitant use of other drugs. Animal work reporting a decreased synthesis of 5-HT both in folate-deficient animals and in animals fed excessive amounts of folate suggests that it may be important for lithium patients to receive folate supplements to their diet for maximum therapeutic effect.

Augmentation of lithium's behavioral effect by inositol uptake inhibitors

            (Einat, Kofman et al. 1998) Download

Lithium inhibits the enzyme inositol monophosphatase and thus obstructs the enzymatic degradation of inositol triphosphate (IP3) to inositol in the phosphate-phosphoinositide (PIP) cycle. This inhibition may result in reduced availability of the second messengers IP3 and DAG that are derivates of the PIP cycle, and this action is currently a leading hypothesis regarding lithium's therapeutic and prophylactic effect in affective disorders. Inositol is also available to the cell by uptake from the intercellular matrix, and therefore it is possible that compounds that block the uptake may have lithium-like effects. To test this hypothesis, the present study evaluates the effects of two inositol uptake inhibitors, the carbohydrate L-fucose and the cyclodepsipeptide nordidemnin, in a behavioral model of pilocarpine-induced seizures known to be enhanced by lithium. We tested the possibility that L-fucose produces lithium-like effects, or that L-fucose or nordidemnin augment lithium's behavioral effects. Results indicate that acute ICV treatment with L-fucose did not by itself have a lithium-like effect in the behavioral model, but significantly augmented lithium's effect when combined with lithium treatment. Nordidemnin treatment showed similar effects. The results suggest that when inositol monophosphatase is inhibited by lithium, further restriction of cellular inositol availability may result in an augmentation of lithium's behavioral effects. It is possible that such manipulations may be applicable in the treatment of patients with affective disorders, especially patients who are poor responders to lithium monotherapy.

Pharmacological treatments for alcoholism: revisiting lithium and considering buspirone

            (Fawcett, Kravitz et al. 2000) Download

OBJECTIVE: Previous research has suggested that both lithium and buspirone could lessen alcoholics' desire to drink as well as reduce the actual amounts of alcohol consumed. The purpose of this study was to compare lithium and buspirone monotherapy with placebo on outcomes of abstinence, alcohol quantity consumed, treatment retention and compliance, and medication side effects. METHODS: We conducted a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, three-arm parallel group, clinical trial that compared lithium and buspirone with placebo in 156 alcohol-dependent men. RESULTS: Study retention rates for the three treatment groups at 3 and 6 months, respectively, were 61% and 46% for lithium, 44% and 27% for buspirone, and 52% and 38% for placebo (p = NS, for 3 and 6 months). Overall abstinence rates were 28% and 19% at 3 and 6 months, respectively. However, mean daily quantities of alcohol consumed and percentage of drinking days decreased significantly (p < 0.0001) over time in all treatment groups. Differential improvement was seen only for the decrement in quantity consumed in the buspirone group, compared with the placebo group, but only at a trend level (p = 0.07). According to pill counts, compliance did not differ significantly among the treatment groups. CONCLUSIONS: These results do not support the hypothesis that either lithium or buspirone, compared with placebo, produces differential reductions in alcohol consumption. The results suggest the need to enhance treatment retention to maximize outcomes.

An investigation of water lithium concentrations and rates of violent acts in 11 Texas counties: can an association be easily shown?

            (Gonzalez, Bernstein et al. 2008) Download

Evaluation of lithium therapy in chronic and periodic alcoholism

            (Kline, Wren et al. 1974) Download

Prevention of lithium nephrotoxicity in a novel one-hour model in rats

         (Levine, Saltzman et al. 1998) Download

It is well established that lithium can cause morphologically visible damage to the kidneys of humans and animals. Although the clinical significance of its nephrotoxicity is debatable, it would be desirable to find a method to prevent lithium's effect on the kidneys. Toward this end, we have developed a novel method for producing nephrotoxicity that will be useful for research on prevention. A single, large, toxic dose of lithium chloride (LiCl) caused necrosis of the distal convoluted tubules, which was visible by light microscopy in 30 min, had fully developed in 1 h, and had disappeared by the next day. The lesions were seen after i.p. or i.v. injections of fasted rats of three different strains. Equivalent doses of NaCl, KCl, MgCl2 and combinations thereof had no such effect, nor did they inhibit nephrotoxicity when incorporated into the LiCl solution. However, relatively small doses of LiCl injected by any route 3 or 24 h beforehand prevented the nephrotoxicity. The mechanism of prevention is not known, but it does not involve reduction of lithium levels in the kidneys.

Lithium treatment of chronic cluster headaches

         (Lieb and Zeff 1978) Download

On the basis of reports of reduced MAO activity in migraine and cluster headaches and on a report that lithium carbonate activates MAO, the authors administered lithium carbonate to two patients whose cluster headaches had brought them to the point of contemplating suicide. Both patients responded quite dramatically. Case 1 has now been virtually free of headaches for over two years and Case 2 has been in remission for over twelve months.

Nuclear receptor Rev-erbalpha is a critical lithium-sensitive component of the circadian clock

            (Yin, Wang et al. 2006) Download

Lithium is commonly used to treat bipolar disorder, which is associated with altered circadian rhythm. Lithium is a potent inhibitor of glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3), which regulates circadian rhythm in several organisms. In experiments with cultured cells, we show here that GSK3beta phosphorylates and stabilizes the orphan nuclear receptor Rev-erbalpha, a negative component of the circadian clock. Lithium treatment of cells leads to rapid proteasomal degradation of Rev-erbalpha and activation of clock gene Bmal1. A form of Rev-erbalpha that is insensitive to lithium interferes with the expression of circadian genes. Control of Rev-erbalpha protein stability is thus a critical component of the peripheral clock and a biological target of lithium therapy.


Baldessarini, R. J., L. Tondo, et al. (2006). "Decreased risk of suicides and attempts during long-term lithium treatment: a meta-analytic review." Bipolar Disord 8(5 Pt 2): 625-39.

Berridge, M. J. and R. F. Irvine (1989). "Inositol phosphates and cell signalling." Nature 341(6239): 197-205.

Burgess, S., J. Geddes, et al. (2001). "Lithium for maintenance treatment of mood disorders." Cochrane Database Syst Rev(3): CD003013.

Coppen, A. and M. T. Abou-Saleh (1982). "Plasma folate and affective morbidity during long-term lithium therapy." Br J Psychiatry 141: 87-9.

Einat, H., O. Kofman, et al. (1998). "Augmentation of lithium's behavioral effect by inositol uptake inhibitors." J Neural Transm 105(1): 31-8.

Fawcett, J., H. M. Kravitz, et al. (2000). "Pharmacological treatments for alcoholism: revisiting lithium and considering buspirone." Alcohol Clin Exp Res 24(5): 666-74.

Gonzalez, R., I. Bernstein, et al. (2008). "An investigation of water lithium concentrations and rates of violent acts in 11 Texas counties: can an association be easily shown?" J Clin Psychiatry 69(2): 325-6.

Kline, N. S., J. C. Wren, et al. (1974). "Evaluation of lithium therapy in chronic and periodic alcoholism." Am J Med Sci 268(1): 15-22.

Levine, S., A. Saltzman, et al. (1998). "Prevention of lithium nephrotoxicity in a novel one-hour model in rats." Psychopharmacology (Berl) 138(1): 34-9.

Lieb, J. and A. Zeff (1978). "Lithium treatment of chronic cluster headaches." Br J Psychiatry 133: 556-8.

Yin, L., J. Wang, et al. (2006). "Nuclear receptor Rev-erbalpha is a critical lithium-sensitive component of the circadian clock." Science 311(5763): 1002-5.