A narrative review of past, present, and future of lithium use in psychiatry.
The most important references on the topic were reviewed with special emphasis on the author’s works.
The history of medical and psychiatric use of lithium dates back to more than one and a half-century ago. However, modern psychiatric history began with the publication of John Cade, in 1949, showing a therapeutic effect of lithium in mania. Currently, lithium is a drug of choice as a mood-stabilizer for the maintenance treatment of the bipolar disorder. The second most important use of lithium is probably augmentation of antidepressants in treatment-resistant depression. In addition to its mood-stabilizing properties, lithium exerts anti-suicidal, immunomodulatory, and neuroprotective action. The drug may protect against dementia and some promising effects of lithium in neurodegenerative disorders have been observed.
Given the clinical and biological properties of lithium, this drug is presently greatly underutilized in mood disorders. Therefore, the efforts should be undertaken for challenging a skepticism about the use of lithium and optimizing its long-term administration. In such a way, more patients with mood disorders can become the beneficiaries of lithium’s therapeutic action. KEY POINTS Lithium is a drug of choice as a mood-stabiliser for the maintenance treatment of bipolar disorder. Augmentation of antidepressants by lithium is one of the best strategies in treatment-resistant depression. Lithium exerts anti-suicidal, immunomodulatory, and neuroprotective action and may protect against dementia. Despite the evidence for the efficacy and added favourable properties, lithium is greatly underutilised in mood disorders. Challenging a scepticism about the use of lithium and optimising its long-term administration can make more patients with mood disorders the beneficiaries of lithium’s therapeutic action.