Lithium Carbonate Can Really Mess You Up. Can.

Since it’s such a popular search term.

Lithium carbonate, the generic name for Eskalith, among others, is a lithium salt.  Lithium is the lightest element to be a solid at room temperature and one atmosphere of pressure.

The biggest drawback to lithium as a treatment for bipolar is it necessitates regular blood tests to ensure proper blood serum levels.  In simple terms, this is how much of it is present in your blood.  Regular kidney function tests are also advised, as lithium is excreted primarily through your urine and this puts more strain on your kidneys.

Therapeutic doses of lithium are a blood serum level of between .6 and 1.2.  The problem being, therapeutic levels are also close to the levels that will cause lithium toxicity.  The signs of this are numerous, but include blurred vision, feeling dazed, extreme thirst, tremor, and a few other things.  Having experienced it due to dehydration back when I was taking lithium, I can tell you it isn’t pleasant.  For some people, toxicity can occur at or below therapeutic levels.  Fortunately, you’ll find out fast enough to be able to quit cold-turkey and not worry about getting side effects from doing so.

Lithium has many possible side effects, like almost all drugs.  They’re easy to find on the internet, so I’ll not bother listing them all here.  One of the more annoying but overall tolerable side-effects is lithium can mess with your hair.  It can make it brittle, it can make it dry and difficult to manage, and it can even cause hair loss.  None of these are necessarily going to happen to you.  If they do, you’ll need to decide which you value more.  Your mental stability or your hair.  If there’s another drug out there that you can afford and it works for you, go for that, if it gives you issues.

Of course, lithium is probably the cheapest drug for treating bipolar disorder.  It’s been around forever, so it’s a generic prescription, and it’s cheap to make.  Lithium, being the third lightest element, is abundant.  Without insurance, you pay well under a dollar per pill.  This is rare for prescription drugs.

Can lithium fuck you up?  Yes.  But it probably won’t.  The biggest annoyance I experienced with it was the regular blood tests needed.  These are done once every three to six months.  There are few side effects that are cause for a great deal of concern.  Most are more annoying than harmful.  Always remember to know the side-effects to watch out for, as with all medication.  As a first option for treating bipolar disorder, I’d recommend it.  It’s cheap.  It’s effective.  And the side-effects are less likely to fuck you up long-term than a lot of the other treatment options.  Keep in mind, however, that if you do start taking lithium that you’ll need to kick up how much water you drink.  Like I said, it’s a salt and it’s excreted through your urine.  This means your kidneys need to work harder to keep things moving.  Water helps this.  I was very happy with it but decided to try a different medication.  This one worked effectively without drying out my hair.  But not everyone will be able to find something they can afford that will be effective.  Every brain is different, so you may end up having to play pill roulette before you find something that works.

Keep in mind that lithium, like almost all psychiatric medication (with the exception of those used to treat acute mania, such as antipsychotics including Geodon, Zyprexa, and Seroquel), takes about two weeks to start having a noticeable effect.  If you don’t start seeing signs of improvement within the first month, talk to your psychiatrist and look at other treatment options.  Just because the pill in question doesn’t work for you doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.  All medications are a case of “Your mileage may vary”.  Some people get knocked on their ass by ibuprofen while most people don’t.   Some people experience lithium toxicity at doses as low as 300mg a day.  Others need 900mg or more to see tangible benfefits.  Your experience won’t be identical to anyone else’s.  That’s why serum levels are so vague with lithium.  Some people see benefits at as little as .6, while others need higher serum levels.

You can find much more in-depth articles on the benefits and drawbacks of lithium all over the web.  A site I like is http://www.crazymeds.us  They’ve got lots of information on many of the drugs used in treatment for mental disorders.  And it’s all run by people as crazy as their readers.  They know where you’re coming from.  And they’ve got a good forum, too.

If you’ve got any questions about lithium, feel free to ask here.  I’ll answer to the best of my knowledge or direct you where you can get the answers you seek.  I also have experience with Lamictal (generic: Lamotragine), Zyprexa, and Geodon.

2 Responses to “Lithium Carbonate Can Really Mess You Up. Can.”

  1. Wendy Brown Says:

    I had to go cold turkey (per my doctor) with Lithium because of the beginning of kidney failure (I drink at leasat a quart a day of water) also cronic diarrhea, and many other serious side effects. I’m preaty much allergic to most meds (tried 27 meds including seroquel, et .

    The psy gave me an old antisycotic and anoter pill to help with side effects. I got suicidale after 2 days, couldn’t take it. She gave me nothing else. I do take klonopin for anxiety. I’m very afraid. I’ll go really manic (I was never that manic like some people). I’ve been off Lithium about a week. So far I feel good. But have been told in a couple of weeks I’ll really be crazy. Is it possible it won’t happen? The doc said, see ya in a month?????

  2. I am having severe pains in my legs and they are almost like dead weight. My hair also feels like a billow pad and my sin is so dry. My feet are very very cold. I am really worried about how I will manage my bi-polar. I’ve been on latuda, wellbutrin to no avail. My doctor is currently weaning me off of lamictal as we start up with lithium. Does anyone know of any alternatives to lithium that will not real so much havoc on my physically?

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