In which Sci gets Snarky: Lithium in the Water

This will otherwise be known as “WTF are you doing, Journal of Medical Hypotheses”.
Sci likes Lithium.
lithium flame.jpg
(Lithium burns red. Sci thinks this could have applications for lightsabers if applied correctly)
It’s a cool element, interesting in that we’ve used it over the ages for stuff like gout (which, I hear, is making a comeback), prevention of migraine, blocking the effects of excessive anti-diuretic hormone, and of course for bipolar disorder. But what’s really interesting? We don’t know how it works. Not a clue. It may raise serotonin levels over time, it may decrease or increase other monoamine neurotransmitter levels (such as dopamine and norepinephrine). But we have no idea HOW this occurs. In this, as with other psychiatric drugs (such as Ritalin, which increases dopamine and norepinephrine and improves attention, or with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which increase extracellular serotonin and alleviate depression), we don’t know HOW they work. We just know they WORK (though we’re working on that).
And THAT they work is what matters. When you’re dealing with someone who is potentially suicidal, or unable to function successfully due to severe psychiatric disorders, you’ll take what works and isn’t otherwise “bad” for you (that you can tell), and figure out the mechanism later. And some of these drugs, like Lithium, are very old indeed. Lithium has been used to treat mania and depression since the 1870s, and is still used today as one of the most effective treatments for bipolar disorder (a topic which I SWEAR I will cover someday). It goes a long way toward reducing suicide in those with severe bipolar, and can help with mood stabilization as well.
So if it’s been used that long, it must be good right? This means it might do everyone some good, right? Like, you could put it in the water, and it’d be fine? Terao, et al. “Even very low but sustained lithium intake can prevent suicide in the general population?” Medical Hypotheses, 2009.

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