Lithium saved my life. It is the only reliable drug I have ever taken, and the only drug I am willing to remain on long-term.
THE idea of putting a mind-altering drug in the drinking water is the stuff of sci-fi, terrorist plots and totalitarian…mobile.nytimes.com
In October of 2007 I was hospitalized at Newton-Wellesley Hospital. You can read a brief overview of my stay there in “Newton-Wellesley: Maximum Security Prison.”
I went to the Brandeis Counseling Center in the early evening after getting dropped off at my dorm and speaking to my sister on my phone. Within 5 minutes of speaking to the psychiatrist on staff, she called the police and I was shipped over to the hospital. I spoke to a pyschiatrist there for another 5 minutes and he said to me, “You are staying here.”
He didn't say for how long. They took me through two sets of maximum security steel doors and had me wait in a medium-sized sterile room with white walls.
My dad and best friend from Wellesley showed up, soon after.
It became clear after a bunch of whispering among the nurses and physicians that I was going to be staying there for a while.
I was then introduced to my psychiatrist for the duration of my stay, a Russian woman with glasses that looked like butterfly wings.
She told me that tomorrow she was going to start me on a low dose of Lithium Carbonate. If my hair didn’t start falling out, if I didn’t get a seizure or faint or develop a rash, that meant that my body was reacting positively to the drug.
Thank God I reacted well to it. Because the only other alternative was sodium valproate. You can do your own research on that shitty drug.
I took Lithium Carbonate in conjunction with Zyprexa, an atypical antipsychotic, for the entire 3 weeks at Newton-Wellesley.
By the end of my stay, I was taking 1500 mg of Lithium. That is a VERY HIGH DOSE.
I have never been able to reach therapeutic levels of Lithium without losing almost all of my memory, without feeling hot and cold at the same time.
After I was discharged from the hospital, I spoke at length to my doctors and therapists at Brandeis. They agreed to decrease my dose, even if the levels of Lithium in my blood went below therapeutic levels. I was not able to function. I remember sitting in my room staring at the window, completely void of any affect.
Regardless of its bad side effects at high doses, Lithium is the only reliable drug I have ever taken.
I am very thankful for it.
Lithium carbonate is used to treat mania, the elevated phase of bipolar disorder. Lithium ions interfere with ion transport processes that relay and amplify messages carried to the cells of the brain. Mania is associated with irregular increases in protein kinase C (PKC) activity within the brain. Lithium carbonate acts in the brain by inhibiting PKC’s activity and help to produce other compounds that also inhibit the PKC. Despite these findings, a great deal remains unknown regarding lithium’s mood controlling properties.
Use of lithium salts exhibit a number of risks and side effects, especially at higher doses. Lithium intoxication affects the central nervous and renal systems and is potentially lethal.
Lithium is extracted from primarily two sources: pegmatite crystals and lithium salt from brine pools. Approximately 30,000 tons were produced in 1989. It also exists as the rare mineral zabuyelite.