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Roger Weller, geology instructor
by Misha Denton
Lithium- Atomic Element #3: Use in Psychiatric Illness
Lithium has a variety of purposes and can be found in the most common of human consumption. Lithium is sold as brines, compounds, metal, or mineral concentrates depending on the end use. Commercially, lithium is used in the production of common everyday products such as ceramics and glass, lubricants and chemicals, lithium batteries—common in consumer electronic devices (yes, it’s the battery that powers your cell phone too) and is even being used to power electric and hybrid cars (U.S. Dept. of Energy, 2012) just to name a few. What few may know is that this element is also used for the treatment of certain psychiatric disorders.
Photo RETRIEVED from http://www.rockwoodlithium.com/applications/applications.en.html
Photos by Theodore Gray (2008)
Lithium used in the production of lithium-ion batteries that are commonly used in video and digital cameras, and even cell phones, for example
First 4 battery images retrieved from: http://periodictable.com/Elements/003/index.html
LG cell phone battery image retrieved from: http://www.amazon.com/LG-Li-Ion-Battery-Venus-VX8800/dp/B0015A8ND0
What is Lithium?
Lithium (pronounced LITH-ee-uh-m) is from the Greek word lithos meaning stone—so named because it was first discovered in rocks. Lithium has the atomic number of three on the periodic table of elements whose symbol is Li. It is the lightest metal of all alkali metals on the periodic table and has the lowest density of metallic elements. In comparison, lithium (0.535 g/cmᶟ) is about half the density of water. It has a metallic luster and appears silvery-white in color.
Photo credit: Dennis S. K.
Three fragments of Lithium metal
of Lithium and A Few Interesting Facts
Lithium was first discovered in 1817 by
Johan August Arfwedson
of Stockholm, Sweden when he was working with the mineral petalite and can also
found in pegmatite ores, such as spodumene, lepidolite, or in amblygonite ores
(Encyclopedia Britannica: Johan August Arfwedson, 2012). According to
Lithium can be found in small trace amounts in nearly all igneous rocks and in
water of hot springs and has the highest heat capacity of any solid element.
Another very interesting tidbit is that lithium chloride was used as salt
substitute for sodium chloride a.k.a table salt; however, Maletzky and Shore
(1978) stated that following alarming publicity [due to its adverse health
effects], lithium chloride was removed from the market in 1950.
Above left: Photo of petalite retrieved from: http://periodictable.com/Samples/SC.Petalite/s13.JPG
PETALITE (Li Al Si4 O10), Mogok, Myanmar (Burma). Isolated, [fractured], beige crystal, rare. 2,5x1,6x1 cm; 5 g.
Above right: Photo of Swedish chemist Johan August Arfwedson
Lithium Treatment of Psychiatric Disorders:
A Brief History of its Discovery for Medicinal Use and FDA Approval
stated that the use of lithium in psychiatry actually dates back to the mid-19th
century, but that was soon forgotten until John Cade rediscovered lithium’s
effectiveness in the treatment of mania—characteristic of bipolar disorder in
In my review of Mitchell & Hadzi-Pavlovic, 2000 the following is noted: Cade had been confined to the Changi prisoner of war camp in Singapore for several years and while he was there he treated psychiatric patients for their mental illnesses. Of those patients who had died, Cade discovered, postmortem of patients, similarities in pathology such as tumors and questioned what physical causes may have underlain the causes of their psychiatric illness.
Armed with this observation of patients postmortem this lead Cade to set up a makeshift laboratory in which he began conducting research. Cade began injecting urine (which he believed contained the “toxic agent”) from patients who suffered from mania, schizophrenia, and melancholia as well as urine from healthy people and injected it into guinea pigs. Guinea pigs that had been injected with the “toxic” urine samples from manic patients died more quickly than guinea pigs injected with urine samples from patients with other illnesses in his study.
He concluded that such urine from manic patients had a higher
toxicity although he had no idea what caused the higher toxicity levels obtained
from manic patients. In his attempt to find this out, Cade began searching for
what would minimize the toxicity levels of
(a product of protein metabolism occurring in urine and other body fluids,
dictionary.com: urea, 2012) and found that uric acid had a slightly “enhancing”
Wanting to explore uric acid more, Cade had to somehow increase
(capable of being dissolved, dictionary.com: solubility, 2012) of uric acid and
by chance, found that lithium
(salt of uric acid, dictionary.com: uric acid, 2012) was key to further study
the effects of uric acid. He injected his guinea pigs with a combination of
lithium urate and urea and found that toxicity levels had dropped and discovered
positive effects of the lithium which he concluded to be protective factors
from toxicity of urea.
Following his discovery of the effects of lithium Cade began
testing its effectiveness in some patients diagnosed with mania, schizophrenia,
and melancholia and found the effectiveness of lithium to be most profound in
manic patients, but no effect on schizophrenic or melancholic patients which
Cade deduced that lithium was most effective in manic patients. Cade left his
work at that and for reasons unknown did not pursue research any further.
Following further investigation and research by Danish, Mogens Schou and Poul
Christian Baastrup of the effects of lithium, it was accepted that lithium was
effective in the treatment of mania in patients with bipolar disorder. The
National Institute of Mental Health (2012) states “Bipolar
also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual
shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day
tasks.” In 1970, the
Food and Drug Administration
approved lithium carbonate for use as treatment for bipolar disorder and
Photo above LEFT: Identification-This medicine is a peach, round tablet imprinted with "LITHOBID 300"
Photo above RIGHT: Identification-This medicine is an off-white, round, scored tablet imprinted with "54 346".
Both photos above RETRIEVED from:
Added article from outside source: (on 4/2/15)
Dictionary.com (2012). Solubility | Define solubility at Dictionary.com. In Dictionary.com | Find the Meanings and Definitions of Words at Dictionary.com. Retrieved November 24, 2012, from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/+solubility+?s=t
Dictionary.com (2012). Urea | Define Urea at Dictionary.com. In Dictionary.com | Find the Meanings and Definitions of Words at Dictionary.com. Retrieved November 24, 2012, from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/urea
Dictionary.com (2012). Urate | Define Urate at Dictionary.com. In Dictionary.com | Find the Meanings and Definitions of Words at Dictionary.com. Retrieved November 24, 2012, from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/urate?s=t
Johan August Arfwedson. (2012). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/33587/Johan-August-Arfwedson
Lithium. [Art]. In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/media/64464
Lithium. [Photograph]. In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/media/127834/Three-fragments-of-Lithium-metal
Maletzky, B. M., & Shore, J. H. (1978). Lithium Treatment for Psychiatric Disorders. Western Journal of Medicine, 128(6), 488-498. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1238187/?page=5
MedicineNet.com (2012). Lithium (Eskalith, Lithobid) – Medical information regarding this treatment for bipolar and depressive disorders on MedicineNet.com. MedicineNet.com. Retrieved November 25, 2012, from http://www.medicinenet.com/lithium/article.htm
Mitchell, P. B., & Hadzi-Pavlovic, D. (2000). Lithium treatment for bipolar disorder. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 78(4). Retrieved from http://www.who.int/bulletin/archives/78%284%29515.pdf
National Institute of Mental Health (2012, May 16). NIMH · Bipolar Disorder. NIMH · Home. Retrieved November 23, 2012, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/bipolar-disorder/complete-index.shtml
Rockwood Lithium (2012). Rockwood Lithium - Applications. Rockwood Lithium. Retrieved November 23, 2012, from http://www.rockwoodlithium.com/applications/applications.en.html
Royal Society of Chemistry (2012). Lithium - Element information, properties and uses | Periodic Table. Royal Society of Chemistry | Advancing the Chemical Sciences. Retrieved November 23, 2012, from http://www.rsc.org/periodic-table/element/3/lithium
Shorter, E. (2009). The history of lithium therapy. Bipolar Disorder, (2), 4-9. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19538681
U.S. Department of Energy (2012, July 30). Alternative Fuels Data Center: Batteries for Hybrid and Plug-In Electric Vehicles. EERE: Alternative Fuels Data Center Home Page. Retrieved November 23, 2012, from http://www.afdc.energy.gov/vehicles/electric_batteries.html
WebMD (2012). Pictures of Lithobid Oral | What Does Lithobid Oral Look Like? WebMD - Better information. Better health. Retrieved November 23, 2012, from http://www.webmd.com/drugs/drug-6874-Lithobid+Oral.aspx?drugid=6874&drugname=Lithobid+Oral&source=0&pagenumber=2
Photos Sources (in order as they appear)
http://periodictable.com/Posters/Poster3.2000.JPG (Periodic table image)
http://www.rockwoodlithium.com/applications/applications.en.html (Applications of Lithium)
http://periodictable.com/Elements/003/index.html (First four battery images)
http://periodictable.com/Samples/003.15/s13.JPG (Large, lithium-ion battery image-Enlarged)
http://periodictable.com/Samples/003.14/s13.JPG (Small, round lithium battery image- Enlarged)
http://periodictable.com/Samples/003.12/s13.JPG (Photo lithium-ion battery image-Enlarged)
http://periodictable.com/Samples/003.11/s13.JPG (Ultimate Lithium-ion battery image-Enlarged)
http://www.amazon.com/LG-Li-Ion-Battery-Venus-VX8800/dp/B0015A8ND0 (LG lithium ion battery)
http://periodictable.com/Samples/003.3/s13.JPG (Lithium “lump” photo)
(Three Lithium metal fragments)
http://periodictable.com/Samples/SC.Petalite/s13.JPG (Petalite image)
(Johan August Arfwedson image)
http://www.medicinenet.com/lithium/article.htm (FDA approval of lithium carbonate)
http://www.webmd.com/drugs/drug-6874 Lithobid+Oral.aspx?drugid=6874&drugname=Lithobid+Oral&source=0&pagenumber=2 (Lithobid 300 MG table SA and Lithium ER 450 MG tablet)
Another great source
http://www.rsc.org/learn-chemistry/resource/res00000833/reactions-of-the-alkali-metals (YouTube video showing reactions of alkali metals including lithium).