Reasons not to believe in lithium

Joanna Moncrieff

‘I don’t believe in God, but I believe in lithium’ is the title of Jamie Lowe’s moving account of her manic depression (now usually referred to as bipolar disorder) in the New York Times (http://mobile.nytimes.com/2015/06/28/magazine/i-dont-believe-in-god-but-i-believe-in-lithium.html?referrer=). The piece reminds us how devastating and frightening this condition can be, so it is understandable that the author put her faith in the miracle cure psychiatrists have been recommending since the 1950s: lithium.

Lowe took lithium from the age of 17 for 20 years, until at the age of 37 or thereabouts she was diagnosed with kidney failure, a direct result of this treatment. She will need dialysis, and a kidney transplant – a high price to pay for a really effective treatment. The sad thing is, we have little evidence that lithium is a really effective treatment, or even that it is effective at all.

Lithium is a neurotoxin. It inhibits…

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