Lithium is used to treat acute mania and for maintenance treatment of bipolar disorder where no depression is present. The drug is taken orally and is available in a number of different forms, such as regular tablets, extended-release tablets, capsules and syrup.
Lithum Dosages for Various Conditions
For acute mania, the recommended starting lithium dosage is 600mg three times a day in the case of regular tablets, capsules or syrup. The recommended dose for patients using extended-release tablets is 900mg twice a day. Initial lithium doses are so high because this helps to quickly produce an effective lithium blood level, which is required to control severe symptoms of acute mania.
For bipolar disorder, if the patient does not have severe symptoms when starting treatment, his or her doctor may start them with a low lithium dosage, gradually increasing it while frequently checking the level of lithium in the blood. This is useful in preventing lithium toxicity. However, some patients may require higher lithium dosages to experience relief from their bipolar disorder symptoms.
Tips and Warnings
- Lithium can be taken with or without food. Patients who find the medication upsets their stomach should try taking it with a meal.
- The medication should be taken at the same time every day to maintain an even level of the drug in the patient’s blood.
- Extended-release lithium tablets should be swallowed whole and must not be chewed, crushed, cut or broken.
- There are some suggestions that in individuals undergoing hemodialysis including taking lithium immediately post-dialysis.
- As elderly patients often respond to reduced dosage, they may be vulnerable to toxicity at serum levels typically tolerated by younger individuals.
Although lithium is a useful drug, it must be handled extremely carefully. The medication should be taken exactly as prescribed by the patient’s healthcare provider and is only to be used by the person it was prescribed for. If a patient has any concerns or questions about the medication, he or she should consult their doctor. Lithium users should not stop taking the drug without first discussing it with their healthcare provider.