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How Does Lithium Work?

Lithium (Eskalith®, Eskalith CR®, Lithobid®) is a prescription medicine approved to treat bipolar disorder (also known as manic depression).
Lithium is a naturally occurring element, like potassium or calcium. In the 1800s, scientists thought that lithium might be an effective treatment for gout, although it was found to be ineffective for this use. Later, in the 1940s, it was used as a salt substitute, until it was withdrawn from the market due to several deaths that were caused by lithium toxicity. Later, it was discovered that lithium works for mania. In 1970, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the medication for the treatment of bipolar disorder.
The exact way in which the drug works to treat bipolar disorder is not known. Lithium may affect various chemicals in the brain called neurotransmitters, which could explain its effectiveness in treating bipolar disorder. Lithium is not a cure for the condition, however -- it only helps to control symptoms.
(Click Lithium for more information on how lithium works, to find out what side effects may occur during treatment, and for suggestions on when and how to take this medication.)
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