Drug Therapy For Manic Depression
People with manic-depressive disorder have traditionally been given some form of the element lithium, a natural salt-like sodium that seems to even out mood swings in both directions. Some of the brand names under which lithium is sold are Lithane, Eskalith, Lithobid and Cibalith.
Lithium is effective only for only about half the people with manic depression.
For those who do not respond to lithium, psychiatrists use other medications such as carbamazepine (Tegretol) and valproate (Depakote). These seem to be particularly effective for people whose manic depression takes the form of mixed mood disorder (intense depression and mania at the same time) or rapid cycling (four or more mood episodes per year).
If a person is diagnosed during the onset of a manic phase, the person might be given not only lithium but an antipsychotic medication, such as haloperidol (Haldol) or chlorpromazine (Thorazine) until the lithium can take effect. It can take 5 to 14 days to diminish severe manic symptoms. Sometimes, during depressive phases, the doctor might prescribe short-term treatment with an antidepressant. This can, however, precipitate manic episodes or increase the frequency of mood swings in some people.
About one-third of people who take lithium suffer some memory impairment.
Side Effects Of Lithium
There are a number of side effects that occur in perhaps 40 percent of people taking lithium.
The side effects usually disappear or subside quickly. However, some people continue to have hand tremors. Some even gain weight.
Because lithium is almost entirely eliminated from the body by the kidneys, prolonged usage can lead to renal failure. In addition, lithium may cause the thyroid gland to become underactive or enlarged. The thyroid function should be checked and, if necessary, your doctor will prescribe thyroid hormone along with the lithium.
Lithium can interact badly with some other medications, including:
Signs of Lithium Toxicity
The symptoms of a person developing lithium toxicity or lithium poisoning or intoxication are:
A serious lithium overdose can be fatal.
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