Lithium treatment history goes far back before it was thoroughly described in the literature which is now available to us. However, disorders that were initially treated with lithium salts were completely unrelated to psychiatry. The article “Lithium salts in the treatment of psychotic excitement” from 1949 written by John Cade is considered to be the introduction of lithium to modern psychiatric therapy and the beginning of modern clinical psychopharmacology.
In the present treatment guidelines for bipolar disorders lithium is recommended as a first-line maintenance therapy. What is worth mentioning is that the number of indications, including major depressive disorder, for instance, is growing. In addition, numerous meta-analyses focused on antisuicidal effect of lithium therapy were also performed.
On the basis of the most recent literature available in this paper we presented indications for the preventive use of lithium for such disorders as mania, bipolar disorder as well as the occurrence of depressive episodes in major depressive disorder. It is worth pointing out that some studies indicate lithium to be the only medicine proved to be effective for mood stabilization. Interactions between lithium and other medicines were described in detail. In this paper we also described and discussed possible side effects of lithium therapy, including renal failure, hypothyroidism, hyperparathyroidism, weight gain and teratogenicity.
Keywords: Bipolar disorder, depression, lithium, mania, meta-analysis, suicide.