The Psychopharmacologic Specificity of the Lithium Ion: Origins and Trajectory

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This article examines the development of lithium therapy since its dramatic introduction into psychiatry in 1949. Since that time, lithium has been examined in the treatment of a variety of neuropsychiatric conditions, but it is in the treatment of bipolar disorder that it is most effective. This suggests that it has specificity in the treatment of this disorder. These findings are very relevant as they suggest that understanding the mechanism of action of lithium in bipolar disorder may hold keys to elucidating its pathophysiology and to developing newer and more effective treatments. We review the published data on the effectiveness of lithium in bipolar disorder and various neuropsychiatric conditions and also the available data on anticonvulsants and newer therapeutic agents in the treatment of this condition.

J Clin Psychiatry 2000;61(suppl 9):16-22