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Lithium Augmentation of Antidepressants in Treatment-Refractory Depression

Stacey Heit, M.D.; and Charles B. Nemeroff, M.D., Ph.D.

Published: May 1, 1998

Article Abstract

The use of lithium to convert antidepressant nonresponders to responders is reviewed. Althoughthere is little doubt that lithium is effective in a sizable percentage of patients who do not respond totricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and serotonin selective reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), much remainsobscure about this effect. Does it work preferentially on antidepressants that act primarily on serotonergicneurons, or is it equally effective with agents that act upon other neurotransmitter systems?When should lithium, compared with other strategies, be utilized in antidepressant nonresponders?Are certain subtypes of depression more likely than others to respond to lithium augmentation? Theavailable literature highlights the efficacy of lithium as an augmenting agent in refractory depressionand serves as an impetus for additional neurobiological and clinical studies of this phenomenon.

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Volume: 59

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