Lithium Reduces Suicide Risks in Depressive Disorders


An old and relatively inexpensive drug, lithium may reduce the risk of suicide risk among mood disorder patients including depressive disorders or bipolar disorders. Incidences of suicides are 30 times more in mood disorder patients than normal individuals. The review study was published in the journal British Medical Journal.

According to Dr. Andrew Kolodny, Chairman, Department of Psychiatry, Maimonides Medical Center, USA, the study provided concrete therapeutic evidences of Lithium against suicides in mood disorder patients. Dr. Andrew is an independent reviewer of the study, and not connected with the study in any way.

The review study was conducted by a team of UK researchers led by Dr. Andrea Cipriani, Department of Psychiatry, Oxford University. The team analyzed the results of 48 different clinical trials that involved about 6600 patients. The researchers observed about 60% reduction of suicide risk in lithium-treated patients. However, no such benefits were reported in the placebo group.

The researchers reported that lithium can reduce the self-hurting behaviours in mood disorder patients. The present study can demonstrate the effectiveness of lithium in lowering the risk of suicide in such patients. However, the study does not report the exact mechanism of action of lithium against suicide.

Lithium can cut the relapses of mood disorders. Some studies reported that lithium can decrease impulsivity and aggression which can reduce the risk of suicidal ideation, the researchers wrote in the publication.

Administration of lithium can cause several adverse events. However, the psychiatrists should weigh the risk Vs benefits, and the treatment should be individualized.

The present study can remind the potential benefits of lithium against mood disorders and suicide, said Dr. Robert Dicker, Associate Director, Child/Adolescent Psychiatry Division, Zucker Hillside Hospital, USA.


However, lithium is not often used as a choice of drug as it could be. Being a generic drug, it is not promoted by the pharmaceutical companies and lithium remains to be under-prescribed. However, the present study will change the treatment trends in psychiatry, Dr. Andrew noted.