NHS link


This is a drug I have been on since 2009 and it has worked quietly in the background to help level moods somewhat.  Before I took lithium I had to have a blood test to check my thyroid, liver, and kidney functions, to see if my body would be able to tolerate it.  Then I was started on a low dose of 400 mg daily until another blood test to ascertain levels in the blood.  The dosage can then be adjusted to suite the individual.  After three years I have settled on 800 mg a day and tolerate it well.

It is a powerful medication and not for everyone.  Although it is the ‘gold standard’treatment for Bipolar disorder it can also be used in recurrent (unipolar) depression.   I have been lucky in that I have tolerated it well with few side effects apart from a slight tremor in my hands. When I first took it, or increased the dosage, I noticed I was rather more thirsty then normal, which led to increased visits to the bathroom. It is advised to drink plenty of water, but not excessive amounts as this could wash it out your system too quickly. Having regular blood test is vitally important when taking lithium, your doctor will decide the frequency, but I started with every three months, and now I go every six months. This is primarily to check kidney, and thyroid functions.

It is not advised to drink alcohol while on lithium.  Personally, I have drunk on it, and didn’t notice any immediate adverse effects, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any.  The main one would be negating the effect of the drug, rendering it useless.  I don’t drink any more as I don’t want to put extra strain on my kidneys.

A common brand of lithium in the UK is priadel.  This comes in prolonged release tablets, either 200 mg or 400 mg, which can be split for odd denominations.  It is well advised to take the same brand each time, yet your doctor should make this clear with each prescription.  They are also supposed to give you a lithium card, I never got one but you can download them here.

Edit 2018:  The side effects if anything have gotten worse since 2013 in that the tremor is more noticable and there is still an increase in thirst and urination.