Years ago, I would have been very apprehensive of writing about this brief period of observation on the use of Lithium. I was brought up in medicine to have great faith in the double-blind study, this was reinforced by meta-analysis which analyzed other people’s studies and applied complicated statistical formulas. As we have seen over the last few years, this system is flawed and studies on statins, cholesterol, calcium, and anti-depressants have proven to have feet of claw and the results have been erroneous in some cases. This excludes the fact that some studies have been faked. It is estimated that perhaps 50% of patients on hypertensive medication could be weaned off as blood pressure can reset itself. I really can not imagine such a study being funded so people continue to take the medication which they may not need.
For the last couple of years, I have tried to interest organizations to carry out a double-blind study on Lithium. It suffers from a number of problems preventing financial support. There is a great deal of confusion between Lithium used for manic depression and in a totally different field the micro amounts of 1 mg per day, the recommended daily allowance (RDA) that we are talking that interests me. Another negative factor in Lithium studies is that it has no patent, no profitability, is extremely cheap, and natural. Having followed the academic literature for half of a century, I can think of very few other agents that have such a wide spectrum of scientific evidence of its uses but to nail its total acceptance there needs to be a double-blind study and there is no financing for this.
Years ago, I became extremely involved in the Glucosamine story and self-funded a study in Toronto which proved positive but poorly funding the study was not outstanding. Money is the key ingredient for funding a study.
With the above in mind and the fact that I would only be taking half of the RDA of Lithium, I started taking 0.4 mg of Lithium in water per day. Being unable to determine a blood Lithium level through the usual channels, I found a hair analysis that was accurate to my profile which showed my Lithium level to be way below the accepted normal value. Prior to starting Lithium basic routine blood work was carried out including creatinine.
For the first 6 weeks of daily micro-Lithium I noticed no obvious change in memory, behavior, or any effect at all. This was rather disappointing but in retrospect Lithium is a slow working agent in micro doses, working on a physiological level rather than a therapeutic level.
The first positive effect which surprised me was it stopped a short fuse reaction or minor anger. Many things these days are very frustrating from the answering machine, to driving where red lights are run through. As a physician, one has to bottle up our annoyance; I found on the dose of Lithium I was much more tranquil, less sensitive to irritation, and particularly to patients who do not appreciate the problems in health care. This has made a very significant difference and has a number of positive sequelae. Perhaps most interesting is a reduction in my blood pressure, needing far less medication.
I suppose we should put in the fact that I have no financial or conflict in promoting Lithium other than the good I think it does. Also, this is not giving medical advice but an attempt to draw attention to Lithium. The observations on anger and short fuse syndrome are supported by a number of studies from Texas to Japan to Lithuania. Many problems today are due to a short fuse reaction whether it be driving, social relationships, or suicide.
I have one addiction other than work and that is chocolate, it gives me energy, sharpness, and satisfies a craving. After a bar of chocolate eaten in 30 seconds my work level improves! Sugar, caffeine, and cocoa! Since being on the daily routine of Lithium, I still enjoy chocolate but I don’t have the craving for excessive consumption. These observations just appeared, I had no idea what I was looking for so it removes the bias.
Perhaps the most impressive action I have noticed is that of memory. As one gets older, one’s memory becomes more difficult. For years I have always had a problem with names, spelling, etc. I have tried various techniques by keeping thoughts in compartments, house, or filing systems – a technique that was used by Roman lawyers. All of my World War 1 and II hero’s names and histories are put into the downstairs room and drugs are put into another room etc. and this is a proven technique. This helped but the matrix of this system fell apart and it would be a long time when I wanted to find a name or article for my memory to grind through a matrix that seemed to be declining. Once a fact was found from the memory bank within a few hours it would be lost again, buried in what I visualize as a matrix of cells. On Lithium, I seemed to have developed another matrix where when I have recalled a fact it stays in this new matrix like a new filing cabinet with easy access. This fits it and this conclusion was made in retrospect with the idea that neurons regenerate and multiple especially in areas like the hippocampus. In passing the only error I learnt that was erroneous was that the brain didn’t regenerate and your brain function was what you were born with and led to a steady decline as we aged. We now know this is wrong, grey matter increases, cells can multiple, and new cells appear.
Before academics jump on this article, one should point out that most of the studies on Lithium in much higher doses in patients with Alzheimer’s Disease is in treating the plaque, tangles, etc. in short term studies and these grave stones are markers of past dysfunction, inflammation, etc. that took place perhaps a decade or more ago. This error of short term Lithium against markers of chronic inflammation is like knocking down tombstones and expecting the corpse to rise.
Lastly the effect on anxiety has made me less uptight or over-reactive but this hasn’t effected reactions while driving or playing sports.
Could this be a placebo reaction? Unlikely after a latent period of two months. We have one happy patient!
As in an earlier post, if Lithium is essential we have spent the last 50 years removing it from 7UP and our water supplies!