Carbolith, Cilbalith-S, Duralith, Eskalith, Eskalith CR, Lithane, Lithizine, Lithobid, Lithonate, Lithotabs

Habit forming? No
Prescription needed? Yes
Available as generic? Yes
Drug class: Mood stabilizer

Normalizes mood and behavior in bipolar (manic-depressive) disorder.
- Treats alcohol toxicity and addiction.
- Treats schizoid personality disorders.

How to take Lithium:
- Tablet or capsule: Swallow Lithium with liquid or food to lessen stomach irritation. If you can't swallow whole, crumble tablet or open capsule and take with liquid or food. Drink plenty of liquids each day, especially in hot weather.

- Extended-release Lithium tablets: Swallow each dose whole. Do not crush.

- Syrup: Take at mealtime. Follow with 8 oz. water.

When to take Lithium:

- At the same times each day, preferably at meal time.

If you forget a Lithium dose:

- Take as soon as you remember up to 2 hours late. If more than 2 hours, wait for next scheduled dose (don't double this dose).

What Lithium does:

- May correct chemical imbalance in brain's transmission of nerve impulses that influence mood and behavior.

Time lapse before drug works:

- 1 to 3 weeks.

- May require 3 months before depressive phase of illness improves.

Don't take with:

- Any other medicine or any dietary supplement without consulting your doctor or pharmacist.

SYMPTOMS: Moderate Lithium overdose increases some side effects and may cause diarrhea, nausea. Large overdose may cause vomiting, muscle weakness, convulsions, stupor and coma.


In case of Lithium overdose, see previous column.

Common Lithium Side Effects:

Dizziness, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, shakiness, tremor.  Dry mouth, thirst, decreased sexual ability, increased urination, and anorexia.

Infrequent Lithium Side Effects:

Rash, stomach pain, fainting, heartbeat irregularities, shortness of breath, ear noises, swollen hands or feet, slurred speech. Thyroid impairment (coldness; dry, puffy skin), muscle aches. Headache, weight gain, fatigue, menstrual irregularities, acne like breakouts, drowsiness, confusion, weakness.

Rare Lithium Side Effects:

Blurred vision, eye pain. Jerking of arms and legs, worsening of psoriasis, hair loss.

Don't take Lithium if: 

- You are allergic to lithium or tartrazine dye. 

- You have kidney or heart disease.

- Patient is younger than 12.

Before you start, consult your doctor if:

- You plan to become pregnant within medication period.

- You have diabetes, thyroid disorder, epilepsy, brain disease, schizophrenia, difficult urination, heart disease, kidney disorder, Parkinson's or history of leukemia.

- You are on a low-salt diet or drink more than 4 cups of coffee per day.

- You plan surgery within 2 months.

Over age 60:

- Adverse reactions and side effects may be more frequent and severe than in younger persons.


- Some fetal risk, but benefits may outweigh risks.


- Drug passes into milk.

- Avoid drug or discontinue nursing until you finish medicine.

- Consult doctor for advice on maintaining milk supply.

Infants & children:

- Don't give to children younger than 12.

Prolonged use:

- Enlarged thyroid with possible impaired function.

- Talk to your doctor about the need for follow-up medical examinations or laboratory studies to check lithium levels, ECG. Kidney function, thyroid, complete blood counts (white blood cell count, platelet count, red blood cell count, hemoglobin, hematocrit).

Skin & sunlight:

- No problems expected.

Driving, piloting or hazardous work:

- Don't drive or pilot aircraft until you learn how medicine affects you.

- Don't work around dangerous machinery.

- Don't climb ladders or work in high places.

- Danger increases if you drink alcohol or take medicine affecting alertness and reflexes.


- Don't discontinue without consulting doctor.

- Dose may require gradual reduction if you have taken drug for a long time.

- Doses of other drugs may also require adjustment quitting this medication when feeling well creates risk of relapse which may not respond to restarting the medication.


- Regular checkups, periodic blood tests, and tests of lithium levels and thyroid function recommended.

- Avoid exercise in hot weather and other activities that cause heavy sweating. This contributes to lithium poisoning. It is essential to take adequate fluids during hot weather to avoid toxicity.

- Call your doctor if you have an illness that causes heavy sweating, vomiting, or diarrhea. The loss of too much salt and water from your body could cause lithium toxicity.

- Advise any doctor or dentist whom you consult that you take this medicine.

- Some products contain tartrazine dye. Avoid, especially if allergic to aspirin.

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