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How The Discovery Of Lithium Transformed Treatment For Bipolar Disorder

Lithium has been hailed a "miracle drug" for treating bipolar disorder. Walter A. Brown, clinical professor emeritus at Brown University, talks with  Think host Krys Boyd about how the drug has been a transformative treatment for many people with bipolar disorder. 

"The discovery of lithium is often recognized as the so-called start of the psychopharmacological revolution," Brown says. "Before that time, the idea that a drug alone could cure or alleviate a mental illness was just inconceivable. Nobody thought along those lines."

Brown says lithium can be used as a maintenance medication, helping to prevent manic episodes in people with bipolar disorder. Though there can be side effects, he says it's given new hope to many patients.

"If people are untreated... they're going to have an episode of mania and depression every year or so," he says. "With lithium — for those people who respond well to it, and a majority do — those episodes stop, and it really turns their lives around." 

Walter A. Brown’s book is called Lithium: A Doctor, a Drug, and a Breakthrough. Listen to the entire Think conversation here

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