A new study discovered that the chemical element ‘Lithium’ serves as an effective treatment for children suffering bipolar disorder at least in short term. The study was performed by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and published in the journal Pediatrics.

The lithium drug is one of the oldest drugs for bipolar disorder. It has been previously prescribed to treat adults with the condition, and the results shows that it  is a complete success. Until now, scientists had not tested the drug in young people. However, this new study reveals “the most scientifically rigorous demonstration” to date, that lithium can be a safe and effective alternative for children with bipolar disorder.


“Lithium is the grandfather of all treatments for bipolar disorder, but it has never been rigorously studied in children,” says Robert Findling, M.D., M.B.A., a professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Hopkins Medicine reported.

Since the mental condition alternates periods of elation and depression, patients with the condition ends up being mentally unstable which can lead to severe consequences. On the other hand, lithium drug has the ability to stabilize mood extremes.

Testing young people

Findling and an associate, performed a randomized, placebo-controlled prospective study. The research included 81 patients with bipolar disorder from nine different academic medical centers across the U.S. Their age ranged from 7 to 17, and they were equally split between genders.

The first phase consisted of a washout period to get rid of all the ineffective medication from their bodies, usually prescribed to treat children with the condition. 53 young people began a regular course of lithium at a standard dose. Later with time, researchers raised their dose to a maximum for a period of 8 weeks if mood symptoms did not showed a deterioration. Meanwhile the remaining 28 patients were administered with a placebo.

Researchers weekly visited the patients the first four weeks of the trial. The children’s symptoms were evaluated using a survey called the Young Mania Rating Scale,  along with other standard assessment tools for the condition symptoms and therapies.  


When the evaluation finished, scientists realized that patients who were given lithium showed far more significant improvements in their symptoms over a period of 8 weeks when compared with those on the placebo. 47 percent of patients prescribed with lithium scored in the range of “very much improved” or “much improved”, compared to 21 percent of those on the placebo.

The evaluation was assessed with a methodology known as “the Clinical Global Impressions Scale” which usually evaluates the capability of treatments in patients with mental disorders.

Furthermore, the findings provided  by this research only showed an improvement in the short term. Researchers stated that further analyses are currently in progress to determine the long-term implications of lithium use in children’s.

In addition, bipolar disorder acts on 1 percent of teens and is one of the leading conditions of disability in adolescence. The disorder usually starts during adolescence or young adulthood, and when it begins before people’s adulthood it eventually leads to dramatic consequences.

Source: Hopkins Medicine