New Study Shows That Lithium Protects Against Suicide

A new study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry has shown that suicidal behavior decreases among individuals with bipolar disorder during periods of lithium medication. The register-based study included more than 51,000 participants and was conducted at the Karolinksa Institutet in Sweden.

The data, collected over an eight-year period, showed that 10,648 suicide-related events occurred over this time. Individuals were compared to themselves during periods with and without medication with lithium and valproate. The risk of suicide-related events was reduced by 14 percent while individuals received lithium, as compared with the same individuals while not receiving lithium. Valproate, a common alternative to lithium, demonstrated little to no effect on suicidal behavior.

In a recent interview, Professor Paul Lichtenstein at Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics stated, ”We now strongly augment the existing evidence that lithium treatment is protective against suicide attempts and suicide. We estimate that more than ten percent of attempted or completed suicides could have been avoided if these individuals had been continuously taking lithium during the study period”.

The study concluded that lithium should be considered for patients with bipolar disorder with suspected suicidal intentions, alongside other clinical information. It adds to an extensive body of evidence suggesting the effectiveness of this older, but still highly relevant medication.

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