The Antisuicidal Efficacy of Lithium: A Review of the Clinical Literature and the Underlying Pharmacology

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Authors: Colleen E. Kovacsics, Harish K. Goyal, Koshy J. Thomas, and Todd D. Gould
Page Range: 225-243
Published in: International Journal of Child Health and Human Development, Volume 1, Issue 3 (2008)
ISSN: 1939-5965

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Table of Contents

The results of a large number of studies suggest the efficacy of lithium in the prevention of suicide. These studies include retrospective, prospective, and discontinuation studies, as well as comparison studies with other medications. Despite this extensive clinical data, it remains unclear what molecular mechanisms underlie the antisuicidal efficacy of lithium. Lithium has a number of undesirable side effects that often limit its clinical use. Determining the molecular mechanisms that underlie the therapeutic effects of lithium is a critically important task. It may be possible to develop a novel drug that mimics the efficacy of lithium in the prevention of suicide, but possesses a more limited side effect profile than lithium. We review molecular effects of lithium that may be related to its antisuicidal efficacy, focusing particularly on serotonin neurotransmission.

Keywords: Prevention, suicide, lithium, neuroscience, serotonin.