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Lithium as treatment for Lyme-related depression

Tracy writes:

I would like to find research on lithium as a supplement for Lyme disease. I noticed in one of your posts that you took this your first year.

Both my LLMD and naturopath are in support of supplementing with it. It's helped me personally.  I wonder if you have any research to suggest?  I would like to share it with others to consider as an alternative to discuss with their medical professionals, but it seems without the research proof people are questioning it. (Perhaps as an alternative say, to Xanathx and Klonopin which cause detox stress on the body while we need instead to focus on clearing the Lyme bugs and neurotoxins.)

I hope you can provide info or suggestion where to further my research.

Dear Tracy, Thank you for your question.

I remember sitting in my naturopath’s office in agonizing pain, trying to follow his advice through my brain-fog. When he suggested lithium, my naturally cautious nature kicked in. “What is it?” I asked. He said, “it’s a mineral.”

In my miserable state though, lithium sounded to me vaguely sinister, like something out of an old Dracula flick, the mug of steaming potion given to the victims to keep them docile. Even worse, I knew that lithium was somehow associated with psychotic episodes and depression. Did this nice doctor simply think I was just losing it?

I’d told him about the phone that wouldn’t stop ringing, about hearing my dead father saying my name. I had told him that I couldn’t make heads or tails of any paragraph I tried to read, and that recently, I had remained in the same position in the same chair from sun up to sundown, because I could not decide what to do. (I confided that I thought maybe I’d died, and just hadn’t figured that out yet.)  Depressed? I think any formerly healthy person who wakes up to find they can’t walk, talk, or think is entitled to a little depression. But I wasn’t sure whether taking lithium would firmly secure my insanity, or help me get through it.

With considerable relief, I can report that it helped me through the toughest time in my life. It is also inexpensive as I recall, and I didn’t find it at all addicting. I’m glad it’s also helped you.

Your point is well-taken that without the supporting research, there is reason to doubt claims. Fortunately for those who want more information about the use of lithium, there is plenty of science behind it. In my opinion it is not without risks and benefits, like other drugs, and should only be prescribed by a doctor. In future posts please watch for an interview with my naturopath, whom I have asked to share what he knows and point to further research. Here, for starters:

From an article in the Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 2002:

The special usefulness of lithium lies in long-term prevention of recurrences of mania and bipolar depression and in reducing risk of suicidal behavior. Lithium also may be beneficial in recurrent unipolar depression and is an effective adjunct for treatment-resistant depression.

Harvard Review of Psychiatry, 2002, Vol. 10, No. 2 : Pages 59-75

Is Lithium Still Worth Using? An Update of Selected Recent Research
Ross J. Baldessarini, Leonardo Tondo, John Hennen and ,Adele C. Viguera
(doi: 10.1080/hrp.

And here are three articles from the British Journal of Psychiatry:

Lithium in Bipolar Mood Disorder

Monitoring Patients on Lithium

Use of antipsychotic drugs and lithium in mania

Learn more about Lyme disease treatments.

Educate & legislate: Sen. Charles Schumer on Lyme disease

Senator Charles Schumer in August, talking to the press about Lyme disease. His message is that we need to educate and legislate, and teach each other how to identify the symptoms early, before a treatable condition becomes a horrendous nightmare: chronic Lyme disease.

Schumer states that he is personally aware of the dangers of not treating Lyme disease immediately after contracting an infection. He says he was bit by a tick in the Hudson Valley, while inspecting a dam in the area. He sought medical treatment immediately, and says he was cured because it was caught early enough.

Senator Schumer’s comments, quoted from the Hudson Valley Insider, Aug 13, 2011:

“We need to bring Lyme disease and Babesiosis out of the weeds and better educate the public about how to keep themselves and their families’ safe,” said Schumer. “Lyme disease is a problem we’ve seen for decades, and Babesiosis is a recently growing issue in New York, but we haven’t done nearly enough at the federal level to tackle it. Tick-borne illnesses often go unnoticed for months, yet can be devastating for many victims and their families. The summertime brings about warm weather and school vacation, causing higher rates of infection in Ulster County and beyond.  The tick is a little pest that can pose a big problem, and this legislation would boost research of Lyme disease and Babesiosis and increase education and awareness in the community to better fight these diseases.”

Just for the record, Senator Schumer states that “20,000 Americans are infected with Lyme,” which is a misleading statement, and probably also a grossly underestimated number. Lyme experts estimate the number of infections to be approximately 10 times higher, more like 200,000 annual cases. Mangled facts aside, it’s always good to hear and see  an influential politician speaking out for Lyme awareness.

Educate and legislate!