Intended for healthcare professionals


Lithium . . . and other stories

BMJ 2019; 366 doi: (Published 12 September 2019) Cite this as: BMJ 2019;366:l5386


The story of lithium as a mood stabilising drug began 70 years ago with the experiments of John Cade, an Australian psychiatrist. Trying to find whether some secretion in urine could be correlated with symptoms, he injected urine from patients with depression, mania, and schizophrenia into the abdominal cavities of guinea pigs. He observed that lithium carbonate reduced the toxicity of urine in this primitive assay system and that it calmed the animals. After trying lithium on himself, he used it successfully on 10 patients with mania. A review in Nature tells the full story (

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