Lithium (By mouth)


Lithium (LITH-ee-um)

Treats mania that is part of bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness).

Brand Name(s)

Lith-Oro, Lithate, Lithobid

When This Medicine Should Not Be Used

How to Use This Medicine

Capsule, Liquid, Tablet, Long Acting Tablet

  • Take your medicine as directed. Your dose may need to be changed several times to find what works best for you.
  • There are several different forms of lithium. The dose for each is different and they are used at different times of the day. Do not change the type of medicine you take without talking to your doctor first.
  • Carefully follow your doctor's instructions about any special diet. Be sure you have enough salt in your diet. It is also very important that you drink 11 to 14 eight-ounce cups of liquids every day.
  • Measure the oral liquid medicine with a marked measuring spoon, oral syringe, or medicine cup.
  • Swallow the capsule or tablet whole. Do not crush, break, or chew it.
  • Swallow the extended-release tablet whole. Do not crush, break, or chew it.
  • Use only the brand of medicine your doctor prescribed. Other brands may not work the same way.

If a dose is missed:

  • Take a dose as soon as you remember. If it is almost time for your next dose, wait until then and take a regular dose. Do not take extra medicine to make up for a missed dose.

How to Store and Dispose of This Medicine

  • Store the medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light.
  • Ask your pharmacist, doctor, or health caregiver about the best way to dispose of any outdated medicine or medicine no longer needed.
  • Keep all medicine out of the reach of children. Never share your medicine with anyone.

Drugs and Foods to Avoid

Ask your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

  • Make sure your doctor knows if you also use acetazolamide (Diamox®), carbamazepine (Tegretol®), methyldopa (Aldomet®), metronidazole (Flagyl®), phenytoin (Dilantin®), potassium iodide, sodium bicarbonate, or urea (Ureaphil®). Tell your doctor if you are also using an antacid, medicine to treat asthma (such as theophylline, Slo-Bid®, or Theo-Dur®), or muscle relaxants (such as pancuronium, tubocurarine, vecuronium, or Pavulon®).
  • Make sure your doctor knows if you also use blood pressure medicine (such as captopril, diltiazem, enalapril, losartan, nifedipine, verapamil, Accupril®, Adalat®, Lotrel®, Procardia®, Vasotec®, Verelan®, or Zestril®), a diuretic or water pill (such as furosemide, hydrochlorothiazide, torsemide, Demadex®, Hyzaar®, or Lasix®), or pain or arthritis medicine (such as celecoxib, ibuprofen, indomethacin, naproxen, piroxicam, rofecoxib, valdecoxib, Advil®, Celebrex®, Daypro®, Feldene®, Indocin®, Motrin®, Relafen®, or Voltaren®). Tell your doctor if you are using other medicine to treat mental illness (such as haloperidol, Haldol®) or medicine for depression (such as fluoxetine, paroxetine, Celexa®, Effexor®, Lexapro?, Paxil®, Prozac®, or Zoloft®).

Warnings While Using This Medicine

  • It is not safe to take this medicine during pregnancy. It could harm an unborn baby. Tell your doctor right away if you become pregnant.
  • Make sure your doctor knows if you have kidney problems, heart disease, brain disease, nervous system problems, thyroid problems, or a history of mineral imbalance (such as high or low amounts of potassium, calcium, or sodium in your blood).
  • Stop using this medicine and call your doctor right away if you have diarrhea, vomiting, drowsiness, muscle weakness, tremors, unsteadiness, or other problems with muscle control or coordination.
  • Make sure your doctor knows if you have a heart disorder called Brugada syndrome. Call your doctor or the emergency department right away if you have a fast, pounding, or uneven heartbeat; unexplained fainting; lightheadedness; or shortness of breath after you take this medicine. Brugada syndrome can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention.
  • Encephalopathic syndrome (brain problem) may occur in patients who take this medicine together with haloperidol (Haldol®). Check with your doctor right away if you have a fever, confusion, drowsiness, difficulty with speaking, uncontrolled body movements, and unusual tiredness or weakness while taking this medicine.
  • Call your doctor if you have a fever or diarrhea or if you sweat heavily. This could affect how your medicine works.
  • Make sure any doctor or dentist who treats you knows that you are using this medicine.
  • This medicine may make you dizzy or drowsy. Do not drive, use machines, or do anything else that could be dangerous until you know how this medicine affects you.
  • Your doctor will do lab tests at regular visits to check on the effects of this medicine. Keep all appointments.

Possible Side Effects While Using This Medicine

Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects:

  • Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing
  • Change in how much or how often you urinate
  • Confusion, problems with walking or balance, muscle movements you cannot control
  • Diarrhea, vomiting, tremors, or drowsiness
  • Fast, pounding, or uneven heartbeat
  • Fever
  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • Unusual tiredness or weakness

If you notice these less serious side effects, talk with your doctor:

  • General feeling of discomfort
  • Mild nausea
  • Mild thirst

If you notice other side effects that you think are caused by this medicine, tell your doctor

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088

Version Info

  • Last reviewed on 8/4/2014

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