Updated 04:28 PM EDT, Mon, Jul 15, 2019

Bipolar Disorder News: Lithium Drug for Adults Safe and Effective Treatment for Children with the Disorder

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A recent study from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine showed that Lithium is a safe and effective treatment for children battling bipolar disorder. According to the United Press International, the drug, which has been used to treat bipolar adults in the past, was not used to treat children and teenagers due to safety concerns. However, it seems that treating children with lithium is proving to be more effective than previous drugs intended for schizophrenia.

Dr. Robert Findling, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Johns Hopkins said in a press release, "Lithium is the grandfather of all treatments for bipolar disorder, but it has never been rigorously studied in children."

News Max reported that in the past, children, pregnant women and females in the child-bearing age have been excluded from the drug trials in the past, for safety reasons and ethical considerations. However, Johns Hopkins said that it may have harmed them instead of helped them, as there are drugs that act differently with different types of people.

With these concerns in mind, Johns Hopkins researchers conducted experiments involving 81 patients between the ages 7 to 17 who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder. These patients represented nine medical and academic facilities throughout the United States. Fifty-three of them were given lithium, while the rest were given placebos.

During the study, the patients were given a standard dose in the first four weeks, before gradually increasing the doses up to the maximum for the remainder of the study. The participants were assessed using the standard tools used for bipolar disorder, and side effects of the drug were listed as well.

The result of the experiments showed that 47% of the patients given lithium scored within a "very much improved" to "improved" range on the Clinical Impressions Scale, said Pulse Headlines, compared to the 21% improvement of those in the placebo group.

Additionally, the study showed that those on lithium dropped about six points more on average on the 60-point YMRS (Young Mania Rating Scale). Unlike anti-psychotic drugs like risperidone or olanzapine, none of the patients were shown to have significant weight gain or serious side effects after their treatment, which normally occur in patients who have been administered with drugs intended for schizophrenics (anti-psychotics).

Hopkins Medicine said that bipolar disorder affects 1 percent of teens and is among the leading causes of adolescent disability. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry noted that this number is estimated to affect around 3.4 million American children and teenagers. However, bipolar disorder usually begin during adolescence or young adulthood those with bipolar disorder in childhood usually end up with worse outcomes.

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