If a person taking lithium to control the manic phases of bipolar depression suddenly stops taking the drug, the frequency and severity of manic states can increase. If lithium is prescribed to reduce suicidal risk in a bipolar patient, a sudden cessation can cause suicidal urges to return, explains WebMD.
Several weeks of lithium use are usually required before the helpful effects are experienced. Therefore, a person who has been using the drug for a short period of time might not notice any changes from a sudden cessation. It is not known exactly how lithium stabilizes the moods in manic-depressive patients, but doctors confirm the drug acts on the brain and spinal cord, notes WebMD. Lithium may promote the growth and health of the nerve cells in the brain that regulate mood, cognition and behavior. This gives bipolar patients more control over their emotions and sleep patterns, helping them to better cope with daily living.
Lithium is used to treat the mania component of bipolar, or manic-depressive, disorder, according to Mayo Clinic. Manic states involve highly excited moods of anger and irritability or a heightened sense of well-being and euphoria. Lithium can affect kidney or thyroid function so regular blood tests are required, according to WebMD. Amounts of the drug need to remain constant and level in the body for maximum effectiveness.