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Discharge Instructions: Taking Lithium

Lithium is a mood stabilizer. It is often prescribed to patients with bipolar disorder (also called manic depression). When taken regularly, lithium helps prevent or reduce the severity of mood swings. Lithium can also be used along with antidepressant medications.

When to Call Your Doctor

Call your doctor right away if you have any of the following:

  • Worsening nausea

  • Vomiting (more than 3 episodes in 24 hours)

  • Severe diarrhea

  • Dizziness

  • Sleepiness

  • Slurred speech

  • Problems with your balance

  • Seizures

  • Confusion

  • Increased urination

  • Rapid heartbeat

Guidelines for Use

  • Follow the fact sheet that came with your medication. It tells you when and how to take your medication. Ask for a sheet if you didn’t get one.

  • Tell your doctor what other medications you take, including over-the-counter medications, herbal remedies, and supplements.

  • Take your medication exactly as directed. This medication takes several weeks to reach its full effect. Because of this, it is important to take this medication every day, even if you believe that it is not helping your symptoms. You may need to take this medication for a few months, or for life, depending on your symptoms.

  • Take your medication with food or milk.

  • If you miss a dose, take it as soon as you remember—unless it’s almost time for your next dose. In that case, skip the dose you missed. Don’t take a double dose.

  • Don’t drink alcohol while taking this medication.

  • Be sure to drink plenty of water while taking this medication. Your doctor may also tell you to consume extra salt. Follow your doctor’s instructions.

  • Don’t take this drug if you are pregnant.

  • Don’t stop taking this drug without first talking to your doctor. Your symptoms may return or get worse.

  • You may need to have your lithium dose adjusted during manic or depressive periods. Work closely with your doctor.

  • Store this medication at room temperature, out of the reach of children.

Possible Side Effects

Tell your doctor if you have any of these side effects. However, do not stop taking your medication unless your doctor tells you to stop. Side effects may include:

  • Nausea

  • Mild diarrhea

  • Tremor

  • Weight gain

  • Increased thirst

  • Increased urination

  • Drowsiness

  • Hair loss



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