Lithium is an anti-manic drug used to treat and prevent episodes of mania in patients with bipolar disorder, a condition that causes episodes of depression and episodes of mania. Lithium is also used to treat schizophrenia and severe depression. Lithium works by decreasing abnormal activities in the brain, according to MedlinePlus. Patients should be aware that caffeinated beverages interact with lithium.
Caffeine and Lithium
Patients taking lithium should avoid excess intake of caffeinated beverages, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Caffeine intake may decrease lithium levels in the blood and lead to decreased therapeutic effects of the drug. Examples of caffeinated beverages include coffee, tea, carbonated beverages, chocolate milk, cocoa and energy drinks. Decaffeinated tea or coffee also contain small amounts of caffeine.
Lithium is available in the form of tablets, extended-release tablets, capsules and liquids. The tablets, capsules and liquids are usually taken three to four times a day, according to MedlinePlus. The extended-release tablets are taken two to three times a day. The extended-release tablets should be swallowed whole without chewing to avoid releasing too much medication into the bloodstream. Patients should drink extra fluids while taking lithium because dehydration can cause lithium toxicity. Reduced sodium intake can also cause lithium toxicity.
Side Effects of Lithium
Patients taking lithium may experience symptoms such as loss of appetite, gas, bloating, stomach pain, indigestion, dry mouth, fine hand tremors, restlessness, excessive salivation, swollen lips, tongue pain, altered sense of taste, acne, joint or muscle pain, hair loss, constipation, weakness, lack of coordination, and itching skin. Adverse effects of lithium include hallucinations, seizure, extreme thirst, and severe vomiting and diarrhea. Patients should seek immediate medical attention if they notice these adverse effects.
Symptoms of Bipolar Disorder
Patients with bipolar disorder display both manic and depression phases. During the manic phase, patients experience symptoms such as hyperactivity, rushed speech, racing thoughts, reduced need for sleep, poor judgment, aggression, anger, inflated self-esteem and reckless behavior. Symptoms associated with the depressed phase include feeling sad, low self-esteem, insomnia or oversleeping, loss of interest in pleasurable activities, and suicidal thoughts.