While lithium has been in the spotlight for its role in the manufacture of EVs batteries, it also plays an essential role in the treatment of mental health diseases such as dementia and bipolar disorder.
Lithium salts have long been used to treat the mania phase of bipolar disorder and researchers keep finding new applications in the treatment of other mental diseases. “Our findings support the possibility that lithium treatment could decrease the risk of developing dementia and supports the need for further randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to test the efficacy of lithium as a disease-modifying drug in dementia,” states a study supported by the UK Medical Research Council and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Cambridge Biomedical Center.
Alzheimer is the most common type of dementia. Adults over the age of 65 are at more risk of developing the disease. Globally, Alzheimer cases are expected to increase by three times by 2050. However, Mexico is unprepared for dementia increase because of its lack of geriatric specialists. Medical advances delaying onset of Alzheimer generate economic and longevity benefits, according to a study by the University of Southern California. Scientific research has shown that lithium modifies biological cascades linked to Alzheimer’s disease.
Bipolar disorder impacts about 3 percent of the global population and around 3 million people in Mexico, as reported by MBN. The use of lithium has been associated with a reduced rate of developing dementia in patients with bipolar disorder, found a study by the University Hospital of Copenhagen.
Depression can also be addressed with a lithium-based treatment. The OECD found that the COVID-19 pandemic increased the prevalence of depression nine times in early 2020 compared to 2019. Patients who are not responding to an antidepressant can be prescribed lithium augmentation. Lithium prophylaxis can also be used as an alternative to antidepressants for recurrent unipolar depression.
Lithium has a mood stabilizer effect that makes it a potentially useful tool in suicide prevention. In 2020, 7,818 deaths were linked to auto inflicted injuries and in 2018, 5 percent of population over 10 years old said to have had considered suicide at some point in their life, according to INEGI.
Moreover, this medication has been found to help in the prevention of kidney disease by blocking an enzyme associated with its cellular aging. In Mexico, kidney diseases affect 11 percent of the population, according to the Ministry of Health (SSA). Annually, 45,000 new cases of chronic kidney disease (CKD) are diagnosed in the country.
Recently, Mexico’s Congress approved a reform of the Mining Law that nationalizes lithium and ensures state control over the resource. Interest in this resource was boosted by the global transition to electromobility, but lithium has potential health benefits that are not fully explored.