Open-label lithium for the treatment of adolescents with bipolar depression

J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. 2006 Mar;45(3):289-297. doi: 10.1097/01.chi.0000194569.70912.a7.


Objectives: To investigate the effectiveness and tolerability of lithium for the treatment of acute depression in adolescents with bipolar disorder. We hypothesized that patients receiving open-label treatment with lithium during a 6-week period would experience a statistically and clinically significant decrease in depressive symptoms and tolerate lithium treatment fairly well.

Method: Twenty-seven adolescents (12-18 years old) with an episode of depression associated with bipolar disorder type I received open-label lithium 30 mg/kg (twice-daily dosing), which was adjusted to achieve a therapeutic serum level (1.0-1.2 mEq/L). Effectiveness measures included the Children's Depression Rating Scale-Revised (CDRS-R) and Clinical Global Impressions Scale for Bipolar Disorder (CGI-BP). Adverse events were assessed weekly.

Results: Mean CDRS-R scores significantly decreased from baseline to endpoint (mean [SD] change = -25.5 (20.4); p < .001), resulting in a large effect size of 1.7. Response and remission rates (defined by a > or = 50% reduction in CDRS-R score from baseline to endpoint, and a CDRS-R score < or = 28 and a CGI-BP Improvement score of 1 or 2, respectively) were 48% and 30%. Side effects, which were generally mild to moderate in severity, included headache (74%), nausea/vomiting (67%), stomachache (30%), and abdominal cramps (19%).

Conclusions: The findings of this study indicate that lithium may be effective and is relatively well tolerated for the treatment of an acute episode of depression in adolescents with bipolar disorder. Controlled studies of lithium in adolescent bipolar depression are needed.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Antimanic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antimanic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Bipolar Disorder / diagnosis
  • Bipolar Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lithium Carbonate / adverse effects
  • Lithium Carbonate / therapeutic use*
  • Male


  • Antimanic Agents
  • Lithium Carbonate