Lithium in drinking water and the incidences of crimes, suicides, and arrests related to drug addictions

Biol Trace Elem Res. 1990 May;25(2):105-13. doi: 10.1007/BF02990271.


Using data for 27 Texas counties from 1978-1987, it is shown that the incidence rates of suicide, homicide, and rape are significantly higher in counties whose drinking water supplies contain little or no lithium than in counties with water lithium levels ranging from 70-170 micrograms/L; the differences remain statistically significant (p less than 0.01) after corrections for population density. The corresponding associations with the incidence rates of robbery, burglary, and theft were statistically significant with p less than 0.05. These results suggest that lithium has moderating effects on suicidal and violent criminal behavior at levels that may be encountered in municipal water supplies. Comparisons of drinking water lithium levels, in the respective Texas counties, with the incidences of arrests for possession of opium, cocaine, and their derivatives (morphine, heroin, and codeine) from 1981-1986 also produced statistically significant inverse associations, whereas no significant or consistent associations were observed with the reported arrest rates for possession of marijuana, driving under the influence of alcohol, and drunkenness. These results suggest that lithium at low dosage levels has a generally beneficial effect on human behavior, which may be associated with the functions of lithium as a nutritionally-essential trace element. Subject to confirmation by controlled experiments with high-risk populations, increasing the human lithium intakes by supplementation, or the lithiation of drinking water is suggested as a possible means of crime, suicide, and drug-dependency reduction at the individual and community level.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Behavior / drug effects*
  • Crime / statistics & numerical data*
  • Dangerous Behavior
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Lithium / analysis*
  • Lithium / toxicity
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Suicide / statistics & numerical data*
  • Texas
  • Violence
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / toxicity
  • Water Supply / analysis*


  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Lithium