Low Dosage Lithium for Alzheimer’s Prevention & for Depression
Robert D. McMullen has been practicing psychopharmacology for over 30 years as a psychiatrist. He also specializes in Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation which uses magnetic pulses to alter brain activity in the prefrontal cortex and elevate the mood. TMS was approved by the FDA in 2008 and Dr. McMullen has been incorporating it into his practice since 2010. Dr. McMullen treats people out of his NYC office and an appointment can be scheduled with him by calling 212 362-9635.
Unfortunately, lithium has some negative stigma surrounding its use. Because it is the medication used to treat individuals with bipolar disorder, it is often associated with extreme behavior. However, a low dosage of this medication can be quite effective in treating mild and moderate depression. In fact, this treatment given in small amounts usually does not cause side effects. Dr. McMullen has seen in recent years 52 patients add the medication to the prescriptions they were already taking and experience an increase in mood rather quickly.
These low doses have relatively low side effects while maintaining a nice antidepressant effect. Higher doses can pull someone out of a manic episode or a sequence of ups and downs. However, these higher doses can leave people with a flat affect, meaning they are not behaving manically but also are not feeling excited about life. They may have monotone speech, seem uninterested in conversations, and even appear apathetic. Therefore, a low dosage is best for treating people who have become depressed.
Dr. McMullen has had clients notice a huge improvement in their moods after taking this medication for a year. One NYC client even overcame weekly spouts of severely depressed feelings. In addition, her “lows” no longer plummeted as drastically. She experienced a measurable improvement in her daily mood.
Low doses of this medicine can actually help prevent Alzheimer’s disease, however, this feature is widely unknown. In fact, this information surfaced because someone noticed 25 years ago that a county in Texas had low rates of Alzheimer’s disease. Coincidentally, these towns had higher rates of lithium in the drinking water.
In addition to this occurrence in Texas, researchers from other parts of the world have found the same results. One study was conducted with a participant pool made up of people who had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment. The study was made up of older individuals who took only 1 milligram of the medicine daily. The study found that these people were at lower risk than the individuals not taking lithium. Another study showed that taking the medication prevented the decline of mental cognition.
Dr. McMullen also witnessed a client who was suffering from dementia improve from taking the medication in combination with TMS treatment. Gradually, she began to find relief from her Parkinsonian symptoms and feelings of depression. In fact, her mood became significantly elevated. An examination was done to measure the degree of Alzheimer’s disease. Her exam score was similar to the previous year, meaning that she had not been further affected by the disease in an entire year. This is quite uncommon for most patients who are living with dementia. Her treatment plan had stalled the acceleration of the Alzheimer’s disease.
The Right Combination of Medicine for Treatment
Depression can generally be challenging to treat and therefore, clients usually do best when they are doing the most. This means taking both an antidepressant and a low dosage of lithium. In addition, the treatment plan could include TMS. Each person’s mood disorder is unique to themselves, varying at different degrees. However, most cases can be treated and maintained by using a combination of these treatments.
In addition, lamotrigine, an anti-seizure medicine, can also be used as an augmentation for treating individuals who are depressed. It is a medication that must be gradually increased so immediate results should not be expected. This delay is another reason why this medication should be taken with other medications, so that the individual may experience relief faster.
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