“How long did you take to come off lithium?” #BipolarFAQ

I know at least 2 people have asked for a lot more detail on this, so please forgive me as I go into detail…

I was told I had to take 800 mg/night lithium on approx.. 1st Feb 1998.

I have very detailed records of the amount of lithium I took every night and below you will see I put some of these in table form, such that I could graph the reduction against reducing body weight.

It was late 2002 that I got around to asking about reducing the dose and went straight down to 650 mg, which is what I have recorded for 5th Feb 2003 to 1st Feb 2005.

I was thinking that I was off lithium by the end of 2010, but really it was not until the end of 2011, so in many ways it is still early days in my med-free life with 13 years and 11 months on lithium and now only 3 years and 3 months off lithium. It was about a year ago that I met with a private GP in Nottingham and his view was that it takes a lot more than 3 years for the body to re-adjust. He seemed to be saying that one could easily continue to lose weight for several years after coming off lithium. Having said that I am hoping my weight has at least stabilized even if I seem unable to put any weight back on at this time.


01/02/1998 800
08/01/2003 800
05/02/2003 650
01/02/2005 650
01/04/2005 600
15/12/2008 600
15/01/2009 500
15/08/2009 500
15/09/2009 450
15/10/2009 425
15/11/2009 400
15/07/2010 400
15/08/2010 381
15/09/2010 350
15/10/2010 347
15/11/2010 285
15/12/2010 240
15/01/2011 210
15/02/2011 207
15/03/2011 193
15/04/2011 174
15/05/2011 159
15/06/2011 132
15/07/2011 100
15/08/2011 100
15/09/2011 80
15/10/2011 60
15/11/2011 40
15/12/2011 20
01/01/2012 0


About Roger Smith (in the UK)
Helping you to think about bipolar disorder in different ways so that we can eliminate the disorder and eventually eliminate the need for this diagnosis.

6 Responses to “How long did you take to come off lithium?” #BipolarFAQ

  1. Reblogged this on Mentally Wealthy and commented:
    Useful read for anyone considering reducing their use of this medication.


  2. Rosemary Riepma says:

    What would your ideal weight be? Do you know what you were before lithium? My GP says I am underweight at the start of coming off lithium! (from 500mg). So I’m a bit concerned about that weight loss graph….


    • Hi Rosemary,
      I agree that the graph may look alarming. Since writing the above, I am feeling more confident that my weight has stabilized and I am now mostly feeling lean and healthy (no longer feeling skinny and weak). As I am only 5ft 7in my weight is not so very low and if I was not living in a ‘developed’ country I would not look at all out of place as I most likely the shape I was always meant to be. Part of the body image problem I have been having has been related to the majority of people here in the UK carrying some excess body fat… hence lean people can look too thin when standing alongside those who are less lean.

      I have been going to a great yoga lesson once a week and now do a little yoga at home everyday, along with lots of walking, gardening and recently added some regular lifting of moderate weights which seems to be helping with toning muscles even if not yet adding much noticeable muscle mass.

      Recently a friend and I started up a local support group for those wanting to take very low doses of psychiatric drugs rather than completely come off the psychiatric drugs. It may be that this could be a good option for you? I mean, find a doctor you can work with to very gradually reduce your lithium intake down to something like 200 or even 100mg/day. This would seem to be a way to avoid most of the toxicity, whilst still getting a slight sedative effect that can help with sleep and… very importantly… reassure any family you may have who would be alarmed should you stop all psychiatric drugs.

      Please let me know if these thoughts are useful and feel free to ask more questions.


      • Rosemary Riepma says:

        Thank you, Roger. I like your reasoning about putting ‘low’ weight in context. That is reassuring and sensible. The difference in whether we feel ‘lean and healthy’ or ‘skinny and weak’ is also more important than what the scales say, I think, and reflecting on that helps me feel more confident, less panicky about my GP’s opinion. I will keep your idea of a very low dose in mind, in case coming off Lithium completely doesn’t seem to work. I certainly believe all these drugs can have some effect on some people at far lower doses than usually prescribed, and it’s great you are supporting people who want to try that. At the moment I am hoping I can stop completely. I think I’ve already taken rather a lot of poison to keep my family happy! I’m not an obvious person for lifelong Lithium anyway, as I have never been manic. Even my bits of ‘hypomania’ are a bit doubtful: some years after I started getting given psych drugs, I was diagnosed with haemachromatosis (genetic iron overload), which causes exhaustion, depression, mood swings…So now the iron level has been lowered and I have recovered from that process, I might manage un-drugged. I have done 10 days on 400mg without noticing anything bad (if anything, I’m sleeping better!), and now am taking 300mg. The Psychiatrist says a week at each level, but I’m thinking 10 days /2 weeks, or longer if I notice any problems. My main worry right now is why he suddenly wanted me off it, having said in Feb to do 2 more years. he talked about it maybe contributing to aches and pains by putting strain on the body, and afterwards I thought maybe he means my kidneys are already compromised. (esp as I also take diclofenac). Apparently kidney function tests can look fine even after damage has started. I’m worried about that. Not just the possible damage, but the anger about possibly years more poison than I ‘needed’. Keep up the good work of helping people take as little as works for them!


    • I just realised I did not give direct answers to your questions…
      1) I am thinking my ideal weight (in my own opinion) is about 60kg and the main reason I am below that weight is that I eat a diet that would keep most people slim, whilst I do NOT do any significant body building exercises… Mostly I an sitting at computer or walking – walking does not tend to put on much muscle.
      2) My weight in the early 1990’s before taking any psych drugs was about 58kg… so about the same as it is now.


  3. Pingback: Intermittent Fasting to Improve Mood – Not just bipolar | Rethinking Bipolar

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