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.
- Biol Trace Elem Res. 1990 May;25(2):105-13. Lithium in drinking water and the incidences of crimes, suicides, and arrests related to drug addictions. Schrauzer GN1, Shrestha KP.
- Kapusta, N.D., Mossaheb, N., Etzersdorfer, E., et al. (2011). Lithium in drinking water and suicide mortality. British Journal of Psychiatry, 198(5), 346-50.
- Lewitzka, U., Severus, E., Bauer, R., Ritter, P., Müller-Oerlinghausen, B., & Bauer, M. (2015). The suicide prevention effect of lithium: more than 20 years of evidence-a narrative review. International Journal Of Bipolar Disorders, 3(1), 32.
- Ohgami, H., Tetao, T., Shiotsuki, I., et al. (2009). Lithium levels in drinking water and risk of suicide. British Journal of Psychiatry, 194(5), 464-5.
- Schrauzer, G.N. & Shrestha, K.P. (1990). Lithium in drinking water and the incidences of crimes, suicides, and arrests related to drug addictions. Biological Trace Elements Research, 25(2), 105-13.
- Although lithium is known to prevent suicide in people with mood disorders, it is uncertain whether lithium in drinking water could also help lower the risk in the general population. To investigate this, we examined lithium levels in tap water in the 18 municipalities of Oita prefecture in Japan in relation to the suicide standardized mortality ratio (SMR) in each municipality. We found that lithium levels were significantly and negatively associated with SMR averages for 2002-2006. These findings suggest that even very low levels of lithium in drinking water may play a role in reducing suicide risk within the general population.
- The available literature indicates that higher lithium levels in drinking water may be associated with a reduced risk of suicide in the general population.
- Observational studies suggest that long-term lithium treatment has a strong antisuicidal effect in mood disorders, but it is uncertain whether this association is a genuine therapeutic effect or is due to confounding factors in nonrandomized studies. The authors conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized trials to investigate the effect of lithium, compared to placebo and other active treatments, on the risk of suicide, deliberate self-harm, and all-cause mortality in patients with mood disorder.
- METHOD: The data source was the Cochrane Collaboration Depression, Anxiety and Neurosis Controlled Trials Register, incorporating results of searches of MEDLINE (1966-June 2002), EMBASE (1980-June 2002), CINAHL (1982-March 2001), PsycLIT (1974-June 2002), PSYNDEX (1977-October 1999), and LILACS (1982-March 2001). The Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL) was searched with the term “lithium” for new records entered into the database from 1999 to 2003. Studies selected included randomized, controlled trials comparing lithium with placebo or all other compounds used in long-term treatment for mood disorders (unipolar depression, bipolar disorder, schizoaffective disorder, dysthymia, and rapid cycling, diagnosed according to DSM or ICD criteria). Of 727 references identified in the search, 52 articles were marked as possibly relevant on the basis of the abstract, and 32 randomized, controlled trials were eligible for inclusion in the review. Two independent reviewers extracted the data, and disagreements were resolved by consensus with a third reviewer. Methodological quality was assessed according to the criteria of the Cochrane Collaboration. When the outcomes of interest were not reported, an attempt was made to obtain the required data from the original authors.
- RESULTS: In 32 trials, 1,389 patients were randomly assigned to receive lithium and 2,069 to receive other compounds. Patients who received lithium were less likely to die by suicide(data from seven trials; two versus 11 suicides; odds ratio=0.26; 95% confidence interval [CI]=0.09-0.77). The composite measure of suicide plus deliberate self-harm was also lower in patients who received lithium (odds ratio=0.21; 95% CI=0.08-0.50). There were fewer deaths overall in patients who received lithium (data from 11 trials; nine versus 22 deaths; odds ratio=0.42, 95% CI=0.21-0.87).
- CONCLUSIONS: Lithium is effective in the prevention of suicide, deliberate self-harm, and death from all causes in patients with mood disorders.
Kapusta, Nestor D., et al. “Lithium in drinking water and suicide mortality.” The British Journal of Psychiatry 198.5 (2011): 346-350.
Blüml, Victor, et al. “Lithium in the public water supply and suicide mortality in Texas.” Journal of Psychiatric Research 30 (2013): 1e5. Lithium water supply suicide mortality Texas Blüml 2013