Monday, May 4, 2009

Something in the Water

People living in the Oita prefecture of Japan are less likely to kill themselves than those who don’t live there. And according to some Japanese researchers, it’s not just the beautiful countryside. In a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry, scientists from the universities of Oita and Hiroshima found that higher levels of lithium in Oita’s drinking water were responsible for the lowered suicide rates. Lithium is a common mental health treatment known for its mood stabilizing effects. It’s often used by people with bipolar disorder, but it may also help with broader psychiatric problems. The researchers also noted that it doesn’t take much lithium to create a statistically significant effect, with levels between 0.7 and 59 micrograms per liter showing a decline in suicide rates. Still, they stop short of recommending lithium be added to drinking water as an involuntary medication. Like fluoridation, they know that some might see this as forced drugging by the government. That’s a fair point, but it’s also a bit of a false analogy. Fluoridation only provides a positive physical benefit to the people who are fortunate enough to have it. But as a mental health medication, the effects of lithium aren’t quite to undeniably beneficial. Some people who take mood stabilizers don’t like the feeling of losing their mental highs and lows, for example. Also, excessive dosages of lithium can be poisonous, but that’s true of nearly every substance in the universe. Regardless, no suicide study can be considered complete if the researchers don’t also subject the test subjects to a 24-hour Make Me a Supermodel marathon. If lithium water can keep people from killing themselves after that, it might be worth trying after all. More details here.

Blog Archive