In the 1940s the first effective mood stabilizer, lithium, was identified by Australian researcher John Cade. Early experiments with lithium, a naturally occurring element (a salt), showed it to have nearly miraculous results on a group of individuals with longstanding mania. Some of these people had spent years in mental institutions, and after the initiation of lithium, their symptoms resolved and they were well enough to return home. Yet it wasn’t until 1970 that lithium received FDA approval to be used in the treatment of what was then called manic-depression.
Lithium is excreted unchanged (it’s an element that does not get broken down) through the kidneys. Its half-life is between twelve and thirty hours depending on age and kidney function.