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Lithium
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Lithium

A Doctor, a Drug, and a Breakthrough

Description

From insulin comas and lobotomy to incarceration to exile, Walter Brown chronicles the troubling history of the diagnosis and (often ineffective) treatment of bipolar disorder through the centuries, before the publication of a groundbreaking research paper in 1949. Cade's "Lithium Salts in the Treatment of Psychotic Excitement" described, for the first time, lithium's astonishing efficacy at both treating and preventing the recurrence of manic-depressive episodes, and would eventually transform the lives of patients, pharmaceutical researchers, and practicing physicians worldwide. And yet, as Brown shows, it would be decades before lithium would overcome widespread stigmatization as a dangerous substance, and the resistance from the pharmaceutical industry, which had little incentive to promote a naturally occurring drug that could not be patented. Brown also provides a vivid portrait of the story's unlikely hero, John Cade, a devoted naturalist who, unlike many modern medical researchers, did not benefit from prestigious research training or big funding sources. In this revelatory biography of a drug and the man who fought for its discovery, Brown crafts a captivating picture of modern medical history—revealing just how close we came to passing over this extraordinary cure.

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