Better living through chemistry – lithium, for a saner society

Paul Raven @ 04-05-2009

water tapsI like to think I’m mostly over my twenty-something’s obsession with conspiracy theories and government-as-competent-ubiquitous-control-system paranoia… but stories like this still hold the power to make me start thinking about where I left the tin-foil. You see, it turns out that populations who drink tap water that contains lithium are statistically less inclined to suicide; so, why don’t we engineer a happier society by giving everyone lithium?

High doses of lithium are already used to treat serious mood disorders.

But the team from the universities of Oita and Hiroshima found that even relatively low levels appeared to have a positive impact of suicide rates.

Levels ranged from 0.7 to 59 micrograms per litre. The researchers speculated that while these levels were low, there may be a cumulative protective effect on the brain from years of drinking this tap water.

At least one previous study has suggested an association between lithium in tap water and suicide. That research on data collected from the 1980s also found a significantly lower rate of suicide in areas with relatively high lithium levels.

A spokesperson from a mental health charity points out that:

“… lithium also has significant and an unpleasant side effects in higher doses, and can be toxic. Any suggestion that it should be added, even in tiny amounts, to drinking water should be treated with caution and researched very thoroughly.”

Or perhaps simply deployed on the quiet for the good of the nation; after all, if you wait until after the lithium has been soaking into the population to tell them about, they’re less likely to get upset about it. It’s all for their own good, poor lambs; best to shelter them from the miseries of reality as completely as possible. Think of it as a method of extending governance beyond its traditional border – the oh-so-intransigent skull.

Yeah, I know, there’s probably no Western government that could get away with it… but you can’t try to tell me there aren’t certain elements in the halls of power who’d find it a very appealing prospect nonetheless. [via Jamais Cascio on Twitter; image by koshyk]

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One Response to “Better living through chemistry – lithium, for a saner society”

  1. Dagonweb says:

    Ok cynical and abhorrent question (being devils advocate here – why exactly are high rates of suicides bad? What if there is a valid evolutionary reason for high rates of suicide?

    What if the impulse to commit suicide is (something like) a feedback mechanism that makes members of a tribal collective want to die – in situations of social exclusion, overpopulation, stress, inadequacy, not having a mate –

    Is such a question arguable pro/con in the current political climate? I mean, it’s a pretty nasty question.

    I am not in favor of people being miserable, but I also am in favor of people having the freedom to decide to die.