Lithium — a drug commonly given to people diagnosed with bipolar disorder — appears to reduce libido and sexual function, according to a review of the scientific literature published in Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental. However, the team of University of Southampton researchers added that more methodical research is needed.
The researchers found only 13 relevant published papers that examined sexual function related to lithium use.
“Clinical reports suggest lithium may reduce sexual thoughts and desire, worsen erectile function and reduce sexual satisfaction,” wrote the researchers. “Concomitant benzodiazepine prescription with lithium is associated with an increased risk of sexual dysfunction. Sexual dysfunction during lithium treatment appears significantly associated with a lower level of overall functioning and may reduce compliance.”
In a report on the study, Pharmacy Times stated, “The preclinical studies shed light on the etiology of lithium-related sexual dysfunction, noting that the drug could significantly reduce testosterone levels and impair nitric oxide-mediated control of male erectile tissue.”
“The findings of this systematic review reveal the paucity of information about the incidence, associated factors and management of sexual dysfunction with lithium treatment and highlight the need for well-designed studies in this area,” concluded the researchers.
Elnazer, Hesham Y., Anthony Sampson, and David Baldwin. “Lithium and Sexual Dysfunction: An under-Researched Area.” Human Psychopharmacology: Clinical and Experimental 30, no. 2 (March 1, 2015): 66–69. doi:10.1002/hup.2457. (Abstract)
Lithium and Libido: Few Studies, Some Problems in Bipolar Patients (Pharmacy Times, February 12, 2015)