Lithium in Drinking Water and the Incidences of Crimes, Suicides, and Arrests Related to Drug Addictions

modified 2018-10-11

Lithium in Drinking Water and the Incidences of Crimes, Suicides, and Arrests Related to Drug Addictions

In short:

The level of lithium in municipal drinking water was compared with the crime rate, crime was lower when lithium was present.


Using data for 27 Texas counties from 1978-1987, it is shown that’ the incidence rates of suicide, homicide, and rape are significantly higher in counties whose drinking water supplies contain little or no lithium than in counties with water lithium levels ranging from 70- 170 I~g/L

These results suggest that lithium has moderating effects on suicidal and violent criminal behavior at levels that may be encountered in municipal water supplies.

Subject to confirmation by controlled experiments with high-risk populations, increasing the human lithium intakes by supplementation, or the lithiation of drinking water is suggested as a possible means of crime, suicide, and drug-dependency reduction at the individual and community level.

Questions raised:

What is the lithium content in the UK? does not say, have emailed asking for the level. (in the report: 70-170ug is high, 0-12ug is low)
What would the ethical considerations be if the government decided to raise the level of lithium in municipal water. It might reduce crime but might it also negatively effect individuals?

Insights, lessons learnt:

Waiting on the response from wessex [TODO]
There are many more environmental variables affecting us than we might realise.


Significant differences in the incidence rates of these crimes were also observed between high- and low-Li counties with similar population densities, as evidenced by the comparisons between the high-Li group A and low-Li Group D, in which the counties with the four largest cities (Dallas, Houston, Forth Worth, and San Antonio) are excluded. The differences were most significant with the incidences of homicide, rape, and suicide (p < 0.01)

In contrast, the incidence rates of arrests for possession of marijuana, driving under the influence, and drunkenness revealed either no consistent or only weak associations with drinking water lithium. No significant or consistent associations between the incidence rates of the crimes and socioeconomic parameters, such as annual income, were observed.

Lithium as the carbonate at therapeutic dosage (300 mg/d) has previously been used to control episodic outbreaks of rage among prisoners (10,11) and in the management of drug abusers (12). Animal experiments have demonstrated that lithium suppresses the cocaine-induced supersensitivity, as well as the supersensitivity induced by haloperidol, the kindling phenomenon following the chronic application of pentylenetetrazole, a central nervous system stimulant, and head-twitching in response to the administration of mescaline

It prevents behavioral alterations owing to social isolation, lowers aggressivity owing to confinement in isolated environments, and causes a normalization of spontaneous motor activity

Since the lithium content of foods is highly variable, some populations could have very low dietary lithium intakes. In other regions, substantial additional amounts of lithium may be obtained from the drinking water.

it is interesting to note that lower hair lithium levels have been observed in violent offenders than nonviolent controls [P. E. Cromwell, B., R. Abadie, J. T. Stephens, and M., Kyler, Psychol. Reports 64, 259 (1989)]

Because of the large variations of human dietary lithium intakes, controlled experiments with prisoners, drug addicts, or other subjects at risk of exhibiting aggressive or self-destructive behavior should now be conducted with lithium at dosage levels of about 2 mg/d, either by the addition of lithium to the drinking water or the administration of lithium in the form of supplements

would this pass ethical review?

It is possible that lithium at this low dosage, after sufficiently long periods of administration, will have a normalizing effect on behavior and additional beneficial effects in subjects that, as such, are not clinically mentally ill.

beneficial = reduced variance in behaviour, may or may not be good for each individual, likely good for society as a whole?

Subject to confirmation by controlled studies, low-dose lithium supplementation could become an effective method of violence reduction in institutionalized subjects. In the general population, the lithiation of the communal drinking water supplies could provide a simple, safe, and economical means of reducing the incidences of violent crimes, suicides, and the use of narcotic drugs.