Fallacies and Truths of Psychopharmacology: Focus on Lithium
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Expires on Feb 17, 2026
Credit Offered
1 CME Credit
1 NCPD Credit
1 COP Credit

This lecture will describe aspects of the art and science of psychopharmacology, with special emphasis on correcting common misconceptions. It will be explained that medications can be used in one of two ways, either symptomatically or disease modifying. Symptomatic agents are like aspirin for a headache or Tylenol for a fever; they improve symptoms short term but do not alter the long-term course of the illness. Almost all psychaiatric medications, including antidepressants and antipsychotics, are symptomatic, and have no effect on the long-term diseases that underlie many psychiatric presentations. Disease modifying drugs improve the long-term course of illness, affect the pathogenesis of a disease (not just the biology of its symptoms) and, if very effective, reduce mortality. Only lithium among all psychiatric medications has these effects.   This fact will be explored in the context of the general philosophy of clinical medicine derived from Hippocrates, which has nothing to do with the false concept of “First do no harm", but rather is based on the view that symptom-oriented treatment is to be discouraged in favor of disease-oriented treatment. Implications of these observations for the use of psychiatric medications in clinical practice will be explored, with special emphasis on the disease-modifying effects of lithium. 


Enduring webinar 

Learning Objectives

  • Examine whether psychiatric medications are symptomatic or disease-modifying. 

  • Apply the historically accurate Hippocratic approach to medical practice, which discourages symptom-oriented treatment. 

  • Explore the implications of this approach to psychopharmacology in modern clinical practice with a focus on the disease-modifying effects of lithium in prevention of suicide and dementia. 

Target Audience

Nurse/Nurse Practitioner, Psychiatrist, Pharmacist, Physician (Non-Psychiatrist), Physician Assistant, Psychologist, Social Worker 

Instructional Level

Introductory, Intermediate, Advanced

Estimated Time to Complete

Estimated Duration: 1.0 hour 
Program Start Date: February 17, 2023
Program End Date: February 17, 2026

Ongoing Interdisciplinary Discussion Board

After completing the course, engage with colleagues in the mental health field through SMI Adviser's Webinar Roundtable Topics discussion board. This is an easy way to network and share ideas with other clinicians who participate in this webinar. Access through the discussion tab.

How to Earn Credit 

Participants who wish to earn AMA PRA Category 1 Credit™, nursing continuing professional development contact hours (NCPD, formerly CNE), or a certificate of participation may do so by viewing the live presentation and completing the evaluation. After evaluating the program, course participants will be provided with an opportunity to claim hours of participation and print an official CME certificate (physicians), NCPD (nurses), or certificate of participation (other disciplines) showing the event date and hours earned.   

Continuing Education Credit 

In support of improving patient care, the American Psychiatric Association is jointly accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME), the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), and the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), to provide continuing education for the healthcare team. 


The APA designates this live event for a maximum of 1.0 AMA PRA Category 1 Credits™. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. 

Nurses/Nurse Practitioners 

The American Psychiatric Nurses Association is accredited as a provider of nursing continuing professional development by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation. 

Planning Committee and Faculty Disclosures

The American Psychiatric Association adheres to the ACCME’s Standards for Integrity and Independence in Accredited Continuing Medical Education. Any individuals in a position to control the content of a CME activity — including faculty, planners, reviewers or others — are required to disclose all relevant financial relationships with ineligible entities (commercial interests). All relevant conflicts of interest have been mitigated prior to the commencement of the activity.

Faculty Disclosures

  • Nassir Ghaemi, MD, is the Director of the Mood Disorder Program and the Psychopharmacology Consultation Clinic at Tufts Medical Center and a professor at Tufts University School of Medicine. Dr. Ghaemi’s clinical work and research has focused on depression and manic-depressive illness, particularly in exploring the role of antidepressants in the treatment of bipolar disorder. Dr. Ghaemi serves on a number of editorial boards of psychiatric journals, is a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, and is the former chairman of the Diagnostic Guidelines Task Force of the International Society for Bipolar Disorders (ISBD). He is board certified in Psychiatry and Neurology. Dr. Ghaemi discloses past employment: Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, October 2017- June 2021​. 

Planning Committee

  • Teri Brister, PhD, LPC, National Alliance on Mental Illness. Dr. Brister has no relevant financial relationships to disclose.  
  • John Torous, MD, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. Dr. Torous has no relevant financial relationships to disclose. 
  • Donna Rolin, PhD, APRN, University of Texas at Austin. Dr. Rolin has no financial relationships to disclose. 

Accessibility for Participants with Disabilities

The American Psychiatric Association is committed to ensuring accessibility of its website to people with disabilities. If you have trouble accessing any of APA’s online resources, please contact us at 202-559-3900 for assistance.

Technical Requirements

This internet-based CME activity is best experienced using any of the following:

  • The latest and 2nd latest public versions of Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, or Safari

  • Internet Explorer 11+

This Web site requires that JavaScript and session cookies be enabled. Certain activities may require additional software to view multimedia, presentation, or printable versions of the content. These activities will be marked as such and will provide links to the required software. That software may be: Adobe Acrobat Reader, Microsoft PowerPoint, and Windows Media Player.

Optimal System Configuration:

  • Browser: Google Chrome (latest and 2nd latest version), Safari (latest and 2nd latest version), Internet Explorer 11.0+, Firefox (latest and 2nd latest version), or Microsoft Edge (latest and 2nd latest version)

  • Operating System: Windows versions 8.1+, Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) +, Android (latest and 2nd latest version), or iOS/iPad OS (latest and 2nd latest version)

  • Internet Connection: 1 Mbps or higher

Minimum Requirements:

  • Windows PC: Windows 8.1 or higher; 1 GB (for 32-bit)/2 GB (for 64-bit) or higher RAM; Microsoft DirectX 9 graphics device with WDDM driver; audio playback with speakers for programs with video content

  • Macintosh: Mac OS X 10.5 or higher with latest updates installed; Intel, PowerPC G5, or PowerPC G4 (867MHz or faster) processor; 512 MB or higher RAM; audio playback with speakers for programs with video content

For assistance: Contact educme@psych.org for questions about this activity | Contact smiadviserhelp@psych.org for technical assistance

Funding for SMI Adviser was made possible by Grant No. SM080818 from SAMHSA of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The contents are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the official views of, nor an endorsement by, SAMHSA/HHS or the U.S. Government.
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