Antidepressants Increase Suicidal Thoughts in People Under 25
People under the age of 25 who take antidepressants have a higher risk of suicide, but adults older than that do not run the same risk according to a new Food & Drug Administration (FDA) analysis. In October 2004, the U.S. FDA directed the manufacturers of all antidepressant medications to add a "black box" warning that describes the increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior in children and adolescents. This "black box" warning is the strongest prescription drug labeling that the government can order.
For decades, some physicians have suspected that young people may have increased thoughts of suicide when they first began taking antidepressants however; many psychiatrists have criticized the warnings, saying they scare people away from effective treatment for depression, which is the leading cause of suicide.
The FDA analysis by Dr Marc Stone, Dr Thomas Laughren and colleagues, involved a review of data from eight different drug makers on 372 clinical trials involving nearly 100,000 adults. Basically they found the risk of suicide was "strongly age-dependent," with higher risks in people under 25 and lower risks in people 65 and older. They also support the concept that antidepressant drugs can have two distinct effects. That is, in some patients, they can promote suicidal thoughts and this risk seems to lessen with age. In others, the drugs provide relief from depression, reducing the risk of suicide. Researchers suggest more research is needed to understand these differences.
The FDA is trying to take steps to make people under 25 who take antidepressant safe. In addition to the black box warning, the FDA has also announced that it is in the process of developing a user-friendly patient medication guide which will be given to people taking these drugs. In addition, because antidepressants increase suicidal thoughts in people under 25, parents will be advised to look for warning signs in children, including worsening depression, agitation, irritability, and unusual changes in behavior.
Scientist who stand behind the FDA study suggest that it doesn't mean that these drugs shouldn't be given to young adults, rather, people need to think about the risks and the benefits. The findings of this study suggest that antidepressants increase suicidal thoughts in people under 25 so to watch people carefully. If someone on antidepressants talks of being suicidal, it may actually be due to the drugs and the prescribing physician may have to change the dosage or discontinue the medication.
If you know of someone who is suicidal please contact your local mental health agency.