Suicide Attempts Rise with Antidepressants

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Byline: Joyce Howard Price, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Suicidal patients taking antidepressants have a "markedly increased" risk of additional suicide attempts but a "markedly decreased" risk of dying from suicide, a large Finnish study has found.

The research into nearly 15,400 patients hospitalized for suicide attempts between 1997 and 2003 showed that "current antidepressant use was associated with a 39 percent increase in risk of attempted suicide, but a 32 percent decrease in risk of completed suicide and a 49 percent reduced risk of death from any cause," the authors wrote in a report published in the Dec. 4 issue of Archives of General Psychiatry.

Dr. Jari Tiihonen and colleagues at the University of Kuopio and Niuvanniemi Hospital in Kuopio, Finland, pointed out that major depression is the "most important risk factor for suicidal behavior" but that the role of antidepressant medications in preventing or causing suicide has been uncertain.

Until now, they said, "it has not been possible to demonstrate that the use of antidepressant medication decreases the risk of suicide," despite extensive research.

Much of the debate over this question has focused on a category of relatively new but widely used antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Last year, the Food and Drug Administration issued a "black-box warning" the most serious type in prescription-drug labeling for all SSRIs. The administration says the drugs have the potential to promote suicidal thoughts in children. It also advises close monitoring of all patients taking SSRIs, after some recent scientific reports warned that adults receiving these medications also may be at increased risk for suicidal behavior. …