Mental Health

Antidepressants Fail to Prevent Suicide

by Staff

A large study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, suggests that the use of antidepressants accounts for only a 10% decrease in suicide rates among the middle aged and elderly.  Read on to find out more about this study, but keep in mind that this is only one study and that most doctors will tell you that antidepressants are essential in recovering from depression and help to prevent suicide in many people.  Therefore, never skip or stop medication without first consulting with your doctor.

Falling Suicide Rates

Around the world, more than 800,000 people commit suicide every year. These numbers have been falling in many countries, and the decrease has been attributed to greater vigilance by medical professionals in diagnosing depression along with the more common acceptance and usage of antidepressants, in particular, those in the newest class of these drugs, the serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs).

Now, however, these assumptions are being thrown into question due to this newest study involving more than 2 million Danes aged 50 and older, and living in Denmark from 1996-2000.

Researchers analyzed changes in suicide rates for middle aged and older people during this time period, noting the types of antidepressant drugs they had been prescribed. The data showed that only one in five suicides had been taking antidepressants at the time of death.

The overall suicide rates in elderly men fell during this time period by almost 10 in 100,000; however, in those being treated with antidepressants, the decrease in suicide was less than one. In older women, the decrease in the annual suicide rate during this time frame was 3.3 per 100,000, but only 0.4 of those women were being treated with antidepressants at the time of their suicides.

While the type of antidepressant medication had little bearing on these rates, men taking SSRIs had a slight increase in suicide over those taking tricyclics.

Perhaps the most shocking discovery was the fact that suicide rates were five to six times higher in those being treated with antidepressants than in those who were not being treated with such medication.

Earlier Scandinavian and U.S. studies had suggested that increasing the use of antidepressants by fivefold would lead to a 25% reduction in suicide rates, with SSRIs attributed to having saved upwards of 33,000 lives, say the authors of this newest study.

Soaring Sales

Soaring sales of antidepressants in Denmark show that 8.4 in 1000 people used antidepressants in 1990 while 52.2 were prescribed such medication in 2000. Suicide rates among older people have fallen to less than half what they were, from 52.2 in 1980, to 22.1 per 100,000 of the population in 2000. A glance at these statistics suggests a correlation between medication and decreased suicide rates, but the authors of the Danish study have had to conclude that current antidepressant treatment accounts for only a fraction of the decrease in suicide rates among older people.


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