Suicide Prevention Week: Antidepressants increase risk of suicidal thoughts and actions, researchers and FDA find

The FDA requires a warning about the increased risk of suicidal thoughts and actions for children and young adults up to age 25 who take antidepressants.

young woman taking pill

According to the researchers, antidepressants given to healthy adult volunteers with no signs of depression doubled the risk of suicide.

Citizens Commission for Human Rights

Recent research confirms what the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) has been warning about since the late 1980s: the theory of a chemical imbalance in the brain causing a mental disorder has no scientific basis.

Recent research finds no scientific basis for the chemical imbalance theory of depression and questions the basis for taking antidepressants.

Recent data suggests that the increase in antidepressant prescriptions is linked to more suicide attempts among young people and more completed suicides among American children and adolescents.

— Glen I. Spielmans, PhD, Professor of Psychology

WASHINGTON, DC, USA, Sept. 8, 2022 / — During National Suicide Prevention Week, the increased risk of suicide from psychiatric medications – especially antidepressants – should not be overlooked. Although antidepressants are prescribed to relieve depression, the drugs carry risks of worsening depression and suicidal thoughts and actions. The FDA website lists “suicidal thoughts” as one of the “serious risks” of antidepressants.

The main rationale for prescribing antidepressants – to remedy a supposed lack of serotonin or other brain chemicals thought to be the cause of depression – has been called into question by research published in July. The review of reviews, led by Joanna Moncrieff, MD, a British psychiatrist and academic at University College London, concluded that after decades of brain research there is still no scientific evidence to support the theory that a low level of serotonin causes depression. [1]

“Our comprehensive review of the major strands of serotonin research shows that there is no compelling evidence that depression is associated with or caused by lower serotonin concentrations or activity,” the researchers wrote. “It also challenges the basis for the use of antidepressants.”

Some 45 million Americans who take antidepressants based on this unproven theory are now able to ask their doctor or other prescriber about taking these drugs and, if they decide to stop taking them, to get help to slowly taper off the drugs because of the substantial risk of withdrawal symptoms.

The FDA first took action on the increased risk of suicide from antidepressants in 2004, after drug trials found that children and adolescents taking selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants were almost twice as likely to have suicidal thoughts or attempt suicide as those given placebos. . The FDA has required that a black box label be placed on drugs to warn of this increased risk. In 2007, the FDA expanded the warning to include young adults ages 18 to 24.

More recent research has reconfirmed the validity of the black box warning. Glen I. Spielmans, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Metropolitan State University in Minneapolis, conducted a study that analyzed data from clinical trials of antidepressants to investigate critics’ accusation that the warning of the black box had led to more suicides among young people because fewer children were taking the drugs.

“Recent data suggest that the increase in antidepressant prescriptions is linked to more suicide attempts among young people and more suicides among American children and adolescents,” the researchers concluded, writing in Frontiers in Psychiatry in 2020. [2]

“Based on the sum of this evidence, regulatory warnings about antidepressant-related suicidality are clearly warranted,” they wrote, adding, “When a clear body of evidence indicates increased treatment-related risk, patients and health care providers should be informed of these risks.

An earlier study from Denmark in 2016 also confirmed the risk of antidepressants for children and adolescents. Researchers from the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen analyzed data from 70 clinical trials of antidepressants and concluded that the drugs doubled the risk of suicide in children and adolescents. [3]

In 2006, some 3.3 million children under the age of 25 were taking antidepressants. By 2020, that number had grown to over 5.6 million, an increase of over 70%. In addition to the number of children on antidepressants, the number of suicides among young people has increased in this country. In 2006, a total of 4,408 children under the age of 25 committed suicide, including 219 deaths among children aged 14 or younger. In 2019, the number had increased by 47% to 6,500 suicides, including 546 committed by children aged 14 or younger, an increase of almost 150%.

Although the FDA has not extended the black box warning on antidepressants to adults, research has supported such an extension of the warning.

In 2016, Andreas Bielefeldt led a team of researchers in a systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials in which SSRI and SNRI (serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor) antidepressants were administered to healthy adult volunteers with no signs of depression. They found that “antidepressants double the risk of suicide and violence.” Due to lack of access to data in some relevant trials, they noted that the harms of antidepressants were undoubtedly underestimated. [4]

Consumers have the right to be informed of the risk of antidepressants causing worsening of depression and suicidal thoughts and actions. Without this vital information, they cannot make fully informed decisions with their doctor regarding the treatment of depression.

The Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) has also long recommended that people with depression ask their doctor for a complete physical examination with lab tests to uncover any underlying physical conditions that may be at risk. origin of mental symptoms that would otherwise be misdiagnosed as mental disorders. Many prescription drugs, including antidepressants, are known causes of depression, and a doctor should reevaluate whether to continue prescribing the drugs.

WARNING: Anyone wishing to discontinue an antidepressant is cautioned to do so only under the supervision of a physician due to potentially dangerous withdrawal symptoms.

CCHR was co-founded in 1969 by members of the Church of Scientology and the late psychiatrist and humanitarian Thomas Szasz, MD, recognized by many scholars as the most authoritative critic of modern psychiatry, to eradicate abuses and restore the human rights and dignity in mental health. health. CCHR has been instrumental in securing 228 laws that protect mental health patients from psychiatric abuse and human rights violations around the world.

CCHR’s National Affairs Office in Washington, DC, has advocated for mental health rights at the state and federal levels. The CCHR traveling exhibit, which toured 441 major cities around the world and educated more than 800,000 people on the history of abusive and racist psychiatric practices to the present day, was shown in Washington, D.C., during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation Annual Legislative Conference and other Locations.





Anne Goedeke
Citizens Commission for Human Rights, Office of National Affairs
+1 202-349-9267
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CCHR: Antidepressant Warning