Antidepressants increase the risk of suicide for some patients, study warns

2023-04-18 21:35:34
Antidepressants increase the risk of suicide for some patients, study warns

Antidepressants raise the risk of suicide while also giving people the means to kill themselves, scientists have warned, after discovering thousands of inquests linked to the drugs.

Psychologists at the University of East London (UEL) analysed media reports of nearly 8,000 coroners’ inquests in England and Wales between 2003 and 2020, in which antidepressants were mentioned.

They found the drugs were linked to 2,718 cases of hanging and 2,329 overdoses, of which 933 people had overdosed on antidepressants themselves.

A further 2,083 had been struck by a train, tube, lorry or other vehicle, had jumped or fallen to their death, drowned, shot themselves, or been involved in a fire or electrocution.

Experts said the figures were likely to be just the tip of the iceberg, because many suicides and inquests are not fully reported in the media.

Study author Dr John Read, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of East London, said: “Not only do antidepressants not reduce suicidality, but they also actually increase it for many, and for some they provide the mechanism for killing oneself.”

The research, which will be published in the journal Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, concluded: “If the goal is to prevent suicide, then clearly they are not working for thousands of people.”

Substantial growth in use

The prescribing of antidepressants has grown substantially in recent decades, with 83.4 million prescriptions issued to 8.3 million people in the UK in 2021/22, a five per cent increase from the previous year.

It means around one in six of the adult population in Britain takes antidepressants each year.

In recent years there has been growing evidence of a link to suicide. In 2018, Prof Read surveyed nearly 1,500 people taking antidepressants and found that 50 per cent reported suicidal thoughts after starting the drugs, while 60 per cent said they noticed a reduction in positive feelings.

A further 70 per cent said the drugs left them feeling detached and emotionally numb.

Private psychotherapist Marion Brown, said: “Whenever you hear of a suicide you wonder if there was a connection with these prescribed drugs, and all too often, as time goes on, the reports confirm that there likely was.

“An effect of the drugs is that people describe finding themselves completely unable to think of anything else except ending their lives.”

Increase in suicidal thoughts

Randomised controlled trials have shown an increase in suicidal thoughts and attempts in under-24s taking antidepressants compared to those given placebo.

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) currently carry warnings that they can increase suicidality for people up to the age of 25, but some studies suggest the risk includes all age groups.

Source: The Telegraph

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