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Antidepressants decrease suicide risk!

A recent study has shown that taking antidepressants decreases the risk of serious suicide attempts.

entertainment Updated: Jan 02, 2006 18:18 IST

A recent study has shown that taking antidepressants decreases the risk of serious suicide attempts, or death by suicide in the weeks after patients start taking the medication

The study, led by Group Health Cooperative researchers, challenges a 2004 advisory by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which warned that suicidal behaviour may emerge after treatment with the newer antidepressant drugs has begun.

The study is based on the computerised medical and pharmacy records for more than 65,000 patients who filled prescriptions for antidepressants from 1992 to 2003.

Greg Simon, MD, MPH, a Group Health psychiatrist and the lead researcher on the study, said that according to the new findings, antidepressants lowered the number of suicide attempts as well as death by suicide cases.

"Our findings show that, fortunately, suicide attempts and death by suicide are rare following the initiation of antidepressants. The period right after people start taking antidepressant medication is not a period of increased risk. In fact, risk after starting medication is lower than before," he said.

According to the results of the study, the number of suicide attempts fell by 60 percent in adults during the month after antidepressant treatment began, and declined further in the following five months. The study also found that newer antidepressants were associated with a faster decline in rates of suicidal behaviour than older drugs.

Among the 65,103 patients taking antidepressants, there were 31 completed suicides in the six months following the antidepressant prescription. That rate was not higher in the one month after the prescription than in subsequent months.

In the case of adolescents, the researchers found that teenagers had tried to commit suicide more often than adults. They found that the rate for the first six months of antidepressant treatment was 314 attempts per 100,000 in teens while in adults it was 78 attempts per 100,000. As with adults, the rate was highest in the month before treatment and declined by about 60 percent after treatment began.

Dr Simon said that though there were cases of people becoming more agitated after taking antidepressant medication, the study showed that on an average the suicide rate had dropped. He further added that the FDA s recommendations that doctors carefully monitor people taking antidepressants should be followed to ensure that people are getting the right type of medication.

"There may be subgroups of people who become more agitated or suicidal after taking these drugs. But our study showed that on average, the risk of suicide actually goes down after people start taking the antidepressant. Keeping a close watch on patients after they begin taking these drugs is a good idea--although not because these medicines are especially risky or dangerous. Patients need to be monitored to ensure they're getting the right medication in the amount that can help them feel better," he said.

The study is published in the January issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry.

First Published: Jan 02, 2006 18:18 IST