Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


New UCLA study disputes antidepressant/suicide link


Scientists fear rise in deaths from untreated depression

Challenging recent claims linking antidepressant use to suicidal behavior, a new UCLA study shows that American suicide rates have dropped steadily since the introduction of Prozac and other serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) drugs. Published in the February edition of the journal Nature Reviews Drug Discovery, the authors caution that regulatory actions to limit SSRI prescriptions may actually increase death rates from untreated depression, the No. 1 cause of suicide.

"The recent debate has focused solely on a possible link between antidepressant use and suicide risk without examining the question within a broader historical and medical context," explained Dr. Julio Licinio, a professor of psychiatry and endocrinology at the David Geffen School of Medicine and a researcher at the UCLA Neuropsychiatric Institute. "We feared that the absence of treatment may prove more harmful to depressed individuals than the effects of the drugs themselves."

"The vast majority of people who commit suicide suffer from untreated depression," he added. "We wanted to explore a possible SSRI-suicide link while ensuring that effective treatment and drug development for depression were not halted without cause."

Licinio worked with fellow psychiatrist Dr. Ma-Ling Wong to conduct an exhaustive database search of studies published between 1960 and 2004 on antidepressants and suicide. The team reviewed each piece of research in great detail and created a timeline of key regulatory events related to antidepressants. Then they generated charts tracking antidepressant use and suicide rates in the United States.

What they found surprised them.

"Suicide rates rose steadily from 1960 to 1988 when Prozac, the first SSRI drug, was introduced," said Licinio. "Since then, suicide rates have dropped precipitously, sliding from the 8th to the 11th leading cause of death in the United States."

Several large-scale studies in the United States and Europe also screened blood samples from suicide victims and found no association between antidepressant use and suicide.

"Researchers found blood antidepressant levels in less than 20 percent of suicide cases," said Licinio. "This implies that the vast majority of suicide victims never received treatment for their depression."

"Our findings strongly suggest that these individuals who committed suicide were not reacting to their SSRI medication," he added. "They actually killed themselves due to untreated depression. This was particularly true in men and in people under 30."

Licinio and Wong fear that overzealous regulatory and medical reaction, public confusion and widespread media coverage may persuade people to stop taking antidepressants altogether. They warn that this would result in a far worse situation by causing a drop in treatment for people who actually need it.

The UCLA study also looked at other reasons that may contribute to suicidal behavior by people taking SSRIs for depression.

Before the introduction of SSRIs, patients taking early drug treatments for depression were susceptible to overdoses and serious side effects, such as irregular heart rates and blood pressure increases. As a result, doctors prescribed the drugs in small doses and followed patients closely.

In contrast, toxic side effects are rare in SSRIs. Physicians often prescribe the drugs in larger doses and may not see the patient again for up to two months. This scenario, Licinio warns, can set the stage for suicide risk.

"When people start antidepressant therapy, the first symptom to be alleviated is low energy, but the feeling that life isn’t worth living is the last to go," he said. "Prior to taking SSRIs, depressed people may not have committed suicide due to their extreme lethargy. As they begin drug therapy, they experience more energy, but still feel that life isn’t worth living. That’s when a depressed person is most in danger of committing suicide."

Licinio stresses the need for even closer monitoring of SSRI use by children.

"The only antidepressant proven to be effective for treating children with depression is Prozac," he said. "Children should receive Prozac only and should be followed very closely by their physicians during treatment."

Elaine Schmidt | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Studies and Analyses:

nachricht Rutgers-led innovation could spur faster, cheaper, nano-based manufacturing
14.02.2018 | Rutgers University

nachricht New study from the University of Halle: How climate change alters plant growth
12.01.2018 | Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg

All articles from Studies and Analyses >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>