Anti depressants: Do they really make sufferers feel more suicidal?

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From ‘making shrimp act crazy‘ to ‘men taking them in order to improve their sex lives‘, there have been all sorts of claims thrown about regarding the use of antidepressants and their potential to cause more harm than good. Perhaps the most delicate of all these controversies however, is the notion that they induce in sufferers one of the main things they are taken to prevent. Namely suicidal thoughts – and even worse, a strong desire to act on said thoughts.

From what was initially began as the FDA (Food and Drugs Administration ) considering how antidepressants may have such a negative effect on the mind in a public hearing back in the 1990s, this alarming revelation is one that has been gaining momentum in recent years. Take a recent article in the Telegraph which makes the claim that antidepressants actually raise the risk of suicide. According to the boldly worded piece, scientists found that ‘pharmaceutical companies had regularly misclassified deaths and suicidal events in people taking anti-depressants to favour their products’, which really muddies the waters when it comes to the moral obligation of such companies to protect and save lives .

“It is absolutely horrendous that they have such disregard for human lives.”

(Professor Peter Gøtzsche on pharmaceutical companies )

Indeed, while the NHS is critical of the said article’s sensationalism, it does concede that it is worrying how researchers’ ‘are unable to tell the true extent of harms from antidepressants, because of poor data collection and availability’, although the same piece also concludes that ‘according to the data we do have, it is likely that for many people, the benefits of antidepressant treatment will outweigh the risks’. However this doesn’t take away from the fact that, for some people at the very least,by taking these drugs there is a real risk of them attempting to commit suicide.

“Drug companies routinely blame suicides on the depression that was being treated, not the drugs — but the experiences of patients treated with the same drugs for non-mental indications like pain and the experiences of healthy volunteers cannot be written off as the “disease.”

(SSRI Antidepressants Put Patients at Clear Risk of Suicide)

 

One of the earliest instances whereby SSRI’s were suspected of causing more harm than good occurred in 1989, when a man named Joseph T. Wesbecker entered his former workplace, Standard Gravure, killed eight people, injured 12 and committed suicide thereafter . This all happened after he had been prescribed Prozac. A lawsuit was filed against Lily and company – the manufacturers of the drug. However the law decided to side with the pharmaceutical company over the bereaved family members of the victims.

While this is only one single, isolated case it all links back to the worrying notion that we, the public, are not being given total transparency when it comes to the potential dangers of these drugs.

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So are we really being given all of the facts?

Dr. David Healy, professor of psychiatry at Bangor University ,made a valid point when he stated:

‘If we were getting our drug information from The New York Times instead of medical journals, we would all be a lot safer. When the Times reporter Jayson Blair was found to have fabricated stories, he was history.

But the editors and writers involved with journal fraud still have their jobs and the articles are not even retracted’

Indeed, he even goes as far as to suggest that as many as 1,000 to 2,000 Americans on SSRIs kill themselves each year, when they otherwise would not have done so.  While it is difficult to say with any certainty that this statement is completely true, it does suggest how pharmaceutical companies are not held to account as much as they should be. With such organisations being seemingly beyond criticism and reproach, there is unlikely to be a significant shift in the way in which the information about these drugs are presented to the general public.

On the other hand, one thing that the medical community does agree on is that prescription of antidepressants for under 18s should be strictly and scrutinised. Indeed, so precarious is this danger that it is recommended that this type of medication should only be prescribed as a last resort to this particular demographic, after other forms of treatment, such as exercise and therapy, do not have a positive impact.

The risk of suicide appears to be increased in people of this age group when they take antidepressants. The exact reason why is still unknown, although some past studies show that children who start antidepressants may become more irritated and violent, thus increasing the likelihood that they will carry out high risk actions either towards others or themselves.

 

Some things to consider

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-According to the most recent NHS guidance, it cites research showing antidepressants are indeed not as beneficial for mild depression as for moderate and severe depression, so this should be taken into account before you decide to start a course of SSRIs.

-It is also important to remember that it can take up to eight weeks for SSRI’s to build up in the brain and body to the point they can affect mood. So as tempting as it might be to dismiss your medication for not being effective, it might be worth persevering a little longer to see whether this is actually the case.

-While on any of form of antidepressant, it is advised that you closely monitor yourself for any drastic changes in your mood and perhaps ask your family and friends to do the same.While some of it will due to the nature of your mental illness, it could potentially be the antidepressants having an adverse effect rather than a beneficial one

-It’s also worth keeping in mind that depression by itself raises the risk of suicide. While it is obviously a risk for some people to begin a course of antidepressants, it can be argued that, for a lot of people, it is one that pays off in the long term.

Do I or don’t I?

So on the whole, it would seem as though the claim that taking antidepressants raises the risk of suicide is based on evidence that has many variables. The only common factor amongst the data available is that those under the  age of 18  are particularly at risk (particularly when it comes to Prozac). Whether the same can be said for adults is currently up for debate.

I do not wish people to interpret any of this as an attempt of fear-mongering. Indeed, there is sufficient evidence available that for a large amount of people, this kind of medication can be hugely beneficial.

Professor Steve Bazire says that ‘a crucial distinction must be made between suicidal ideation (suicidal thoughts) and actually committing and completing suicide’ and reminded researchers to take into account that ‘overall, antidepressants do reduce the overall completed suicide rate’ and this is supported by various national studies. So from a universal perspective, it can be argued that taking SSRIs is a risk that is worth it for the majority of people.

In the end, you just have to make a choice.

Just make it an informed one.

 

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Are you currently being prescribed antidepressants? Is the controversy surrounding these drugs justified or has the whole affair been overblown? I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts and ideas on this subject!

As a disclaimer of sorts I do not claim to be a medical professional. Nor am I endorsing or rejecting the use of anti depressants as a form of treatment for mental illness. All of the following is based off my own knowledge, research and opinion.

 

15 thoughts on “Anti depressants: Do they really make sufferers feel more suicidal?

  1. My experience on anti-depressants resonates with these concerns. One of the worst side effects I had on the anti-depressants was the suicidal thoughts, and when transitioning the type of anti-depressants I was taking, the combination of whatever I was taking meant I ended up going to A&E for harming myself. I respect the right of every individual to chose whether or not to take anti-depressants, but increased suicidal thought are definitely a side effect to be wary of.

    I also think it is very difficult to monitor what kind of changes you go through when on this medication. We are told to tell our doctors if we notice any of the side effects, particularly suicidal thoughts, but when I was going through it, I didn’t realise it was a side effect of the medication. I was too wrapped up in the thoughts and how bad I was feeling to be able to discern the cause of the emotions.

    I have also done a little bit of research into the overall effectiveness of these types of drugs, and I am now rather sceptical about whether they are actually doing much good. I think we should be cautious, especially when big pharma is involved, as to whether the drugs we are taking are good for us, or good for their wallets. Anyway, great post, it’s something I have been meaning to cover on my own blog for a while now.

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    1. Hi Lusuna. Thanks for the detailed response! Hearing from someone who has actually experienced suicidal thoughts because of taking antidepressants is very eye opening. I hope you are in a better place mentally now. I assume that you no longer take the drugs?

      Yes I tend to agree. I’ve been on Prozac myself for the past couple of months. It’s hard to say whether those moments where suicidal thoughts do cross my mind are because of the drug or not. The only real indicator I have is when my family or friends tell me that there has been a shift in my attitude/behaviour. Even then that information is of limited use. Though it is an indicator of whether the anti depressants are actually effective or not on some level I suppose. But yes you’re correct – some scepticism must be present when starting on any course of these kind of drugs.

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  2. I discussed this matter with my counselor last year. Her theory is that antidepressants do not increase thoughts of suicide, but that with the boost in emotional energy provided by antidepressants, people who were considering suicide now find the energy to carry through their plan, whereas before the thoughts were there but the energy to act on them was missing. It’s a possibility. J.

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    1. Hi J. I have to say that your counselor has an interesting theory about this subject. It would certainly make sense. I guess if it turns out to be true prescribing antidepressants would have to come after a rigorous inspection of the person’s mental state and whether the drugs are suitable for them. Even then there is no guarantee that the depressed person in question would not make an attempt on their own lives thereafter. It’s all very tricky isn’t it?

      Thanks for your comment! 🙂

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  3. Everybody is different. But there is negativity regarding anti-depressants that I think is unfair. Maybe not for everyone, fair enough, but I know if I weren’t on mine – I’d be dead.

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    1. Hi Awa. Yes I tend to agree that we need to avoid demonising these drugs, even if for some people they potentially cause a lot more harm than good. Especially as there are many others like yourself out there who need them in order to live a healthy and fulfilling life.

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  4. I’ve been taking antidepressants for around 15 years. I was having suicidal thoughts before I took the medication and had severe depression. The pills helped me very much. My granddaughter has OCD and was given antidepressants. She became violent. This was when she was 4 or 5 yrs. old. They stopped them immediately. She was very ill with OCD until she was 14. She finally got better and is doing well.

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    1. Hi BelleUnruh. Firstly It’s good to hear that your granddaughter is doing much better now. Sadly it does indicate that prescribing antidepressants to adolescents is something of a major risk. It can’t have been an easy choice either way however.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. i had 2 grandaughters take there life, and both were on the same antidepresion meds. the first one was suicidel manytimes and sent in hospitals alot she was my step grandaughter so i dont know her whole story. well one night she finnaly succeded in doing it, she hung herself about 3 am in the garage she was 16. latter as years went buy about 6 years my grandaughter confessed of being sexually abusedshe was 11 and it started when she was 5 thru all of this she sunk into depresion and they started treatment with her counseling and meds (the same kind her other sister was on) she started actting out and saying she was gonna kill herself her day went to drs. and said i dont want her on the meds and he said his step daughter killed herself on those meds. Well as the state had gotten involved because of first sister killing herself and then the sex abuse, they said that they had no choice that he had to have his daughter take the meds or it would be child abuse on him so they uped the dose, then his wife went and told them no taker her off she is getting worse they again said no and then put her in a mental hospital for two weeks and all that time she kept repeatting she was gonna kill herself she just turned 12. they let her go home knowing she still wanted to kill herself. still taking the same drug three days latter at about the same time 3 am in the same garage and in the same way she hung herself. and my 10 year old grandaughter her younger sister, found her befor going to school. my heart hurts but i am so angry with theses medical pep and child protection pep, i hope they can take them to court and have that law changed and thoes profesionals lose there licence . no, i think never should a docter give children antidepressants she just turned 12 she was a baby.

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  5. I have suffered with severe depression and anxiety for most of my life, having been formally diagnosed with major depressive disorder, general anxiety disorder and bipolar disorder as a teenager. I began taking SSRIs at the age of 16, not being aware of any information, positive or negative, regarding research and proper indications. However, that was in 1998. I stayed on Zoloft for ten years, and while I struggled to pay for my prescription (this was years before generic availability), I found I was able to live a productive life. I could not be without my medication, as a small percent of the population of patients prescribed could suffer severe reactions for suddenly stopping the medication. I was lucky enough to be apart of that small percentage. I remember thinking I was dying because I stopped taking my meds, at over $150.00 a month I couldn’t afford it. I was so ill, dizzy, extreme vertigo, no ability to focus, as well as my moods being out of control. I finally went to a Dr. and he informed me that I should not have stopped taking my medication, as it was a strong possibility of seizure. That Doctor helped me taper off my medication safely.

    Unfortunately, he wasn’t a psychiatrist. It was another eight years of torment and trauma, poor decisions, and a downward spiral toward the worst depression of my life. I began taking Zoloft, Wellbutrin and some others before sticking to just Zoloft and Wellbutrin. These medications, along with behavioral and talk therapy have helped me to regain perspective and the beginning of a productive-ish life.

    I have found that it should never be one or none. There needs to be a plan and there should always be more than just medication. We live in a world where we can take a pill for everything. That isn’t a long-term solution for most people. I happen to be one of the people who have found success in SSRIs.

    As was stated in the article, there are many factors to be accounted for and some which cannot, like individual brain chemistry, As well as the instances of individuals taking medication as prescribed, other lifestyle choices; drug abuse, alcohol consumption and the simple fact that people deal with stressors in a multitude of ways. I feel like individual perception is also a factor because each person may react differently, chaotically, and in ways not anticipated by researchers, doctors, or even themselves.

    It’s my belief, and experience, that the most positive way people can assist themselves is to be informed, educated to the illness, medication options, risks and benefit and advocate for themselves. Obviously, this is only helpful if a person is even capable of making decisions. It is an entirely different matter for those individuals who are incapable of presiding over their own health needs, either because of a deteriorated mental state or through simple unavailability of mental health options.

    I enjoyed the article and I’m a big proponent of people being able to see all angles and information to assist in better decision making for their own health.
    Also, I’m sorry if this doesn’t make sense. I didn’t have time to proof read or spell check and I probably added too many commas, but thanks for the thought-provoking article.

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    1. Hi Erin.

      Firstly thank you for the detailed and enlightening response to my article. I do appreciate the time and effort you must have put into it. Sorry for my somewhat delayed response. Christmas and the family events that come with it have kept me busy!

      By the sounds of it you’ve had a very difficult ride in regards to finding the right medication and kind of help to suit your needs. It makes me realise that I’m very fortunate in that I seem to have found the right medication that keeps me going in life (Prozac at present). I am also currently attempting to get CBT therapy and curb my excessive alcohol consumption, so obviously I agree that medication alone is not sufficient for most people’s mental health issues. Until then I will continue to try and live a healthy lifestyle and blog more regularly on here.

      Though I am glad to hear that you seem to be on a better path at present. I also really like your point regarding other unforeseeable factors that researchers would be unable to predict, such as perspective and what not. I hadn’t really considered that before!

      Thanks for commenting and . You’ve given me a lot to think about 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. It’s ok, I understand completely. The holidays are always busy and can be unpredictable.

        Thank you, for responding to my comment! I enjoy your blog, so I hope you are able to post more articles. It’s nice to be able to see from where other people come and where they are headed in regard to similar issues, diagnosis and medication/therapies.

        I would be interested to get your views on CBT therapy, when and if you decide to try that, just out of curiosity.
        I’m glad you were able to find a medication that is working for you. Some people struggle much worse than I did to find a balance. It was difficult for me, because along with chronic depression and anxiety, I also began a long struggle with addiction and alcoholism. The addition didn’t become rampant until I got off of my medication in my early twenties.

        I’m one who believes it was always there, addiction and depression, for me anyway. Mental illness and addiction often go hand in hand, but that’s probably a whole other article. 🙂

        I know that these illness I’ve struggled with will always be with me, but they no longer dictate in which direction I go. I’m not ashamed or afraid of them anymore, which is a freedom I never thought I could have. I am lucky to have just acknowledged two years sober, and I couldn’t have done that without addressing my mental illness. For me, it’s way more than just brain chemistry. A huge part was also addressing and accepting past trauma…
        I’m sorry, I’m just going on and on. I ramble and digress. I look forward to reading more of your blog. Thank you for your encouraging response. 🙂

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    1. Thanks so much -that is high praise indeed! I only wish that my output could be more regular at times! 🙂

      Also I really like your blog! Your latest entry is spot on in regards to victim blaming and the need for self determination and the ability to move on from narcissistic people and the poison they spout. It sounds like you’ve had a fair share of it with your own family. I can’t imagine how difficult that is – it’s brave of you to write about it!

      Liked by 1 person

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