Antidepressants and Suicide
Back in 1990, when selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) had been on the market only a short time, there were some early reports of people experiencing suicidal thoughts after starting to take the medication. The Federal Drug Administration (FDA) did not feel the reports constituted a red flag, and SSRIs continued to be prescribed.
The Plot Thickens
In 2003, a possible connection between Paxil (paroxetine) and suicidal thoughts and self-destructive behavior in some teenagers and children was noted by British drug authorities, leading to an FDA review of SSRI use in those populations.
What should I look for if my child is on antidepressants?
Any change in behavior should get you paying close attention. Keep a close watch while your child is on medication and report any concerns to your physician, immediately.
The Black Box
In 2004, the FDA issued its strongest advisory short of mandating a drug's withdrawal from approved use. This warning, called the “black box,” required all package inserts to include the warning that use of antidepressants might result in increased risk of suicidal thoughts, hostility, and agitation, in both children and adults.
Every prescription comes with a package insert. Read it and be an informed consumer. If you are having trouble deciphering the medical jargon, ask your pharmacist to interpret for you.
A study by the University of Illinois at Chicago and published in the July 2007 issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry found that the risk of suicidal behavior was lower in all adults who received treatment with SSRIs. This included the previous age group that had been a concern, eight to 25.
Participants in the study were divided into four age groups: 18 to 25, 26 to 45, 46 to 65, and older than 65. All groups who took SSRIs showed a significantly lower risk of suicide attempts when compared with those who did not receive the treatment. More studies will be forthcoming.
Antidepressant Use in Children
It is important to follow your doctor's recommendations when considering use of antidepressant medications in children under the age of 18. If your physician does prescribe antidepressants for your child, address any concerns you have immediately. This is not an area where a “wait and see” approach is indicated.