Risk of Suicide Among Teens on Antidepressants Was Exaggerated

Although I’ve been on the same antidepressant for the past eight years, and it’s worked wonders for me, I’ve been hesitant to oversell the idea to teenagers. In my book I note a few times that antidepressant use among teens is riskier than it is for adults because the medication may increase suicidal ideations. When it comes to suicide, after all, one can’t be too careful.

I just came across this article on NPR, and I have to admit I’m pretty shocked. At this point, we all know smoking cigarettes can have serious adverse health effects, such as lung cancer, so the warning labels are appropriate. But apparently there was never any real proof that teens taking antidepressants are more likely to consider or attempt suicide.download

According to “Warnings Against Antidepressants for Teens May Have Backfired,” by Rob Stein, “Starting in 2003, the FDA warned that popular antidepressants, such as Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil, might increase the risk that kids would think about killing themselves — or even actively attempt it.”

Since these warnings have been issued, antidepressant use among adolescents has dropped by 31 percent, and suicide attempts among adolescents has increased by nearly 22 percent.

The takeaway? Don’t write antidepressants off because of this warning from the FDA. The intention was always to prevent teens from committing suicide by keeping a closer eye on them while they took antidepressants, and it still holds true that you should stay in touch with your prescribing doctor and be upfront about how you’re feeling.

As always, if you are feeling suicidal, tell someone.