By On July 13th, 2007

No link between antidepressants and suicide

According to a recent study published in the July issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry, suicide pattens of depressed people have nothing to do with antidepressant use. According to Gregory E. Simon, MD, and James Savarino, PhD, of the Group Health Cooperative, rates of suicide among depressed people were the same whether or not the patient was on antidepressants or engaged in psychotherapy or both. The study examined 130,000 cases of newly diagnosed patients with depression. The study, contrary to arguments that sight antidepressants as cause for suicide, found that rates of suicide were highest a month before treatment and second highest during the first month of treatment. Rates of suicide were actually lowest during the period after which therapy and or antidepressants had been utilized for over a month.

Studies like this are important in that they help to dispel myths about the effects of antidepressant drugs. Unfortunately, without an understanding of the effects of antidepressants and therapy, distortions of the truth can arise which can ultimately cause people struggling with depression not to get the help that they so desperately need. Below is an excerpt of an article from the Psychiatric Times that reviews the study:

Increases in suicide rates in the first month of treatment for depression appear to be unrelated to the use of antidepressants, reported investigators here.

The patterns of suicide attempts among patients treated for depression were similar whether they received antidepressants, psychotherapy, or both, reported Gregory E. Simon, M.D., M.P.H., and James Savarino, Ph.D., of the Group Health Cooperative, a Washington state health plan.

Data on more than 130,000 new episodes of depression showed that regardless of treatment type, the number of suicide attempts was highest in the month before therapy, next highest in the first of month of therapy, and lowest thereafter, the investigators reported in the July issue of the American Journal of Psychiatry.

“Our study indicates that there’s nothing specific to antidepressant medications that would either make large populations of people with depression start trying to kill themselves-or protect them from suicidal thoughts,” said Dr. Simon.

“Instead,” he said, “we think that, on average, starting any type of treatment-medication, psychotherapy, or both-helps most people of any age have fewer symptoms of depression, including thinking about suicide and attempting it.”

The investigators reviewed outpatient insurance claims, and identified 131,788 new episodes of treatment for depression — 70,368 beginning with a prescription for an antidepressant from a primary care physician, 7,297 with a prescription from a psychiatrist, and 54,123 with psychotherapy as the initial form of treatment.

The authors then looked at outpatient and inpatient claims to identify suicide attempts or possible attempts in a period ranging from 90 days before the start of treatment for depression to 180 days afterward.

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