New Harvard Study: Antidepressants Double Risk of Suicidal Behavior in Youth

May 1, 2014   |   ANTIMEDIA

A new study by the Harvard School of Public Health found that high doses of antidepressants in teens and young adults correlate to marked increases in self-harm.

The study, released Monday, examined 162,625 subjects between ages 10 and 64 for 12 years. For subjects 24 years and younger, higher-than-average doses of antidepressants doubled the rate of suicidal behavior. Image credit: Flick/Carsten Schertzer

This new study corresponds with past research indicating that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the most common type of antidepressant, significantly increase the risk of suicidal behavior in teens and young adults.

A 2004 review by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also found that antidepressants double the rate of suicidiality in those between ages 18 and 25.

Authors of the Harvard study advised caution in prescribing new patients with antidepressants.

“Considered in light of recent meta-analyses concluding that the efficacy of antidepressant therapy for youth seems to be modest, and separate evidence that dose is generally unrelated to the therapeutic efficacy of antidepressants, our findings offer clinicians an additional incentive to avoid initiating pharmacotherapy at high-therapeutic doses and to monitor all patients starting antidepressants, especially youth.”

The new study did not examine why antidepressants can lead to an increase is self-harm behavior, and in fact, not much research exists on the subject.

However, one theory points towards some patients’ brains being resistant to SSRIs, causing a reversal effect. A 2010 study by Columbia University found that half of patients taking antidepressants were not responding to treatment. The study indicated that serotonin on these patients may lead to a negative reaction. Treatment was found to decrease the brain’s serotonin production.

Lead researcher Dr. Rene Hen stated that for millions of patients, “the more antidepressants try to increase serotonin production, the less serotonin (they) actually produce.”

While the Harvard study isn’t the first of its kind, it shed new light on the possible correlation between dosage and the risk of suicidal behavior. This increase was not found in subjects of the same age who received modal, or average, doses and those over 24.

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Emerson Rensink is an Olympia-trans*planted activist, organizer and citizen journalist. He helped organize the global March Against Monsanto in May 2013. In addition to writing for The Anti-Media, Emerson’s work can be found at Center for a Stateless Society. In his free time, Emerson likes to watch depressing documentaries and find funny, pointless things on the Internet.

Follow Emerson on Twitter: @emersonrensink


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  1. They make things worse before they can get better! I mean seriously, this has the potential to put people's lives at risk if they are naive enough to believe it. Please remove this and trust the people with the Phd's who hand you these pills. They don't make money from wrecking your lives; they're here to help you!

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  2. We need to stop giving kids these things.

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  3. Yeah, high doses in developing kids might be bad but lower to moderate

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  4. may help…plus if a large dose is being given, it's becauseof an increase in depressive symptomology, which includes increase in suicide ….so they were already at a higher risk…correlation does not equal causation…bad article, horrible interpretation of the study

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  5. I've got to say I disagree with you here John. Scientists and researchers should be free to publish their research even (or especially!) if it conflicts with what we thought we knew about the drugs. Remember the people who conducted this particular study also have Phds and as it has been published in JAMA it is likely to be a good quality paper. The literature on the subject of SSRIs has changed a lot over the past decade and the position on the effectiveness and potential harms of antidepressants has shifted significantly. It's true that doctors are trying to help their patients but their medical opinion is as only valuable as the research that supports it.

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  6. Lukily I never had to try any o that stuff and never will but i bet most people that suicide in London is because they are taking that and are in the wrong medication, there are many cases where antidepressants caused suicidal attempts or behaviour… Pharma companies are a cruel business

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  7. Just say no to prescription drugs!

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