New data released in a report from the National Center for Health Statistics shows that antidepressant use rose substantially.1 For persons aged 12 and up, antidepressant use in the previous month was 7.7% in 1999, and 12.7% in 2014—a 65% increase.
There have been 160 drug regulatory agency warnings from 11 countries and 225 studies in 31 countries on antidepressants induced side effects such as suicidal behavioral/ideas, hostility, mania, psychosis, aggression, heart problems, death and many more. This includes black box warnings for all antidepressant drugs, indicating an increased risk of suicide.
Coincidentally, suicide rates in the United States are at the highest levels in 30 years. From 1999 to 2014, the overall suicide rate rose by 24% according to the National Center for Health Statistics in an April 2016 report.2 It rose by 63% in women ages 45-64, and by 43% in men in that age group. In 2014, 42,773 people died by suicide. In girls aged 10-14, the suicide rate tripled over the 15 year period.
By prescribing antidepressants to increasing numbers of people, physicians may be contributing to an avalanche of suicides.
A study released in 2016 even revealed that antidepressant use can double the risk of harm related to suicide and violence in healthy adults.
There are also legal settlements for millions of dollars that have been paid by pharmaceutical companies to parents and spouses of individuals who killed themselves. This includes the recent case of Stewart Dolan who stepped in front of a train in July 2010. He had been taking the antidepressant paroxetine. His widow sued the drug company who originally made the drug, claiming they failed to warn her husband’s doctor of the drug’s increased risk of suicidal behavior, leading to his death. She was awarded $3 million in April 2017.
There are other options for the management of depression than resorting to medications that offer a substantial risk of death. These options, largely involving lifestyle changes and improved communication, should be explored first.
1. Pratt LA, Brody DJ, Gu Q. Antidepressant use among persons aged 12 and over: United States, 2011–2014. NCHS data brief, no 283. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2017, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db283.htm.
2. Curtin SC, Warner M, Hedegaard H. Increase in suicide in the United States, 1999–2014. NCHS data brief, no 241. Hyattsville, MD: National Center for Health Statistics. 2016, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/databriefs/db241.htm.