Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services

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Psychopharmacology 

Antidepressants and Suicide: Putting the Risk in Perspective

Robert H. Howland, MD

  • Journal of Psychosocial Nursing and Mental Health Services. 2007;45(7):15-19
  • Posted July 1, 2007

Abstract

Suicidal thoughts are a symptom of depression, and completed suicide is a tragic complication of depressive illness. Although pharmacotherapy is effective for the treatment of depression, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has ordered that all antidepressant medications carry a warning indicating that they are associated with an increased risk of suicidal thinking, feeling, and behavior in children, adolescents, and young adults. These warnings have received much attention in the general media and have caused much controversy and debate about the relative safety of these commonly used drugs and the appropriateness of their use, especially in younger patients. In this article, I will discuss this issue with the goal of putting the risk in perspective.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Howland is Associate Professor of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The author discloses that he has no significant financial interests in any product or class of products discussed directly or indirectly in this activity, including research support.

Address correspondence to Robert H. Howland, MD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, 3811 O’Hara Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213; e-mail: HowlandRH@upmc.edu.

Abstract

Suicidal thoughts are a symptom of depression, and completed suicide is a tragic complication of depressive illness. Although pharmacotherapy is effective for the treatment of depression, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has ordered that all antidepressant medications carry a warning indicating that they are associated with an increased risk of suicidal thinking, feeling, and behavior in children, adolescents, and young adults. These warnings have received much attention in the general media and have caused much controversy and debate about the relative safety of these commonly used drugs and the appropriateness of their use, especially in younger patients. In this article, I will discuss this issue with the goal of putting the risk in perspective.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Howland is Associate Professor of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The author discloses that he has no significant financial interests in any product or class of products discussed directly or indirectly in this activity, including research support.

Address correspondence to Robert H. Howland, MD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, 3811 O’Hara Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213; e-mail: HowlandRH@upmc.edu.

ABSTRACT

Suicidal thoughts are a symptom of depression, and completed suicide is a tragic complication of depressive illness. Although pharmacotherapy is effective for the treatment of depression, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has ordered that all antidepressant medications carry a warning indicating that they are associated with an increased risk of suicidal thinking, feeling, and behavior in children, adolescents, and young adults. These warnings have received much attention in the general media and have caused much controversy and debate about the relative safety of these commonly used drugs and the appropriateness of their use, especially in younger patients. In this article, I will discuss this issue with the goal of putting the risk in perspective.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dr. Howland is Associate Professor of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The author discloses that he has no significant financial interests in any product or class of products discussed directly or indirectly in this activity, including research support.

Address correspondence to Robert H. Howland, MD, Associate Professor of Psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic, 3811 O’Hara Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15213; e-mail: HowlandRH@upmc.edu.

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