Antidepressant Use More Than Doubles Risk of Suicide Attempts

A new study found that those taking antidepressants were 2.5 times more likely to attempt suicide than those taking placebo.

Peter Simons
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Throughout the past two decades, studies have warned of increased suicide rates in those taking antidepressants, especially in children and adolescents. Researchers also documented missing data and other problems in the clinical trials that may have obscured the risks of taking these drugs.

However, a study in 2018 contradicted previous findings, suggesting a decreased rate of suicide attempts. That study used a controversial statistical analysis that goes against FDA regulations, and researchers suggest that it could have biased their findings.

Now, a new article has reported on a direct re-test of the 2018 data, using a more conventionally accepted statistical analysis. The research was conducted by Michael P. Hengartner at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences, Switzerland, and Martin Plöderl at the Paracelsus Medical University, Salzburg, Austria. It was published in the journal Psychotherapy & Psychosomatics.

Hengartner and Plöderl argue that the methods used by the previous researchers were flawed and inappropriate for studying this problem. The previous study used PEY (patient exposure years), which uses each year of use as an individual data point. This is used when the risk is presumed to be constant or cumulative (when more years of use makes it more likely to have a side effect).

However, this is inappropriate for studying suicide risk, according to Hengartner and Plöderl. Suicide risk is elevated immediately after beginning a medication, not cumulatively or over the long-term. Therefore, instead, researchers should use each person exposed to antidepressants as a data point.  This is the standard used by the FDA, which also considers PEY to be inappropriate for this type of study.

“When hazards are not constant over time, PEY is inappropriate and may obscure a true adverse drug effect, since (attempted) suicide mostly occurs shortly after treatment initiation and not during continuation or maintenance phases,” Hengartner and Plöderl write.

A bottle of pills. Some are spilled out.
(Photo Credit: Ashley Rose/Flickr Creative Commons)

The researchers re-analyzed the data from the previous study, using their simple technique. They assessed the number of people who were exposed to antidepressants, and the number of people who attempted suicide.

They found that when they asked these simple questions, the data was consistent with previous studies: rates of suicide attempts were 2.5 times higher in the people taking antidepressants than in those who were given the placebo.

The raw numbers are even more striking: 206 suicide attempts in people taking antidepressants, versus 28 suicide attempts in people taking placebo.

There were 37 deaths by suicide in the antidepressant group, and only 4 deaths by suicide in the placebo group.

This means that those who took a drug that ostensibly treats their suicidal ideation were far more likely to attempt suicide and die by suicide than those who took a fake pill that did nothing.

According to the researchers, “The data presented herein suggest that antidepressants significantly increase the suicide risk in adults with major depression.”

Editor’s note: The headline and contents of this article have been edited to fix a math error.

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Hengartner, M. P., & Plöderl, M. (2019). Newer-generation antidepressants and suicide risk in randomized controlled trials: A re-analysis of the FDA database. Psychotherapy & Psychosomatics. Published online June 24, 2019. doi: 10.1159/000501215 (Link)

20 COMMENTS

  1. Another incisive study that tells me that antidepressant avoidance is superior to consumption of same and reinforces the heretical notion that Vitamins B1 and/or B3 are a superior replacements for these alleged healing substances, once preliminary analysis eliminates the more exotic sources of depression, like heavy metals, food sensitivities, preexisting metabolic conditions and such.

  2. Please make note of the discrepancy “Antidepressant Use Linked to 150% Increase in Suicide Attempts
    A new study found that those taking antidepressants were 2.5 times (250%) more likely to attempt suicide than those taking placebo.”

    Thank you for the fine article in all other respects

  3. I don’t have data for this, but I suspect that the suicide risk is greater for those undergoing psychotherapy, as compared to those who are not. Maybe it won’t happen during the course of the therapy, but it can happen after.

    The reason for this would be that the patient is being asked to disclose personal affairs, conned into making such disclosures. And then they are being told that they just have to live with it.

    And again I have to say, publishing articles based on data obtained by giving people psychiatric neurotoxins is unethical.

    This is not as bad as the articles based on giving people these toxins, and then giving them mental health questionnaires. But it is still wrong.

    We should be prosecuting the doctors who give out these drugs for Crimes Against Humanity

  4. Became suicidal after being drugged up on 10 mg of Haldol and labeled SMI got me kicked out of college and my zoned out behaviors infuriated my long suffering family. Was put on Zoloft and a “mood stabilizer” in the psych ward.

    After 22 years on a “cocktail” I tapered off over 13 months. I have the will to live again, sickly as I am thanks to a ruined digestion. Never suicidal.

    Just an anecdote. But the psych community loves anecdotes and uses them all the time. They just don’t like mine because it won’t sell their pills.

    • Rachel, you’re right!! Anecdotal evidence is only valid when it works for the dominant paradigm, otherwise it’s “just one case” >:(

      I have to say my withdrawal story sounds a lot like yours – full will to live, little physical ability to feed my body… which I need in order to live. They don’t warn us about the chronic illness risk, of course. Add that to the list :/

      Much the same with the tragic beginning of “treatment” as well. I’m sorry these trash pills have interrupted your life so powerfully. I hope your actual (!!) physical illness resolves over time and with your spirit behind it!!

  5. Rachel777, I am gladdened that you have the will to live again, and I can see this in your posts.

    We must eradicate these lethal drugs, and the only way to do this will be to prosecute the doctors who have dispensed them. Otherwise the drugs will keep returning.

    And then we must stand with survivors, not let them be further abused by Moral Improvement / FYOG sessions. Survivors have to be able to claim their place in the world, and not be made wrong for this. As long as we let our government go on licensing psychotherapists, survivors will never get a chance.

  6. Drugs don’t actually know how old the person taking them is, as apparently our doctors believe. The antidepressants had a black box warning put on them regarding suicides in children in 2004. So of course, they cause suicides in people of all ages as well.

    “The data presented herein suggest that antidepressants significantly increase the suicide risk in adults with major depression,” and the millions of people wrongly put on this drug class for BS reasons. And lets hope some day the “mental health” workers and doctors will actually garner insight into the adverse effects of this drug class.

    The psychiatrists recently took this DSM-IV-TR disclaimer OUT of their DSM5:

    “Note: Manic-like episodes that are clearly caused by somatic antidepressant treatment (e.g., medication, electroconvulsive therapy, light therapy) should not count toward a diagnosis of Bipolar I Disorder.”

    Despite the reality the antidepressants can make people “manic,” as well as even “psychotic,” via anticholinergic toxidrome.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toxidrome

    The antidepressants are actually a very dangerous, mind altering, class of drugs, especially when combined with the antipsychotics, since they’re both anticholinergic drugs.

    Let’s hope the medical community wakes up to this reality, rather than continuing to utilize these drug classes to cover up their easily recognized iatrogenesis, and also the medical evidence of the rape of small children. Which, of course, is illegal behavior by our medical “professionals.”

  7. Peter, in my opinion you always add and expose extremely important information, and the striking figures you bring into the conversation are always appreciated, if tragic. I can’t tell you how much of your writing on MIA I’ve shared with people in my life, and how it has REALLY affected their perspective. This stuff is the honesty that’s desperately lacking in the psychiatry and pharma industries.

    Thank you for bringing the truth, man. Another thing that helps me feel and act “sane” when I need to 🙂 I’m sure a lot of others feel the same way.

  8. “psychiatrically induced suicides”

    As far as I can see, this is what killed Matthew Warren. But it is also psychotherapy, and the fact that his parents practiced a bizarre belief system, and that they considered Matthew “other”.

    Some feel that he may have been gay, and that his parents could not accept this, because of their ideology.

    • I think Matthew Warren was an introvert. Just a theory.
      Saddleback is really into group activities and Rick has gone on record saying “Jesus was an extrovert.” I refer you to an analysis of that mega-church in Quiet by Susan Cain.

      As a preacher’s daughter I got tired of being in the public eye and the constant criticism. I also need my downtime and the pressure–even as a child of nine–led to a couple break downs.

  9. The full article is available for free. And the numbers are horrifying.
    “There were 37 suicides (0.116%) and 206 suicide attempts (0.713%) in antidepressant arms versus 4 suicides (0.040%) and 28 suicide attempts (0.300%) in placebo arms.”
    This means that 37 persons actually died as a result of letting pharma companies experiment on them. This sounds almost like Nazi extermination camps.
    If we calculate how many extra would die out of 100 000, 0.116%-0.040% =0.076%. That means we have 76 real persons who die within the first 8 weeks of taking antidepressants who would not have died had they taken a placebo. That means 760 real persons pr million. Approximately 32 million Americans are taking antidepressants. That means that around 24320, twenty four thousand three hundred and twenty Americans die each year because of the drugs they have been prescribed. They would be alive if they did not take their antidepressants. That means we have almost 10 times 9-11 deaths pr year due to prescription drugs induced suicides. And this is called progress? The numbers are probably even higher. People who commit suicide when they stop the drugs are not counted in this.