Antidepressants Pose Similar Suicide Risks for Kids

While <"">antidepressants are known to offer relief to patients suffering from depression and anxiety, a wide variety of studies and reports point to the medications’ risks in a growing array of demographics. Now, Reuters Health, writes that while antidepressant medications do work in pediatric patients, they can increase suicidal behavior, regardless of a particular medication’s component or brand.

Looking at a large group of various antidepressants, such as fluoxetine (Prozac), sertraline (Zoloft), and paroxetine (Paxil), the team discovered similar suicide rates and attempts in the over 20,000 Canadian youth examined. “The main finding is essentially a non-finding, meaning that there is no difference in risk for a suicide between different drugs,” said Dr. Sebastian Schneeweiss of Harvard Medical School, research leader, quoted Reuters. The research was published in the journal Pediatrics. “That is extremely important to know, because then you can focus only on the effectiveness of antidepressant drugs,” Dr. Schneeweiss added.

Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requires a “black box” warning on antidepressant labels—the agency’s most stringent warning—pointing to the increased risk of suicidal ideation and actions in children and young adults taking the medications, said Reuters. What had always been unclear was if any one drug was safer than any other, noted Reuters.

Dr. Schneeweiss and his team pinpointed three suicides and 266 unsuccessful suicide attempts in the 10-to-18-year-old Canadians they studied took antidepressants for one year, reported Reuters. This translated to about three completed suicides annually, based on 10,000 people being treated, said Reuters, noting this rate is five times the rate in the teenage population in British Columbia, where the data was obtained.

The risk of suicide remained unchanged regardless of the type of antidepressant medication, including selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which are among the most popular drugs—for instance, Prozac—and also included older medications, said Reuters. “The new study includes a far wider range of antidepressants than were included in earlier studies,” psychiatrist Dr. Mark Olfson of Columbia University, told Reuters Health in an e-mail; Dr. Olfson was not involved in the study.

We recently wrote that some depression and anxiety medications have been linked to an increased risk of cataracts. Danish researchers recently announced that expectant mothers taking antidepressants may be inadvertently harming their developing babies, wrote Reuters previously, delaying some “developmental milestones.”

Reuters also recently reported that antidepressant medication might interfere with breast cancer treatments, causing patients to relapse and die, said Reuters. In October we wrote that women taking SSRIs during pregnancy may be likelier to experience premature birth and that babies born to women taking SSRIs were likelier to be admitted to an intensive care unit.

In November, we wrote about a Science Daily article that discussed the likelihood of premature child delivery tripling in pregnant women with a history of depression and who take certain psychiatric drugs. The medication-depression combination, when present before or during pregnancy, was significantly associated to childbirth earlier than at 35 weeks’ gestation.

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