New Study: SSRIs Linked to Fewer Suicide Attempts in Adults

Craig Stoltz Health Guide
  • The relationship between antidepressant meds known as SSRIs (Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft and others) and suicide has been debate for the last several years. In fact, the Food and Drug Administration ordered the drugs' labels include a warning that use by children and adolescents can boost risk of suicidal thoughts. 

    A new study suggests SSRI drugs may have the opposite effect on adults. But there are important caveats. Let's sort it out.
    Bottom line first

    Taking SSRIs for depression may lower suicide risk for adults, compared to adults taking other anti-depressant drugs or no medication at all. 

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    This study in 50 words or less

    Veterans Administration researchers looked at records of over 225,000 adults treated for depression. All drug treatments reduced risk of suicide attempts compared to unmedicated patients, but SSRIs reduced the risk more than those taking other drugs.

    Yes, but. . .

    This study looked at suicide attempts, not suicidal thoughts, as studies in children did. So the studies are not fully comparable.

    The VA has in recent years become well-known for keeping excellent records and following best medical practices. But military veterans' depression may be significantly different from kids'  and other adults' depression. Again, the two conclusions are not directly comparable.

    As always with studies looking at records of previous treatments, this report can show only a link, not prove cause-and-effect.
    Studies looking at psychiatric drug use and suicide are always difficult to control, because depressed patients who seek treatment are at elevated risk of suicide to begin with.

    So what are you going to do about it?

    For most people, nothing.

    But if you've been avoiding taking SSRIs because you're afraid the drugs might trigger suicidal behavior, you may want to discuss these findings with your health care provider.

    Learn more

    Our MyDepressionConnection site has a good overview of drugs used to treat the depression.

    You can ask Dr. Chris Ballas, our medical expert on depression, a question about this study or any other topic related to depression.

    If you or someone you love is suicidal, visit this page of suicide prevention resources.

Published On: August 03, 2007