Can Antidepressants Increase Suicide Risk?

Blood thinners and contraception - Photo by: me and the sysop - Source: Flickr Creative Commons

It’s unfortunate but true that suicide has become an epidemic that needs to be tackled with serious, consistent effort. But while you might think that antidepressants designed to treat depression in patients could help reduce the risk of suicide, this isn’t always necessarily the case. To understand the link between antidepressants and suicide risk, check out the information below.

Why Antidepressants Might Actually Increase the Risk of Suicide

Individuals who are suffering from depression may end up thinking that suicide is the only way to end their pain. However, they are often far too depressed to even make a plan to commit suicide. According to experts, they end up immobilized, so they may not actually follow through with their plan to commit suicide after all. However, when that same individual begins taking an antidepressant, the negative emotions such as helplessness and hopelessness begin to dissipate. While you might immediately think of that as a good thing, which it is, there are other risks to consider.

Basically, when those feelings of immobility are removed, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the person will no longer feel down and depressed. If the deeper feelings of depression do indeed still linger, that person might be more inclined to still see suicide as the only way out, and the only means of getting relief from the pain. At this point, they might find it easier to come up with a suicide plan and follow through, which is why antidepressant medications may actually end up having the opposite effect when it comes to trying to prevent suicide in the first place.

Antidepressants Might Not Work as Planned

Although a lot of people thought that serotonin in the brain had a lot to do with feelings of depression, that model has not actually ever been validated completely from a scientific standpoint. Therefore, antidepressants that affect serotonin levels do not always work as planned. In fact, there is a lack of evidence that supports the use of antidepressants to significantly reduce feelings of depression. For many people, these prescriptions just do not work when it comes to getting to the root of the problem and actually resolving the depression for good.

What researchers are seeing instead of suicide rates falling with the use of antidepressants is suicide rates, as well as rates of violence against others (such as in the case of school shootings) increasing. And the worst part is that those crimes are being committed by individuals who were given prescription antidepressants. Therefore, the question becomes: would those people have reacted in the same destructive ways if they had never been given the prescription antidepressants in the first place?

Rates of Suicide Rise with Use of Antidepressants

When researchers from Sweden decided to analyze data associated with the number of antidepressant prescriptions that were being given out, they realized that suicide rates went up, not down, as the number of prescriptions increased. Over the course of 15 years, the number of prescriptions for antidepressants went up a whopping 270%. At the same time, the rates of suicide also went up. It became increasingly clear that there is a correlation between the two.

Experts even found that over half of the women that ended up committing suicide had been prescribed an antidepressant within a year before their death. Plus, 41% of women that killed themselves had antidepressants still in their system, proving that they were potentially under the influence of those drugs when they decided to follow through with their suicide.

You can take a look here for more information if you want to learn more about the increasing rate of suicide in America.

How You Stop Taking Antidepressants Also Matters

In addition to antidepressants causing increased feelings towards committing suicide, it is also worth noting that how a person stops taking these medications is very important. Abruptly stopping the use of these prescriptions can end up doing far more harm than good, but tapering yourself off of an antidepressant can also be damaging, with the end result being an increased risk of committing crimes against others and committing suicide.

Therefore, in addition to being absolutely sure that a patient will benefit from an antidepressant before prescribing it to them, a doctor must also be there to carefully guide the patient towards stopping use of the medication if it is necessary to do so at any point in time.

Tackling Suicide without Antidepressants

It has become pretty clear that there is still a lot that needs to be learned about depression and the solutions for it. Experts are also continually working on understanding of what motivates people to commit suicide, and what can be done to prevent more suicides from occurring.

If you are dealing with depression, talk to your doctor, but know that taking an antidepressant might not be the best choice after all, as it might do the opposite of the intended effect. Thankfully, there are ways to treat depression that don’t involve antidepressants, so talk to your physician about what your other options are.