Archive for September, 2012

Youth Suicide and Medications – What’s the Link?

Monday, September 10th, 2012

Youth Suicide and Medications - What's the Link?To recognize World Suicide Prevention Day, I wanted to post again about the topic of medications, suicide and young people.

First, the sad statistics: Worldwide, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young people ages 15 to 19. In the United States, according to the CDC, suicide was the third-leading cause of death in 2009 for people ages 10-14, 15-19 and 20-24. It was the second-leading cause of death for people ages 25 to 34.

The vast majority of people
who commit suicide have a mental illness. But for nearly a decade doctors and researchers have been debating whether certain classes of medications used to treat mental illness increase or decrease the risk of suicide – as well as suicidal thoughts and behaviors – in young people.

In 2004, the FDA placed a black-box warning on all antidepressants, warning that they increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior (called “suicidality”) in children and teens.

An FDA analysis had found that one type of antidepressants in particular, the SSRIs, which include Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Lexapro and others, doubled the risk of suicidality in young people from 2% to 4%. But it found no completed suicides in the studies it looked at, which included some 2,200 children.

In 2005, the European medications regulatory authority urged European countries to put strong warnings about using either SSRI antidepressants, or SNRI antidepressants, such as Effexor and Cymbalta, for children or teens. The warning was based on the drugs’ potential to induce suicidality and hostile or aggressive behavior.

Also in 2005, the UK’s National Health Service issued guidelines urging doctors to avoid prescribing antidepressants to kids under 18 unless other therapies for depression didn’t work.

In 2007, the FDA expanded its black box warning on antidepressants to include all young people under age 25. The risk is greatest in the first month or two of treatment, the FDA warned.

After the U.S. and European warnings went into effect, prescribing of antidepressants to children and teens decreased. At the same time, some …


Waiting Until You’re “Old Enough” for Antidepressants

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

What’s it like to suffer from severe depression for as long as you can remember – and to be too scared to ask for help until age 18?

Today I’m featuring the story of Allie, a 21-year-old college senior in Wisconsin who was ultimately diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Allie kept her unhappiness a secret and didn’t begin taking medication when she was old enough to ask for it without her parents finding out.

Allie’s story is interesting, because it shows how kids can suffer from severe depression from a very young age. It also shows how in a culture where psychiatric drugs seem ubiquitous kids can come to focus on medication as a source of salvation.


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Recent Comments
  • vegasangie: What can we do? Evan was so brave and had so much courage for a 15 year old boy. I am 48 and have...
  • Jay: This article very aptly points out the stigma attached to taking these drugs but then seems to stumble in...
  • Kaitlin Bell Barnett: Richard, it sounds like you have a very measured approach to this topic. Very refreshing...
  • Richard: I think that the most important thing that anyone taking any form of anti depressant meds should be aware...
  • psyche RN: Well put, Kaitlen
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