Nottingham University’s antidepressant study

Researchers at Nottingham University have found that some antidepressants have a significantly higher risk of the patient self-harming or committing suicide than other antidepressants.

The drugs named in the report, published in the
British Medical Journal, are Venlafaxine, Trazodone and Mirtazapine. Mirtazapine carried the highest risk of suicide among the 238,973 patients whose records were studied.

Read the full report in the
BMJ here.

David Healy’s healthy volunteers study

The 2000 ‘healthy volunteer’ study provides some of the most useful independent research into antidepressant-induced suicidality.

Carried out by Professor David Healy at the North Wales Department of Psychological Medicine in Bangor, the research showed how even healthy people with no history of mental health problems or suicidal thoughts could become suicidal on antidepressants.

Twenty volunteers were given two different types of antidepressants and two became suicidal on the SSRI Sertraline (trade names include Zoloft and Lustral).

The results were published in
Primary Care Psychiatry under the title Emergence of Antidepressant Induced Suicidality.

The Guardian covered the research in detail at the time here.

Martin Teicher’s Prozac study

One of the first studies to look at Prozac (also known as Fluoxetine) and its ability to produce suicidal impulses was ‘Emergence of Intense Suicidal Preoccupation During Fluoxetine Treatment’ by Dr Martin Teicher et al in 1990. It was published in the
American Journal of Psychiatry and can be found online here.

Abstract: ‘Six depressed patients, free of recent serious suicidal ideation, developed intense, violent suicidal preoccupation after two to seven weeks of Fluoxetine treatment. This state persisted for as little as three days to as long as three months after discontinuation of Fluoxetine. None of these patients had ever experienced a similar state during treatment with any other psychotropic drug.’

Suicide risk in elderly ‘higher’ on SSRIs

Researchers in Canada analysed coroners’ records for suicides in elderly people aged 66 years and older, comparing those on SSRIs to those on other types of antidepressants. David Juurlink et al found that during the first month of taking antidepressants, patients prescribed SSRIs were five times more likely to kill themselves than patients on other types of antidepressants. They also found that ‘suicides of a violent nature were distinctly more common during SSRI therapy’. However, there was no increased risk of suicide after the first month.

The study was published in the
American Journal of Psychiatry in May 2006. An abstract can be found here.

‘Close monitoring’ needed for patients

In a study published by
CNS Neuroscience & Therapeutics in 2010, Roy Reeves and Mark Ladner concluded that ‘antidepressant induced suicidality appears to be an uncommon occurrence, but also a legitimate phenomenon’. They recommended that ‘close monitoring and follow-up care should be provided for patients after initiation of a new antidepressant’.