Researchers are concerned that recent warnings about antidepressants increasing suicide risk in teens may have contributed to a rise in teen suicide attempts.
The study, published in the British Medical Journal, set out to investigate this possible power of suggestion since 2003, when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) began publicizing suicide risks (including suicide attempts and completed suicides) with antidepressant use in young adults.
The study involved data from about 2.3 million adolescents and young adults. Researchers found that the warnings led to a significant drop in antidepressant use in young people, beginning in 2003. At the same time, however, the number of attempted suicides among that same age group increased.
The number of adolescents using antidepressants at that time dropped 31 percent, and the number of young adults using the drugs dropped 24 percent. Simultaneously, suicide attempts increased by nearly 22 percent among adolescents and 33 percent among young adults. The most common method of suicide attempt among these individuals was drug overdose.
Some experts disagree with the interpretations of the data and suggest antidepressant use dropped for different reasons. They also claim that it is not possible to determine whether the drug overdoses were intentional or accidental. However, at the very least the research suggests the warnings were not effectively communicated and may have likely caused people to overreact and parents to discontinue antidepressant use in their adolescent or young adult.
The FDA, in an emailed statement to NPR, said it stands by its decision to warn the public about suicidality risk in young people who used antidepressant, and will continue to require the warning on the drugs’ safety labels.