How Many Teens Killed Themselves Because They Didn't Take Antidepressants?


A year and a half ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, citing concerns about possibly increased adolescent suicides from using antidepressant medications, ordered drugmakers to put a black box warning on them. This is the government's strongest safety warning. As the AP reported, "The agency's action comes at a time when it faces withering criticism for not acting sooner on antidepressants." In fact, as webMD reported, the FDA found that the studies did not clearly establish a link between the use of these drugs and a higher risk of suicidal thoughts or actions, but they do not rule it out. Nevertheless, timid bureaucrats were stampeded by panicky politicians and a confused public–it always better regulate and say you're sorry later.

Now, according to a press release from the Harvard Mental Health Letter:

While the use of antidepressants increased in the 1990s, the suicide rate among adolescents declined–coincidentally or not–by 31%. And recent autopsy studies have shown that adolescents who commit suicide, even when they have a prescription for an antidepressant, are usually not taking the drug at the time of death. A consensus seems to be emerging that the risk of suicide in children and adolescents taking antidepressants may have been exaggerated.

Of course, if parents and physicians are refusing to let their depressed teenagers take the drugs, that may well have bad consequences too. But never mind that.