Suicidality from Antidepressant Use

A study from 1990, published in the high profile journal American Journal of Psychiatry, documents extreme suicidality suddenly appearing in patients treated with Prozac. “No patient was actively suicidal at the time fluoxetine treatment began. Rather, all were hopeful and optimistic, and the strong obsessive suicidal thoughts apparently emerged de novo after weeks or months of treatment. In four patients (cases 2 and 4—6), these thoughts were accompanied by abject acceptance and detachment. Two patients (cases 4 and 5) tried to conceal their suicidal feelings and impulses and to continue fluoxetine treatment, believing that the drug would eventually enable them to successfully kill themselves!”

A 2004 article, also in the New England Journal of Medicine (attached here as “Newman – Black Box Warning”) discusses the evidence behind a “black-box warning” stating that antidepressants cause suicidality. “The results were striking. When all the pediatric trials were pooled, the rate of definite or possible suicidality among children assigned to receive antidepressants was twice that in the placebo group.” Many of the children were taking antidepressants for other indications, not depression, and still developed suicidal ideation! Also, “The FDA indicated that only 3 of 15 trials of antidepressant use in children with depression had found a statistically significant benefit.”

A 2005 study reviewed the data from 702 clinical trials and found that both SSRIs and tricyclic antidepressants significantly increased the risk of suicide. The researchers found that data on suicidality was missing for more than half (51,205) of the sample of 87,650 people, and when they contacted some researchers, only half of those they contacted provided data. Of those who responded, about half stated that they simply did not even collect data about whether their participants committed suicide. Two of the researchers provided suicide data that was not reported in their original study.

A 2006 article in the major medical journal New England Journal of Medicine is titled “Dangerous Deception–Hiding the Evidence of Adverse Drug Effects” (attached here as “Avorn-Pharma Companies Hiding Evidence”) and describes the way drug companies including Bayer and Merck deliberately hid (or deliberately refused to conduct) studies that find adverse events in their bestselling drugs.

In a 2015 study, researchers re-examined the data from Study 329, a study of the efficacy and safety of paroxetine and imipramine in adolescents. The researchers write that the original article was ghostwritten by the pharmaceutical company that sponsored the trial, GlaxoSmithKline. The original article reported that the drugs were both efficacious and safe. However, in this 2015 re-analysis, independent researchers found that neither drug was better than placebo on any of the outcome measures. In addition, increases in suicidal behavior, cardiovascular problems, and other serious health issues occurred in the adolescents, which were not reported in the original article.

In a study from 2019, people on antidepressants were about 2.5 times more likely to attempt suicide. In terms of raw numbers, 206 people taking antidepressants attempted suicide (with 37 deaths), while 28 people taking placebo attempted suicide (with 4 deaths).

Another study from 2019, found that 56% of articles in psychiatry/psychology had “spin” in their titles, abstracts, or conclusions. Most commonly, statistically or clinically insignificant findings were reported as if they were successful positive results.