Statement of Dr. Diana Zuckerman, President
June 19, 2014
A new study claiming to show that antidepressant warnings have backfired has resulted in media quoting researchers’ speculation as if it is fact. It isn’t.
Most important, the Harvard researchers didn’t study teen suicides or suicide attempts. They evaluated “psychotropic drug poisonings.” which is not the same thing as suicide attempts. Not all poisonings are suicide attempts and there are many suicide attempts that do not involve taking drugs but instead involve guns, hanging, and other strategies. In addition, many suicidal overdoses do not involve psychotropic drugs.
There are numerous studies showing that adolescents who take antidepressants are more likely, not less likely, to attempt suicide. It is nonsensical to conclude that doctors’ appropriate hesitancy to prescribe antidepressants to teens is somehow contributing to an increase in suicide attempts. There are other, more logical explanations.
Antidepressants can be helpful to patients, but there are more effective treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy. Parents and physicians who care about depressed adolescents are right to try those strategies, and now that mental health therapy is covered by health insurance, we can expect that to make a difference.
The FDA did the right thing to include a black box warning on the risks of antidepressants. Their decision is based on scientific evidence, not speculation.