Teens on anti-depressants ‘twice as likely to be suicidal’
Findings in a new study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on Thursday indicate a link between certain anti-depressants and suicidal thoughts in young people who use them frequently.
Youngsters who take selective serotonin and serotonin-norepinephrine drugs to fight depression have a doubled risk of becoming more aggressive, the study found.
The researchers from Denmark looked at clinical trial reports and raw data relating to more than 18,500 patients.
They found that previous reports on clinical trials by pharmaceutical companies frequently downplayed the most serious side-effects of anti-depressants.
Drug companies described more than half of suicide attempts as the “worsening of depression” or “emotional liability,” the BMJ paper said.
When researchers analyzed the medical reports, they did not find evidence of increased cases of suicidal behavior among adults, however the risk was at least double for those aged under 18.
“We suggest minimal use of anti-depressants in children, adolescents, and young adults, as the serious harms seem to be greater, and as their effect seems to be below what is clinically relevant,” the BMJ paper said.
Commenting on the findings, the report’s lead author Tarang Sharma said she was astounded by the extent to which the drugs’ most dangerous effects were “downplayed.”
“It’s been actually quite shocking to me to see this kind of stuff. What they are doing is wrong. They give a very inaccurate picture of what the true harms [side-effects] are,” she told the Independent.
“You cannot really trust them that much because they are really often exaggerating the benefits and the harms are minimized. I was quite disturbed actually. It did not expect it to be that bad.”
The report found that sixteen adults died and the circumstances of four others were misreported by the company concerned “in all cases of favoring the active drug.”
“A patient receiving venlafaxine attempted suicide by strangulation without forewarning and died five days later in hospital,” the paper said.
“Although the suicide attempt occurred on day 21 out of the 56 days of randomized treatment, the death was called a post-study event as it occurred in hospital and treatment had been discontinued because of the suicide attempt,” it added.
This comes days after the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said mental health services offered to children in Britain are “inappropriate.”
Figures released by the NSPCC on Wednesday show 90 percent of psychologists, GPs, teachers and social workers believe mentally ill children face problems accessing therapy.
“It shames our nation that children who have suffered abuse languish for months and even years without support. It’s time to ensure that they automatically get the help they need to recover,” NSPCC Chief Executive Peter Wanless said.
“We know that children are often left alone to deal with the corrosive emotional and psychological consequences of appalling abuse and that all too often they face long waits for help with their trauma, or the services offered aren’t appropriate for children whose lives have been turn upside down by their experiences: this must change.”
Nearly 80,000 children and young people in the country suffer from severe depression, according to mental health charity Young Minds.
Between one in every 12 and one in 15 children and young people deliberately self-harm. Over 8,000 children under the age of 10 suffer from severe depression and 95 percent of young offenders have a mental health disorder.
“It is crucial that children who have experienced abuse are able to receive skilled therapeutic support,” Dr. Michelle Lefevre of the Department of Social Work and Social Care at the University of Sussex told the Chichester Observer.