Life is not always kind. People lose their jobs, experience the death of family members, break up with lovers and friends, and become victim to other losses. At some point in life, people are bound to get their share of remorse and sorrow and they may end up down in the dumps because of it. To go through such times, it may be tempting to rely on prescription drugs to alleviate emotional pain; however, antidepressants may be a double-edged sword. Although antidepressants do interfere with the nervous system to uplift people’s moods, according to some studies, some or all known antidepressants may increase the rate of suicidal thoughts.
A number of studies show a strong link between antidepressant use and subsequent suicidal behaviour. In one experiment in 2007, young patients aged 10 to 18 with mood disorders were either treated with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), the most common class of antidepressants for children, or given a placebo. Afterwards, the experimenters found that, as a group, the patients who took the SSRIs had about twice the number of self-reported suicidal thoughts than the control group which had the placebo.
However, the relationship between suicide risk and antidepressant use is not concrete. There are some studies which found no correlation between the two in other studies with depressed children and young adults. For adults, antidepressants do not seem to increase suicide rate. Moreover, the reasons for why antidepressant use increases suicidal behaviour is unknown.
The dangers antidepressants pose to adolescents is an issue that needs to be brought to public attention. Antidepressants have increased in use since the 1990s and the public may be getting the wrong impression that antidepressants do not pose any more danger than other common prescribed medicine such as antibiotics. More research is needed to determine why antidepressants seem to increase the risk of suicide and assess other possible side-effects the drugs may have.