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Ask a Psychiatric Pharmacist #18

Written by Karen Moeller, Pharm.D., BCPP

"I was recently prescribed an antidepressant. The information sheet from the pharmacy said the medication may increase suicidal thoughts. Is this true?"

It is true that antidepressants may increase the risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior in children and young adults up to age 24. However, studies did not show an increased risk beyond age 24. Also, studies show that older adults (ages 65 and older) taking antidepressants actually have a decreased risk of suicidal thoughts and behavior. The information sheet that came with the medication may be intimidating but if you know what signs to look for, depression can be safely treated.

Depression is a disease that affects over 14 million Americans a year. In 2006, about 33,000 people in the United States committed suicide. Typically 90% of those people have some type of mood disorder (i.e. - major depression, bipolar disorder). However, long term treatment of depression with antidepressants can decrease suicidal thoughts and behavior.

All patients, but especially children, should be monitored for any signs of worsening depression or suicidal thoughts or actions, especially during the first several weeks of treatment. Things to look for include irritability, sleeplessness or withdrawal from normal social situations or activities. Contact your healthcare provider if you experience any new or unusual changes in behavior, feelings or mood. Also, it is important that you do not stop taking the antidepressant without first consulting a healthcare provider, so make sure you keep any follow-up appointments.


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