Suicide warnings on antidepressants often misunderstood

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by Wendy Rigby / KENS 5

kens5.com

Posted on November 10, 2009 at 10:46 AM

Updated Tuesday, Nov 10 at 6:42 PM

A San Antonio doctor of psychology says warnings about the risks of antidepressants for children and young adults are widely misunderstood. He’s trying to get the word out to doctors and parents that these medications are safe and effective for treatment serious mental health problems.

We’ve heard a lot about increased suicidal thoughts and behaviors in young people treated with antidepressants. Since 2004, the FDA has required a so-called “black box” label warning of the risk in patients up to 24 years old. But it’s a risk Dr. Craig Bryan says is misunderstood.“Probably the number one misconception is that taking antidepressants will cause you to kill yourself, absolutely,” said Bryan, a doctor of psychology at the U.T. Health Science Center. “The data does not support that and in the pediatric trails that the FDA reviewed, there wasn’t a single suicide amongst any children or adolescents.”
 
Bryan has written an article in the journal “Professional Psychology: Research and Practice.” In it, he tries to dispel myths he believes are leading to under diagnosis and under treatment of depression.
 
The story that led to the black box warning in the first place found a 2% increase in thoughts of suicide, not death by suicide, an important distinction Bryan says many parents and doctors miss.
 
He’s concerned the label change is leading to changing practice. “People as a whole are getting less treatment than they were before,” he explained.
 
Psychotherapy along with medications is still considered the most effective approach to treating depression. Bryan and many of his colleagues want to take some of the “fear factor” out of a prescription for antidepressants.
 
“They can be safe and they can be effective treatments for a significant health problem,” Bryan stated.
 
The first year after the black box warning, there was an 18% increase in youth suicides. Whether the warning is scaring sick people away from the medications they need is still being debated.

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