Nordic study suggests that doctors and patients need to be more wary
It is already an accepted fact that anti-depressants, perversely, can have the pernicious side-effect of producing suicidal tendencies in some patients.
This is particularly true of young children and adolescents where clinicians are very reluctant to prescribe long term anti-depressant treatments.
A review published this week by the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Denmark has raised some difficult questions about the more general use of these drugs.
Thirteen double-blind, placebo-controlled trials were reviewed by the Cochrane team, though they had access only to published articles from the trials and not the raw data.
Nonetheless they found that for otherwise healthy patients with no prior record of mental disorder the use of anti-depressants doubled the risk of self-harm caused by suicidal thoughts.
These results highlight a very deep rift within the medical community about the application of pharmacological solutions to behavioural and mental disorders.
Many clinicians believe that the more negative effects of anti-depressants are masked in trials and everyday use by a tendency to assume that it is the underlying illness that causes them, not the effect of medication.
This school of thought points to a much lower suicide rate among patients who receive minimal drug treatments.
Critics, however, are equally convinced that, while care should be taken at all times, anti-depressants have more than proved their worth as a valid treatment.
They point out that there will always be a correlation between more intensive drug use and higher suicide rates because those cases will include patients suffering from the most severe conditions.
It would, they argue, be like blaming heart attacks on blood thinners, prescribed only when the risk of heart attack is already present.
Both sides agree that a greater degree of individual assessment and monitoring would reduce the overall risk and that more research into this problematic area is needed.
If you enjoy finding out more about health matters then why not get the very latest news delivered fresh to your inbox every week? It's a completely FREE service so join up now, simply enter your email address below:
Please rest assured, we will never pass your email address to any other company. These emails are free and without obligation. You can unsubscribe any time you choose.