Fear: Antidepressants increase the risk of suicide.

Fact: Studies in recent years have raised concerns that antidepressants may raise the risk of suicide among children, adolescents, and young adults. For example, a 2009 review in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) analyzed 372 studies involving nearly 100,000 people who were taking antidepressants. It found that compared to placebo, use of antidepressant drugs was associated with a small increased risk for suicidal thoughts in some children and young adults, have no effect on suicide risk among those 25 to 64, and reduce risk in those 65 and older.

In 2004, the FDA required manufacturers of antidepressants to revise their labels to include a black box warning statement about these risks.

Other studies paint a different picture. A 2006 study published in PLoS Medicine suggests that the use of antidepressants has saved thousands of lives. Data show that the U.S. suicide rate held fairly steady for 15 years prior to the introduction of the widely used antidepressant fluoxetine (Prozac) and then dropped steadily over 14 years while sales of Prozac rose. The research team found the strongest effect among women.

The bottom line: Regardless of your age or sex, it’s important to see a doctor immediately if you have suicidal tendencies or witness them in others.

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