Concerning Parallel? – Suicide Rates and Antidepressant Use Increasing Together

June 8, 2018
in Category: Blog, Mental Health
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I saw this information released today from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, showing that suicide rates have been increasing in virtually all U.S. states since 1999. It’s getting a lot of news coverage accompanied by a lot of bluster and self-promoting from mental health professionals that more people need to get into psychiatric treatment. So I was interested to see how this trend (provided in a nation-wide format by the National Institute of Mental Health) mapped onto trends in antidepressant use over the same time frame. Below is what it looks like in a graph. (Note that the antidepressant use numbers from the CDC come in four-year blocks, so I filled in the intervening years in each case — the overall trend is clear. Also note the different scales being used: If one mapped these at the exact same scale, which would have been more work in converting numbers than I felt like doing, the antidepressant line overall would be rising faster than the suicide line.)

Of course, this only shows correlation, not causation. Still, it’s fairly compelling evidence that, at the least, antidepressants are not preventing suicides. Also worth considering is the fact that, in 2014, a highly dubious scientific article mapped antidepressant use onto a questionable surrogate marker for suicide rates in youth and showed the opposite correlation over a selected two-year period — and it got extensive global media coverage and launched calls from psychiatrists for the FDA to remove the suicide warnings from antidepressants. So we should hear even louder calls now to boost those warnings on antidepressants, right?


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Rob Wipond

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  1. Judy Gayton

    This is great Rob. I found it posted at Mad In Toronto and copied the link to a few other groups who are commenting on it.
    I wasn’t able to comment on your FB page but noted that someone there stated that “drugs saved my life”.
    I find myself wondering how anyone can claim that psych drugs saved their lives, without the a crystal ball.
    Can anyone possibly predict what would have happened to them if they were not drugged?
    Just because someone believes they escaped the documented dangers of taking psych drugs (their brain, heart and liver might say different) it not evidence of what would have happened if they had not been given drugs.
    I know that the “drugs saved my life” argument isn’t logically valid, but am having some trouble positioning the argument. Can anyone help make it clearer? We need a short response that challenges the logic of that claim which further contradicts:
    as per drug inserts and some law suits, psych drugs are known to cause completed suicide, brain injury, spellbinding, permanent sterilization, violence, homicide, premature death, disease and addiction
    Breggin states that he has never drugged even the most suicidal person and never lost a patient to suicide.
    Whitaker’s evidence suggests that people in developing countries who were not drugged, fair better than those who were.
    Thank’s for posting such important information.

  2. Rob Wipond (author)

    Yes, Judy, I agree — it is especially disturbing how quickly conversations of these kinds will be moved from “science supports psychiatric drug X” to, “well, who cares about science — my own beliefs are good enough for me and should be for you, too”. I am actually working on a little piece about the “saves lives” issue right now, but one of the key things to point is, “there is no scientific proof anywhere that any mental health treatment of any kind actually, physically saves any lives.” I also worry that, for individuals who say it about themselves, they are disempowering themselves, downplaying their own role in their better feelings.

  3. Douglas Laird

    While I could say that antidepressants (SSRI) saved my life, I don’t think there were any better options OFFERED. After 10 years on them I used alternatives to get off, particularly N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) twice a day. It got to the point that wasn’t working so I made a plan to go back on SSRI’s until the black dog lifted, and then get off again. Done, it worked. NAC increases glutathione, a necessary antioxidant and neurotransmitter. It’s effects are subtle and I am looking for a principle investigator to explore this further. It has been empirically demonstrated to reduce the depressive side of bipolar disorder, to reduce auditory hallucinations in schizophrenia, and is necessary for the liver. My hypothesis is that the lack of glutathione increases cytokine production, the cause of 70% of depressions via inflammation. Now though, I have added S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) which lifts depression that same day. Some caveats exist and there is limited knowledge available on how to take it. Due to low bioavailability, take one SAMe at a time on an empty stomach until you find the level that works. I take 800 a day, when needed. Do not take it with antidepressants because it supports serotonin production and becomes too much while taking an reuptake inhibitor. Also, as it is an antioxidant, only purchase the forms sold in blister packs. This guide seems reasonable.
    On the topic of depression, the best conversation I know of is through Neruo Skeptic. Make sure to read all the following discussion as it has many links and important points.
    Thanks for posting.

  4. Rob Wipond (author)

    Hi Douglas, thanks for your thoughts. Yes, that widely reported Cipriani study in my opinion was worse than a joke — it was a deliberate attempt to mislead the public about antidepressants. As Neuroskeptic points out, it actually didn’t “correct” Kirsch’s findings as they claimed to the media, but in fact verified yet again that SSRIs basically don’t help anyone very much at all and at least 80% of any positive effect measured is a placebo effect.

    And in that context, using the rather flimsy and questionable clinical measures of depressed feelings that they do in these studies, and in light of the short durations they do them for (8 weeks), I think just about anything can be empirically demonstrated as “effective” in treating depression. So I think it’d be best to keep reminding ourselves of our own inner power to change.

  5. Kathleen Maloney

    And what about homocide rates? University of Toronto pulled an offer of employment to a British psychiatrist, who was investigating the relationship between atypicals and not just suicide, but homicide. Curiously, media reports of many mentally ill homicides, but no mention of the medication they are on, could this to have a correlation effect, that the academic professional clincial bodies, were not willing or able to follow? Perhpas following up, Rob, with what that clinical academic, who was denied a job in toronto, at our elite Canadian ivy university, could improve the validity of your advocacy activism. When the neuromyth making body of psychologists offer clinical medicine their only standard of rating and ranking human beings reasoning capacity, based on unscientific questions, the entire University that uses these measurements for admissions, could be filled with professors who lack the ability to reason in our complex societies, especially regarding selection of employees? If that psychiatrist was following up on patients treated with these drugs that he had concernss about as to adverse clinical significant outcomes, we might have less suicides and homocides that are drug induced by perscriptions, not know to be implicated clincally in deaths of individuals who asked for help becuase they or their family saw them as loosing their ability to reason.

  6. Rob Wipond (author)

    Thanks for your comments, Kathleen. Yes, I’m familiar with David Healy’s work — he was one of the earliest researchers who started warning about the links between SSRI’s and suicide and homicides, and he continues to research and write about it very actively. Even though the research has very consistently unearthed these links and they are now included in manufacturer drug labels and in warnings from health regulators to doctors, most mainstream psychiatrists still very vigorously tell news media and patients that the mere suggestion of such links is preposterous. You might be interested in an overview of this topic that Robert Whitaker recently posted:

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