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Attempted Suicide Rates Rise in Teens, Study Finds

Update Date: Jun 19, 2014 01:42 PM EDT

According to a new study, the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) warnings about the dangers of taking antidepressants might have backfired. In the study, researchers examined the teenage attempted suicide rate after the FDA mandated drug manufacturers to print a "black box" warning label on antidepressant boxes and found that the rate increased by nearly 22 percent.

"Doctors should consider not just the risk of the drug, but the risk of undertreatment," said lead author Christine Y. Lu, a researcher at Harvard Medical School's Department of Population Medicine and the Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute according to the Boston Globe.

In this study, the researchers reviewed medical claims data provided by the Mental Health Research Network, which included 1.1 million teens, 1.4 million young adults and five million adults. The data came from 11 health plans that were used between 2000 and 2010 in the U.S. The researchers found that the FDA's 2003 ruling that required warning labels on popular antidepressants known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which include Celexa, Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft affected attempted suicide rates in teens and young adults.

The team reported that after the warning labels were printed, the prescription rate for SSRIs fell by more than one-fifth while attempt suicides in teens and young adults increased by 21.7 percent and 33.7 percent respectively. The researchers reasoned that fewer prescriptions could mean that fewer teens and young adults were being properly treated for depression.

"We found a substantial reduction in use of antidepressants in youth, and also in adults -- who were not targeted by the warning," said Lu reported by Philly. "To a certain extent, the FDA's black box warning was legitimate, but the media emphasis was really on suicide without noting the potential risk of undertreatment of depression. Because of that, there has been an overreaction, and that overreaction has sent alarming messages to parents and young people."

The study, "Changes in antidepressant use by young people and suicidal behavior after FDA warnings and media coverage: quasi-experimental study," was published in the British Medical Journal.

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