Is there evidence for negative effects of antidepressants on suicidality in depressive patients?
The role of antidepressants in suicide prevention is a major public health question given the high prevalence of both depression and depression-related suicidality. Therefore all available means should be utilised to clarify the influence of antidepressants on suicidality, especially in view of the ongoing intensive debate about possible suicidality-inducing effects of antidepressants that may outweigh their traditionally hypothesised beneficial effects. This paper gives a systematic and comprehensive review of the empirical data which might indicate that antidepressants have negative effects on suicidality. First, principal methodological issues related to this research question are discussed. Thereafter, the results of controlled trials and epidemiological and cohort studies are presented. Altogether, there seems to be only a small amount of evidence from different research approaches that antidepressants, not only serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), might induce, aggravate or increase the risk of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. As to suicide, there are no hints in this direction. TCAs have a higher risk of fatal outcome in overdose compared to SSRIs, which, in case of mono-intoxication, carry almost no risk of lethal consequences. The ongoing discussion about suicidality-inducing effects should not prevent physicians from prescribing SSRIs and other antidepressants to their patients if they are clinically indicated. However, they should take into account potential risks and manage them by good clinical practice.