Research and clinical observations over the past 40 years have found that psychotropic drugs produce suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts and possibly suicide in a small portion of depressed patients. The FDA has ordered Black Box Warnings on all antidepressant medications, warning that they may cause an increased risk of suicidal tendencies in children and adolescents. Here are the facts.
Suicide and Violence in Soldiers Linked to Antidepressants
Suicide is at record levels among soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The US Army confirms that since 2002 the number of suicide attempts has increased six-fold. In 2009 there were 244 confirmed or suspected suicide cases. The use of antidepressant drugs is also at record levels, including brand names like Seroquel, Prozac, Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa and Lexapro. According to the army, in 2007, 17 percent of combat troops in Afghanistan were taking prescription antidepressants or sleeping pills. As of 2009 one-third of marines in combat zones were on psychotropic drugs.
In August 2010, Matt Perrone of The Associated Press published an article stemming from his investigation into deaths from associated life-threatening interactions between the antipsychotic drug Seroquel and other drugs. Perrone wrote that thousands of soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) have received the same medication, Seroquel, over the last nine years. Seroquel is one of the Veteran Affairs Department’s top drug expenditures and the No. 5 best-selling drug in the United States.
Dangerous Drugs Prescribed to Children
Rebecca Riley, age 4, died in 2007 while taking prescription Seroquel and a cocktail of other drugs to treat her bipolar disorder. She had been taking these drugs since age 2. Her parents were held responsible and were subsequently arrested, but no charges were filed against her psychiatrist, Dr. Kayoko Kifuji. Rebecca’s case is not an isolated one.
A large study in 2004 showed that kids taking Prozac have about a 50 percent higher risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts than those getting placebos, says Robert Temple, director of the Office of Drug Evaluation at the Food and Drug Administration. According to the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) National Vital Statistics Report, 1,883 children and adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 committed suicide in 2001. The majority of these individuals likely suffered from some form of psychopathology, often depression, according to the National Institute of Mental Health and the Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Pittsburgh. The use of psychotropic medications for children and adolescents has increased, with utilization rates approaching that of adults, according to the American Medical Association. On March 22, 2004, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a Public Health Advisory warning of the potential risk of worsening depression and emergence of suicide in both adult and pediatric patients taking antidepressants.
In 2006 psychiatrist Tarek A. Hammad and his associates at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration published a quantitative review of studies involving over 2,200 children and adolescents taking antidepressants for depression, anxiety disorders and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Their results showed that people on antidepressant medications had twice the risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. People on the placebo showed a 2 percent risk, as compared to the 4 percent taking the antidepressants. No completed suicides occurred during any of the studies reviewed. A 2007 meta-analysis by psychologist Jeffrey Bridge of Ohio State University and colleagues at several institutions included additional studies and confirmed these results, although the percentages for suicidal attempts were slightly lower.
An independent review of all antidepressant trials submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has shown that the drugs are no better than placebo. America’s drug watchdog needs to come clean. It’s been approving depressants as antidepressants.
Pharmaceutical Companies Are Making Billions
According to the American Psychiatric Association, the total cost of mental illness exceeds 328 billion dollars a year. This number includes direct costs such as support and medical treatment, and indirect costs like loss of employment, reduced productivity, and social welfare programs.
AstraZeneca, the maker of Seroquel, reported more than 4.4 billion dollars in sales of this drug in 2008. Eli Lilly reported annual revenues of 4.6 billion for Zyprexa and 2.6 billion for Cymbalta. Pfizer, maker of Zoloft, is currently the leading pharmaceutical company, with over 16 billion dollars in revenue as of 2010.
Thirty-eight state attorneys recently won a $68.5 million settlement with AstraZeneca for unlawful marketing of Seroquel for unapproved use. These states also charged this company with failing to disclose the drug’s harmful side effects and concealing negative information about its safety and efficacy. “The company’s illegal practices put our most vulnerable populations at risk, including children and older patients with dementia and other debilitating diseases,” states Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan.
There are numerous natural remedies for depression that do not cause the harmful or potentially fatal side effects of standard medical treatments. Most people are not aware of this fact due to the inability of vitamins and supplements to be approved by the FDA, mainly as a result of the extreme costs of trials required by this government agency, which is largely controlled by the pharmaceutical industry.
Exercise is free and clearly demonstrates benefits above and beyond what antidepressant drugs can achieve, without any negative side effects. One study conducted by scientists at Duke University in the late 1990s divided depressed patients into three treatment groups, one only doing exercise, one taking an antidepressant, and one exercising and taking the antidepressant. In a 10 month follow-up, the exercise-only group had the highest remission and stay-well rate.
A Harvard pilot study found that omega-3 fatty acids, which cost approximately 10 dollars a month, have been shown to effectively treat depression and bipolar disorder. Another study of 70 depressed patients who had not responded to traditional medical treatments found that the group who took one gram of fish oil daily produced dramatic results and outperform the placebo. Omega-3s can also be found in fish and krill oil, tuna, salmon, mackerel, nuts such as walnuts and many fruits and vegetables.
Researchers at Duke University have found that a daily dose of 600 micrograms of chromium picolinate, which costs about 4 dollars a month led to a significant decrease in symptoms of atypical depression. The mineral was most effective in curbing carbohydrate cravings, stabilizing blood sugar, and lowering insulin resistance, which have been linked to obesity, diabetes, and depression. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is wholly deficient in chromium, due to modern agricultural practices.
SAMe (S-adenosylmethionin) has been shown to be effective against depression in those who don’t respond to pharmaceuticals, according to a Harvard study. Another study published in BioMed Central Psychiatry found that SAMe significantly decreased symptoms of depression in HIV/AIDS patients over an 8 week period.
Mindful meditation can reduce stress, relieve depression and anxiety, and lower your blood pressure, according to research published by the National Institute of Mental Health.
The Mediterranean diet lifestyle can help alleviate symptoms of depression. A study of almost ten-thousand healthy Spanish adults, conducted at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in Spain, found that those who practiced the Mediterranean diet lifestyle were 30 percent less likely to become depressed than those not following the diet.
Now that you understand the link between antidepressants and suicide, depression does not have to be terminal. If you or anyone you know are on an antidepressant, this evidence should alarm you. You may wish to incorporate these natural solutions with your daily medication where possible.
Michael Locklear is a researcher and consultant with 30 years experience, studying health, nutrition, and human behavior. He has been president of the Global Peace Project since 1986, and he administrates the website www.Natural-Remedies-for-Total-Health.com as part of the Global Peace Project Educational Outreach Program. You can also find him on The Total Health Blog.