A 2018 article published in Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry argues that there are two primary false beliefs held by academic psychiatry related to the efficacy of antidepressants. The article was written by researchers with expertise on antidepressants and suicide risk, Michael Hengartner of Zurich University in Switzerland and Martin Plöderl of Paracelsus Medical University in Salzburg, Austria.
First, they explain that physicians often attribute antidepressant effects to pharmacological action rather than placebo effects. Second, academic psychiatry maintains that physical dependence on antidepressant drugs does not exist, and therefore any withdrawal or discontinuation symptoms are benign and affect only a small minority of users. These two remain pervasive within the field of psychiatry, despite a wealth of evidence suggesting that they are untrue. Hengartner and Plöderl point to the undue influence of the pharmaceutical industry as one of the forces maintaining the popularity of these misleading beliefs about antidepressants.
“The problem is presumably less with erroneous views expressed by patients and researchers critical of psychopharmacological drugs, but rather with false beliefs held by academic psychiatry and promoted by the pharmaceutical industry,” the authors write.Read More
In 2004, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) controversially issued a black box warning that antidepressants were associated with an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviours in people aged under 18 years. In 2007, the warning was expanded to include young adults aged under 25 years. In 2005, the Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration responded to the FDA warning by requiring Product and Consumer Information leaflets to be updated to reflect the risk. However, there was considerable debate, and at times emotive backlash, in academic journals and the international media. Prominent US and Australian mental health organisations and psychiatrists challenged the FDA warning. They argued that, on balance, antidepressant use was likely to reduce the risk of suicide. Several ecological studies were cited misleadingly as evidence that decreasing antidepressant use increases suicide risk. From 2008 to 2018, Australian per-capita child, adolescent and young adult antidepressant dispensing (0–27 years of age) and suicide (0–24 years) rates have increased approximately 66% and 49%, respectively. In addition, there was a 98% increase in intentional poisonings among 5 to 19 year-olds in New South Wales and Victoria between 2006 and 2016, with substantial overlap between the most commonly dispensed psychotropics and the drugs most commonly used in self-poisoning. These results do not support claims that increased antidepressant use reduces youth suicide risk. They are more consistent with the FDA warning and the hypothesis that antidepressant use increases the risk of suicide and self-harm by young people. Causal relationships cannot be established with certainty until there is a vast improvement in post-marketing surveillance. However, there is clear evidence that more young Australians are taking antidepressants, and more young Australians are killing themselves and self-harming, often by intentionally overdosing on the very substances that are supposed to help them.
In Kentucky, which just celebrated its first decline in overdose deaths after five years of crisis, many towns are experiencing an abrupt reversal in the numbers.
Nationwide, federal and local officials are reporting alarming spikes in drug overdoses — a hidden epidemic within the coronavirus pandemic. Emerging evidence suggests that the continued isolation, economic devastation and disruptions to the drug trade in recent months are fueling the surge.
Because of how slowly the government collects data, it could be five to six months before definitive numbers exist on the change in overdoses during the pandemic. But data obtained by The Washington Post from a real-time tracker of drug-related emergency calls and interviews with coroners suggest that overdoses have not just increased since the pandemic began but are accelerating as it persists.
Like many parents of teenagers right now, my life feels very different to how it did this time last year. The ‘new normal’ – the endless rounds of washing and cooking, the inability to plan a holiday or visit family – is becoming increasingly irksome. But most of all, we worry about our children. Why are they in their rooms all day? Are they studying? What will happen about their exam grades, their university options and their friendships? When will they be able to go back to school? And most of all, are they happy?
This week, Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England revealed new research showing the shocking toll that lockdown is taking on children’s mental health. Last month her office asked 2,000 children aged 8 to 17 years old about their experience of stress. She says, “not surprisingly many children told us that the virus was their biggest reason for feeling stressed”. Even more worryingly, a recent consultation found that a quarter of 15- year-olds are self-harming. No wonder more than half of parents reported worrying about their children’s mental health.
Earlier this month 30 organisations wrote to the Prime Minister, urging him to take steps to reduce the impact of coronavirus on the mental health of the young – “both now and in the future”.Read More
Study 329 was a clinical study that began in 1994 giving a new antidepressant to teenagers. It led to a fraud charge, a $3 billion fine, and a Black Box Warning. Despite now knowing that all trials of antidepressants done in children are negative, sales of these drugs to children and adolescents continue to increase dramatically.
The word I keep hearing is numbness. Not necessarily a sickness, but feeling ill at ease. A sort of detachment or removal from reality. Deb Hawkins, a tech analyst in Michigan, describes the feeling of being stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic as “sleep-walking through my life” or “wading through a physical and mental quicksand.” Even though she has been living in what she calls an “introvert heaven” for the past two months—at home with her family, grateful they are in good health—her brain has dissented. “I feel like I have two modes,” Hawkins says: “barely functioning and boiling angry.”Read More
After discussing important issues concerning the re-analyses of the FDA data on suicidal behavior in antidepressant (AD) trials by Kaminski and Bschor (2020) (henceforth KB) and Hengartner and Plöderl (2019) (henceforth HP), we decided to publish a collaborative response. We want to address several limitations of our publications and add information necessary for clarifying the controversial question if treatment with ADs is associated with increased suicide risk.
As Britain slowly unlocks, we are emerging blinking into the sunlight. But nine weeks of social distancing and self-isolating has left its mark. New evidence is starting to show that ‘mental illness’ — however you wish to define that — is on the rise. And, with Mental Health Awareness Week starting today (18th May), this issue is increasingly relevant.Read More
The steadily rising rate of suicide in the US is a vexing public health crisis. Between 2007 and 2017, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death, claiming the lives of nearly half a million people.1 It is perhaps even more striking that suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for individuals aged 35 to 54 as well as the second leading cause for those aged 10 to 34. Based on 2018 epidemiologic data, 1.4 million adults per year make a non-fatal suicide attempt and 10.4 million have serious thoughts of suicide.2 Among the many risk factors for suicidal thoughts and behaviors, one that consistently emerges as an independent risk factor is sleep disturbance (broadly defined) along with the specific sleep disorders of insomnia, nightmares, and sleep apnea.3,4
One reason that this sleep-suicide relationship is so important is that sleep disorders represent a modifiable risk factor. As noted a decade ago, several sleep medicine interventions can potentially make a difference in the lives of individuals who may be on a trajectory to suicide.5
It has yet to be firmly established if improving sleep actually reduces suicide. However, in a recent analysis of a large medical record study, it was observed that having a sleep medicine consultation was a protective factor for subsequent suicide attempts among those with a sleep disorder.6 There are also some indications that cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia (CBT-I) reduces suicidal thoughts.7,8Read More