Little is known about the use of antidepressant drugs in Italy since the introduction of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). To fill this gap, we examined antidepressant drug sales data from 1988 to 1996 for the whole country, and for the years 1995 and 1996 on the regional level. National suicide trends from 1988 to 1994 were also examined to assess whether the increasing use of SSRI antidepressants was associated with changes in suicide rates. From 1988 to 1996 an increase of antidepressant sales of 53% was recorded. This increase reflected increasing use of SSRIs, which in 1996 accounted for more than 30% of total antidepressants sold. The analysis of regional differences demonstrated heterogeneity between north, center, and south. In the south prescriptions of antidepressants and use of SSRIs were lower than in the rest of the country. In the 7-year period over which SSRI use increased, male suicide rates increased from 9.8 to 10.2 per 100,000 inhabitants, and female suicide rates declined from 3.9 to 3.2 per 100,000. These data suggest that SSRIs gave a new impetus to antidepressant sales. However, possible public health benefits related to the shift from old to new antidepressants have yet to be demonstrated.