Objective: In late 2006, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration advisory committee recommended that the 2004 black box warning regarding suicidality in pediatric patients receiving antidepressants be extended to include young adults. This study examined the relationship between antidepressant treatment and suicide attempts in adult patients in the Veterans Administration health care system.
Method: The authors analyzed data on 226,866 veterans who received a diagnosis of depression in 2003 or 2004, had at least 6 months of follow-up, and had no history of depression from 2000 to 2002. Suicide attempt rates overall as well as before and after initiation of antidepressant therapy were compared for patients who received selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), new-generation non-serotonergic-specific (non-SSRI) antidepressants (bupropion, mirtazapine, nefazodone, and venlafaxine), tricyclic antidepressants, or no antidepressant. Age group analyses were also performed.
Results: Suicide attempt rates were lower among patients who were treated with antidepressants than among those who were not, with a statistically significant odds ratio for SSRIs and tricyclics. For SSRIs versus no antidepressant, this effect was significant in all adult age groups. Suicide attempt rates were also higher prior to treatment than after the start of treatment, with a significant relative risk for SSRIs and for non-SSRIs. For SSRIs, this effect was seen in all adult age groups and was significant in all but the 18-25 group.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that SSRI treatment has a protective effect in all adult age groups. They do not support the hypothesis that SSRI treatment places patients at greater risk of suicide.