Antidepressants and Self Harm

Studies have shown that children and adolescents taking antidepressants called Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors, or SSRI's, may have increased suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

Now, new research suggests high doses of these common depression drugs may double the risk of a child or adolescent harming themselves.

"When you look at the younger age group, that's the 10 to 24 year age group, what they found was that if they were on a higher than normal antidepressant dose, or a higher than average antidepressant dose, they actually had twice the risk of deliberate self-harm during that one year period," Dr. Veena Ahuja of the Cleveland Clinic said.

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health studied data from more than 162,000 people with depression. Subjects were between 10 to 64 years old and taking either a standard dose of SSRI antidepressants or a higher than normal dose.

They found that the rate of suicidal behavior among people 10-24 years old who started antidepressant therapy at high doses was about twice as high compared to those taking average doses. While adults between the ages of 25 and 64 that were prescribed high dose antidepressants, had no higher risk in suicidal behavior.

They also found that most of the deliberate self-harm by children and adolescents happened within the first three months of treatment.

Dr. Ahuja says kids need to be monitored carefully on these medications - especially early on.

"Whenever you're starting a new medication we obviously want to watch these kids very closely especially watching them closely in the first three months," Dr. Ahuja said.

Complete results for the study 'High doses of antidepressants appear to increase risk of self-harm in children, young adults' can be found in 'Jama Internal Medicine'.

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