Latimer: Depression treatment needs a professional’s help

You may recall that a few years ago there was a great deal of media frenzy surrounding a finding that antidepressant use in adolescents and young adults could cause an increase in suicidal thoughts. As a result, the FDA put black box warnings on antidepressants and there was major media coverage of the whole thing.

Well, now that a decade has passed, there has been time to monitor the consequences of this move.

A large US study examining data from health care claims of 11 major health plans between 2000 and 2010 has shown these black box warnings may have backfired.

Results showed antidepressant use among adolescents dropped by 31 per cent following the warnings. It dropped by 24 per cent among young adults and 14.5 per cent among adults during the same period.

At the same time, there was also a significant increase in psychotropic drug poisonings in adolescents during that time—a measure of suicide attempts. Completed suicides did not change in any age group at that time.

Researchers believe it is possible the extensive media coverage and FDA warnings at the time led to unexpected and unintended results. People became fearful of receiving some of the most commonly used treatments and so opted for no treatment at all. Unfortunately, untreated depression may have led to an increase in suicide attempts.

Of course it is important to communicate about potential risks and adverse events associated with any medical treatment. We all need to be able to make informed decisions when it comes to our health.

However, the authors of this study say that the FDA should be careful in its communication of information. Short and simple black box warnings likely do not convey the level of complexity necessary for someone to gain an accurate picture of the risks and benefits of a treatment option.

We do know there was a small increase in suicidal ideation linked to antidepressant use among adolescents and young adults. We also know that untreated depression is the leading cause of completed suicide.

Before making a decision about what treatment to pursue when dealing with depression or any other mental health issue, it is important to get complete information from a qualified professional. Meet with your doctor and discuss your situation and all options at length. Get educated on the risks and benefits of treatments as well as the risk of doing nothing.

There are effective treatment options for depression. These include both pharmaceutical and talk therapy methods.

Speak with your doctor or a mental health care professional to learn more.

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