Antidepressants Reduce Suicides in Schizophrenic Patients

In a study looking at suicide rates in schizophrenic patients using various psychotropic drugs, it was found that treatment with antidepressants was associated with a reduced rate of death from suicide.  Benzodiazepines, however, were associated with a greater rate of suicide and taking multiple antipsychotics together had no effect.

The study followed 2,588 Finnish patients, who had recently developed schizophrenia, for an average of four years.  Finnish registries were used to assess the effect of the various drugs on mortality risk in the group.

Of this group, there were 35 cases of suicide.

The researchers found that when patients were taking antidepressants they had a 43% lower risk of death than when they were not taking them.  The decrease in suicide risk was 85%.

Among those taking benzodiazepines, there was a 91% greater risk of early death, most commonly from suicide, than when they were not taking the drugs.  In addition, most deaths occurred among  those who had been taking benzodiazepines for more than four weeks.  The authors speculated that this may have been due to withdrawal symptoms when the drugs ran out.

Taking multiple antipsychotics simultaneously had no effect on death rates, which the authors note is contrary to what is commonly believed.

The study appeared online May 7, 2012 in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

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