LOS ANGELES, Aug. 30, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Recent U.S. government statistics about increasing fatal overdoses and suicide being at a 40-year high among young females has prompted the mental health watchdog group, Citizens Commission on Human Rights International (CCHR) to draw attention to expert reports and studies that link psychotropic drug prescriptions to suicidal and violent behavior. The group has repeatedly called for government investigations into the role of these drugs in suicides of children, adolescents and others and says the latest figures show the need for immediate effective action.
According to new data from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics published in August, the suicide rate among girls between the ages of 15 and 19 reached a 40-year high in 2015. "For young males, there was a 31 percent increase in suicide rates, and for young females, the suicide rate doubled" between 2007 and 2015, stated Tom Simon, an author of the report and associate director for science in the division of violence protection at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC also published statistics this month about the increasing drug overdoses of teens taking psychostimulants and sedative hypnotics (benzodiazepines). It is suicide by drug overdose among adolescents, representing 13.5 percent of all drug overdose deaths for those aged 15 to 19, that most concerns CCHR. Statistically:
- More than eight million American children and adolescents are taking prescribed psychoactive drugs. Of these, over 2.1 million are on antidepressants, documented to cause violent and suicidal behavior.
- In 2016, a group of international researchers found an increase in antidepressant use among young children and adolescents in the U.S., United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark between 2005 and 2012. Antidepressant prescribing was higher in U.S. than the other four countries.
- The U.S. has one of the highest rates in the world of children prescribed psychostimulants, with 4.4 million children and adolescents on the drugs.
- Prescriptions for benzodiazepines (benzos) more than tripled and fatal overdoses more than quadrupled between 1996 and 2013.
CCHR was one of the groups that along with parents and doctors called for stronger warnings on antidepressants causing suicide. In October 2004, the FDA added its strongest "Black Box" warning to antidepressant packaging to show that the drugs could induce suicidal behavior and suicide in children and adolescents. In 2007, this was extended to the age of 24. The fact that there continues to be an increase in children and adolescents being prescribed antidepressants should be promoting effective government action, CCHR says. Yet, this is never discussed when suicide in youths is discussed.
Next month, an "Out of the Darkness" walk said to raise awareness about suicide is being organized by groups strongly affiliated with psychotropic drug manufacturers. Investigative health reporter, Martha Rosenberg reports that such awareness campaigns fail to address the suicide-inducing effects of psychotropic prescription drugs. Withas much as a fourth of some U.S. populations on antidepressants, she said, "Why are suicides at an all-time high at the same time psychoactive drug use is at an all-time high?"
The South Florida foster child live-streaming her suicide on Facebook Live in March 2017 is a deeply disturbing example of potential antidepressant-induced suicide. The Miami Herald reported that a doctor had doubled the dose of an antidepressant prescribed to 14-year-old Naika Venant only 45 days prior to her suicide. A psychologist treating Naika at age 12 had warned against filling her with pills, "because the medication she was taking 'sometimes can cause the side-effect of depression,'" according to the Miami Herald.
"There are probably up to an extra 2,500 suicides in Europe triggered by an SSRI antidepressant," states David Healy, a professor of psychiatry at Bangor University in North Wales, a psychopharmacologist and a leading critic of SSRIs antidepressants. Healy, who testifies in court cases about the violence- and suicide-inducing effects of antidepressants, was interviewed for the recent acclaimed BBC Panorama documentary "The Batman Killer: Prescription for Murder?" The documentary provided expert advice and evidence of psychotropic drugs inducing violent behavior leading to such tragic shootings as that committed by James Holmes at the Century movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, on July 20, 2012. Holmes had been taking an antidepressant. Healy suspects that the main causal factor behind antidepressant-induced suicide and violence toward others is increased mental and/or physical agitation.
Debate ensued following the BBC program, with comments made in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), such as: "As patients who have been significantly harmed by drugs of dependence, we are in no doubt that SSRIs [antidepressants] can cause altered behavior and many other terrible symptoms. Many of us live with them every day, tortured by neurological symptoms, altered states of consciousness, memory loss, inability to perform simple daily tasks, burning brain and so on and so forth. We are also very aware of the increasing body of evidence that suggest lack of scientific evidence that support the use of these drugs. We are told that antidepressants save many lives. Yet the suicide rates have recently increased at a time when antidepressant prescribing is at an all-time high."
Playing Russian Roulette with Children's Lives
According to an article about antidepressants and teen suicide published in Psychology Today, "a complicating factor is that when teenagers take antidepressants, they may not react the same way as adults do." It noted:
- According to The Harvard Mental Health Letter, "Teen bodies do not absorb and eliminate drugs in the same way adult bodies do, and their brains may be affected differently as well. A child's development could be detoured by a misapplication of drugs."
- The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) information describes that individual response to these drugs cannot be predicted with any certainty.
However, it is now generally known that many of the classes of psychotherapeutic drugs can cause adverse effects like agitation, hostility, and suicidality, even for adults.
In May 2015, veteran Craig Burton fired 11 shots during an encounter with police in Spokane, Washington, for which he was found guilty of assault in February 2016. Burton, aged 26, testified during his trial that he was trying to force police to shoot him as part of a "suicide by cop" plan. He had previously attempted suicide by overdosing on prescription drugs while taking the antidepressant paroxetine. Despite the fact that antidepressants can cause suicidal thoughts, doctors simply doubled his dose. Burton testified he had unloaded his gun before walking out into the alley and intended to provoke police into shooting him by ignoring commands to drop the gun. Regarding paroxetine, Burton stated: "I should have never been put on that drug. When I made my first suicide attempt, I should have been immediately taken off that drug."
Ann Blake Tracy, Ph.D., head of the International Coalition for Drug Awareness, says we have a whole new vocabulary today as a result of widespread antidepressant use, with terms such as "road rage," "murder/suicide," "going postal" and "suicide by cop." In San Diego, a report by the District Attorney's Office in 2015 found that 19 percent of the 358 officer-involved shootings between 1993 and 2012 were considered "suicide by cop."
Studies Confirming Psychotropic Drugs Cause Suicide
To support its call for appropriate government response to psychotherapeutic prescription-drug suicide, CCHR cites examples of studies since the FDA Black Box warning was issued on antidepressants:
- October 2016:The Pharmaceutical Journal reported that even healthy adults who took certain antidepressants had a higher risk of suicidal thoughts and violent behavior. Writing also in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, researchers said: "We found that antidepressants double the risk of suicidality and violence, and it is particularly interesting that the volunteers in the studies we reviewed were healthy adults with no signs of a mental disorder." The researchers say their results suggest that antidepressants increase the number of suicides in people of all ages.
- August 2013: The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), published a report which stated, "Antidepressant medications have been shown to increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior."
- April 2010: The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that in 2008, the FDA had mandated a warning labeling for anticonvulsant drugs regarding the increased risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors. These drugs are also administered to counter the side effects of antipsychotics and are prescribed off-label for depressive disorder and anxiety. The FDA found that patients taking these drugs had approximately twice the risk of suicidal behavior or ideation compared with patients receiving placebo.
- February 2006: Health Canada issued a new warning label for the antidepressant paroxetine—that patients may "have impulsive or disturbing thoughts, such as thoughts of self-harm or harm to others."
- August 2006:The Archives of General Psychiatry published a study stating that in children and adolescents, "the risk of suicide attempts was 1.52 times higher after antidepressant drug treatment compared with no antidepressant drug treatment." They were also 15 times more likely to succeed in their suicide attempt.
- August 2005: BMC Medicine published a study by Norwegian researchers that found patients on the antidepressant paroxetine were seven times more likely to attempt suicide than those taking placebo. "The data strongly suggest that the use of SSRIs is connected with an increased intensity of suicide attempts per year."
- April 2005: The European Medicines Agency's Committee for Medicinal Products for Human Use (CHMP) concluded that suicide-related behavior (suicide attempt and suicidal thoughts) and hostility (predominantly aggression, oppositional behavior and anger) were more frequently observed in clinical trials among children and adolescents treated with antidepressants compared to those treated with placebo.
Justin Karter, a researcher and community organizer with graduate degrees in both journalism and community psychology commented on the CDC's report showing a substantial increase in the suicide rate between 1999 and 2014. He says that few report that "the percentage of Americans on antidepressants has nearly doubled over this period." Previously, in 2014, after an article in the BMJ and several media accounts first erroneously claimed that the FDA Black Box warning labels had decreased prescriptions and increased suicides, researchers challenged and generally refuted this claim, according to Karter. A 2014 article regarding this, stated that based on flawed research, "newspapers published a story that creates a damaging misconception, which is that SSRIs appear to protect against suicide attempts in depressed teenagers and youth, when randomized clinical trials showed the opposite."
CCHR says that without an unbiased and honest look at the mounting evidence of psychotropic drug-induced suicide and violent behavior, patients will continue to be unaware that their thoughts of self-harm and suicide may be caused by the very drugs prescribed to treat them. All the drugs have been licensed as both safe and efficacious on the basis of data from clinical trials. But Dr. Healy believes that there are serious problems with the reporting of side-effects in these trials, and that this has allowed drugs to be handed out to millions around the globe without their true risks being understood.
As a nonprofit, CCHR relies on memberships and donations to carry out its mission and actions to curb psychotropic drug use in children. Click here to support the cause. CCHR has been responsible for helping get over 180 laws enacted worldwide, including the 2004 Federal Child Medication Safety Amendment that prohibits schools from forcing children to take psychotropic drugs as a requisite for their education.
Contact: Amber Rauscher, [email protected] or (323) 467-4242.
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SOURCE Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) International