TIME Mental Illness

Higher Doses of Antidepressants Linked to Suicidal Behavior in Young Patients

A new study based on suicide risk by drug dosage, involving 162,000 patients aged 10 to 64, finds that younger patients starting off with a higher-than-recommended dose of antidepressants have an elevated risk of suicidal behavior

New research on suicide risk by drug dosage has found that doctors should avoid prescribing high quantities of antidepressants to young adults. Younger patients starting off with a higher-than-recommended dose elevated their risk of self-harm compared with those who started at lower doses, according to a study from the JAMA Internal Medicine based on 162,000 patients ages 10 to 64.

Nearly 18% of patients in the study started on doses higher than normal for drugs including Celexa, Zoloft and Prozac. Researchers checked patients’ medical records to see how many had deliberately self-harmed within a year of starting their medications.

Patients younger than 24 taking higher doses harmed themselves more than twice as frequently as those taking lower amounts — 32 incidents of self-harm per 1,000 young patients on high doses, compared with only 15 incidents within the same number on the recommended dose.

“If I were a parent, I definitely wouldn’t want my child to start on a higher dose of these drugs,” study author Dr. Matthew Miller, associate director of Harvard School of Public Health’s Injury Control Research Center in Boston, told WebMD.

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