Medication-Induced Risk of Suicide and Violence
Psychiatric medications bring risks as well as benefits to the patient. The benefits are generally known and the medications are widely used. The risks are far less known. Patients believe that any drug that is prescribed by a doctor is safe. All too often the physician does not explain the serious risk the drug poses. All too often the drugs are prescribed casually, as though they present no risk whatsoever.
Studies show approximately 13% of patients develop suicidal thinking or behavior as a result of taking an antidepressant drug. Psychiatric medications are being implicated in acts of violence and mass shootings. Many teenagers and adults have taken their own lives, and a number of persons have taken the lives of others, even beloved family members, because of the medications..
Regulatory Warnings and Public Awareness Efforts Are Not Enough
For over two decades, patient advocates have worked to bring about awareness of the risks of psychiatric medications. The goal has been to reduce the unnecessary and tragic loss of life, the damaging effect on personal relationships and the loss of a sense of safety in communities and schools.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and other international regulatory agencies, placed the highest level of warning on the labels of all antidepressant medications in 2004 and 2005. In a review of the studies of 3,231 patients, there were 1.2 suicide deaths per 1,000 patients..
Despite the heroic efforts of the many patient advocates, and the work of regulatory agencies, the problem remains. Medication use is rising, loss of life is increasing and there is mounting evidence that psychiatric drugs are a significant factor in school and mass shootings. Why have regulatory warnings and public awareness efforts failed to completely protect patients? One international expert has answered that it is because as yet “there has been no solution.”.
The Genetic Solution
Genetic science brings the possibility, for the first time, of a solution to this critical problem. Scientists are reporting the discoveries of genetic markers that appear to be associated with persons who are at higher risk than others of serious medication-induced side effects. In approximately 3,000 patients studied, just under 100 unique genetic markers have been associated with patients who developed thoughts of suicide or who attempted or completed suicide after being prescribed antidepressant drugs..
Since the reports suggest that genetics can predict risk of suicidality, extensive and aggressive research needs to be undertaken immediately to work to confirm those discoveries and to develop a laboratory test to be used before a drug is ever prescribed. .
Then, if the patient is found to be at higher risk, the physician and the patient can choose from a number of options for safe treatment—alternate non-drug therapy, fail-safe monitoring of the patient, or hospitalization for the patient until he is no longer at risk. .
With genetic risk prediction testing, casual prescribing of antidepressants and prescribing without advising the patient and the family of the serious risks involved will become a thing of the past. With loss of life mounting, this can happen none too soon. .