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J Affect Disord. 2007 Nov;103(1-3):13-21. Epub 2007 Jul 6.

Bipolar pharmacotherapy and suicidal behavior Part 2. The impact of antidepressants.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, David Geffen School of Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles 16111 Plummer Street, North Hills, CA 91343, United States.


Antidepressant-induced mania and cycle acceleration is a potential risk in bipolar patients. Another serious risk of antidepressants, that of increasing suicidal behavior, has been identified in some affectively ill populations. However, there is a dearth of knowledge about the effects of antidepressants on suicidal behavior specifically in bipolar patients.


Retrospective chart review of 405 veterans with bipolar disorder followed for a mean of three years, with month by month systematic assessment of current pharmacotherapy and suicide completion, attempt or hospitalization for suicidality. Chi-squared comparison of (log) rates of suicidal events during mood stabilizer monotherapy, antidepressant monotherapy, and combination of mood stabilizer and antidepressant.


Suicidal behavior event rates (per 100 patient years) were greatest during treatment with antidepressant monotherapy (25.92), least during mood stabilizer monotherapy (3.48), and intermediate during mood stabilizer + antidepressant combination treatment (9.75). These differences were statistically significant.


In a clinical setting, antidepressants may have been prescribed because patients were deemed at greater risk of suicidality.


During treatment with antidepressants (even when coupled with mood stabilizers), patients with bipolar disorder have significantly higher rates of non-lethal suicidal behavior compared to those on mood stabilizers without antidepressants, and thus require careful monitoring.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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