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Int J Neuropsychopharmacol. 2018 Sep 1;21(9):814-821. doi: 10.1093/ijnp/pyy048.

Suicidal Ideation and Suicidal Behavior as Rare Adverse Events of Antidepressant Medication: Current Report from the AMSP Multicenter Drug Safety Surveillance Project.

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Department of Psychiatry, Kbo-IAK, Academic Teaching Hospital of the Ludwig-Maximilian University, Haar/ Munich, Germany.
Department of Psychiatry, Ludwig-Maximilian University, Munich, Germany.
Psychiatric Hospital Kilchberg /Zurich, Switzerland.
Drug Commission of the German Medical Association, Berlin, Germany.
Department of Psychiatry, Hannover Medical School, Hannover, Germany.
Department of Psychiatry, Georg August University, Göttingen, Germany.
Department of Psychiatry, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.



Suicidal ideations, suicide attempts, and fatal suicides are rare adverse drug reactions to antidepressant drugs, but they essentially are clinically relevant. Drawing on a larger dataset of the European drug surveillance program, the present naturalistic study updates a previous contribution (Stübner et al., 2010).


First an analysis of the comprehensive data collected in 81 psychiatric hospitals from 1993 to 2014 by the European drug surveillance program Arzneimittelsicherheit in der Psychiatrie was made. All documented single cases of suicidal ideations or behavior judged as adverse drug reactions to antidepressant drugs were carefully assessed as to their clinical features and drug prescriptions.


Among 219,635 adult hospitalized patients taking antidepressant drugs under surveillance, 83 cases of suicidal adverse drug reactions occurred (0.04%): 44 cases of suicidal ideation, 34 attempted suicides, and 5 committed suicides were documented. Restlessness was present in 42 patients, ego-dystonic intrusive suicidal thoughts or urges in 39 patients, impulsiveness in 22 patients, and psychosis in 7 patients. Almost all adverse drug reactions occurred shortly after beginning antidepressant drug medication or increasing the dosage. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors caused a higher incidence of suicidal ideation and suicidal behavior as adverse drug reactions than noradrenergic and specific serotonergic antidepressants or tricyclic antidepressants, as did monotherapy consisting of one antidepressant drug, compared to combination treatments.


The study supports the view that antidepressant drug-triggered suicidal ideation and suicidal behavior (primarily with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) are rare. Special clinical features (restlessness, ego-dystonic thoughts or urges, impulsiveness) may be considered as possible warning signs. A combination therapy might be preferable to antidepressant drug monotherapy when beginning treatment.

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