Fewer suicides after antidepressive treatment for schizophrenia

May 8, 2012

(Medical Xpress) -- Antidepressive drugs reduce the mortality rate of schizophrenic patients, while treatment with bensodiazepines greatly increases it, especially as regards suicide. Giving several antipsychotics simultaneously, however, seems to have no effect at all. This according to a new study examining different drug combinations administered to patients with schizophrenia.

"We weren't aware that the of antidepressives were so powerful," says Jari Tiihonen, professor of at Karolinska Institutets Department of Clinical Neuroscience.

The study followed 2,588 Finns who had recently developed schizophrenia from the time of their initial admission to hospital for an average of four years. By accessing the Finnish registers, the researchers were then able to ascertain the effects of different on the mortality risk within the group.

A total of 160 people died in the study, most commonly from external causes such as drowning, poisoning or violent crime, something that affected 57 people. Thirty-five of these cases were suicide, which made it and cardiovascular disease the two main causes of death.

The researchers found that when taking bensodiazepines, the participants ran a 91 per cent higher risk of early death than at times when these drugs were not used. By far the most common cause of death was suicide, and most deaths occurred with patients who had been taking their bensodiazepines for longer than four weeks.

"The increased for patients with long-standing benzodiazepine use may be partly attributable to the possible development of when the drugs run out," says Professor Tiihonen. "These symptoms, which can be severe and insomnia, might have affected some of the patients' decisions to commit suicide. It's therefore extremely important that bensodiazepines are discontinued gradually rather than abruptly over a period of weeks or months and in consultation with a doctor."

"The temporary acute use of benzodiazepines is justifiable if the patient is suffering a great deal of anxiety," he continues. "But benzodiazepines should be discontinued within a month according to psychiatric recommendations, which doctors must start following and respecting."

During the periods the participants took antidepressive drugs, they ran a 43 per cent lower than during the periods when these drugs were not used. Antipsychotics had no effect on mortality if the patients were on multiple prescriptions simultaneously.

"People think that it's dangerous to treat patients with schizophrenia with more than one antipsychotic drug, but there is nothing to back that up, says Professor Tiihonen. "I believe that most doctors prescribe several if their patients are not helped by just one kind, and our study finds no link between this and increased mortality during a four year follow-up. But it does mean more adverse effects, such as the risk of weight-gain, which also impacts the health in the long run, so the recommended attitude is still one of restraint."

The study was financed by EVO funding from the Finnish Ministry of Social Affairs and Health and pharmaceutical company Janssen-Cilag.

Explore further: Antipsychotic drug combinations are often given to patients early in treatment

More information: Jari Tiihonen, Jaana T. Suokas, Jaana M. Suvisaari, Jari Haukka, Pasi Korhonen
Polypharmacy with antipsychotics, antidepressants or benzodiazepines and mortality in schizophrenia
Archives of General Pschiatry, online first 7 May 2012. archpsyc.ama-assn.org/

Related Stories

Antipsychotic drug combinations are often given to patients early in treatment

March 16, 2012
Patients with schizophrenia and other mental illnesses are commonly prescribed high dose combinations of antipsychotic drugs earlier than recommended by some guidelines, finds a new study in the March issue of General Hospital ...

Antipsychotics do help many with schizophrenia, study finds

May 3, 2012
(HealthDay) -- A new study finds that antipsychotic drugs can help many people with schizophrenia, cutting patients' risk of relapse by 60 percent.

Recommended for you

Like adults, children show bias in attributing mental states to others

August 22, 2017
Young children are more likely to attribute mental states to characters that belong to the same group as them relative to characters that belong to an outside group, according to findings published in Psychological Science, ...

High moral reasoning associated with increased activity in the human brain's reward system

August 22, 2017
Individuals who have a high level of moral reasoning show increased activity in the brain's frontostriatal reward system, both during periods of rest and while performing a sequential risk taking and decision making task ...

Wealth disparity and family income impact the brain development of female youth

August 22, 2017
Female teenagers living in neighbourhoods with wide salary gaps and a low-income household show changes to their brain maturation that could indicate a higher risk of developing mental illness in adulthood, suggests a recently ...

Yoga and meditation improve mind-body health and stress resilience

August 22, 2017
Many people report positive health effects from practicing yoga and meditation, and experience both mental and physical benefits from these practices. However, we still have much to learn about how exactly these practices ...

Brain's self-regulation in teens at risk for obesity

August 22, 2017
In a small study that scanned the brains of teenagers while exposing them to tempting "food cues," researchers report that reduced activity in the brain's "self-regulation" system may be an important early predictor of adult ...

New study rebuts the claim that antidepressants do not work

August 18, 2017
A theory that has gained considerable attention in international media, including Newsweek and the CBS broadcast 60 minutes, suggests that antidepressant drugs such as the SSRIs do not exert any actual antidepressant effect. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.