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

Abusive avatars help schizophrenics fight 'voices': study

November 24, 2017
"You're rubbish. You're rubbish. You're a waste of space." The computer avatar pulls no punches as it lays into the young woman, a schizophrenia sufferer, facing the screen.

Ten-month-old infants determine the value of a goal from how hard someone works to achieve it

November 23, 2017
Babies as young as 10 months can assess how much someone values a particular goal by observing how hard they are willing to work to achieve it, according to a new study from MIT and Harvard University.

Domestic violence turns women off masculine men

November 23, 2017
Women who are afraid of violence within partnerships prefer more feminine men, according to new research carried out by scientists at the University of St Andrews.

Study finds infection and schizophrenia symptom link

November 22, 2017
If a mother's immune system is activated by infection during pregnancy, it could result in critical cognitive deficits linked to schizophrenia in her offspring, a University of Otago study has revealed.

Schizophrenia drug development may be 'de-risked' with new research tool

November 22, 2017
Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and the New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI) have identified biomarkers that can aid in the development of better treatments for schizophrenia.

Self-harm, suicide attempts climb among US girls, study says

November 21, 2017
Attempted suicides, drug overdoses, cutting and other types of self-injury have increased substantially in U.S. girls, a 15-year study of emergency room visits found.

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.