A new study conducted by researchers at Oxford University and published in the Public Library of Science Medicine journal reveals people aged between 15 to 24 who take anti-depressants are much more likely to be arrested or convicted for committing violent crimes. Fortunately this risk did not extend to other age groups.
The most common anti-depressants consumed by those analysed in the study were Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Seroxat and Prozac. Such drugs are taken in order to treat common mental health issues such as depression and anxiety.
Scientists who conducted the study stress more research is needed and the information they analysed only proves a tentative link between anti-depressant use and violent crime.
What the study reveals
Oxford University’s Professor Seena Fazel led the study. The study examined clients’ behaviour when taking anti-depressants. The study matched data from Sweden’s national crime register with its prescription drug register. The study analysed data spanning a three year period from 2011 to 2013.
Of the 850,000 people who were prescribed with SSRI anti-depressants in Sweden, 8,500 of that number (1%) were convicted for committing a violent crime.
Those aged between 15-24 years’ old were 43% more likely to commit a violent crime when taking anti-depressants when compared to those in the same age group not taking anti-depressants.
The figures also revealed an increase in the number of non-violent arrests and convictions for those taking anti-depressants.
For other age groups, taking anti-depressants did not increase the likelihood of committing a violent crime.
What were these ‘violent crimes’
In the current study violent crimes included the below crimes:
- Attempted murder
- Bodily harm
- Sexual offences
What are the implications of this study?
The study means GPs may need to issue warnings to clients aged between 15 and 24 years old regarding these risks of taking anti-depressants.
The manufacturers of these drugs may also be advised to point out these risks on packaging.
Perhaps there needs to be a move away from prescribing psychiatric drugs and instead look at other forms of mental health treatments such as talking therapies and holistic therapies.
As pointed out by the researchers themselves, clearly more research in this important area is needed.
Professor Fezel told Ocean Recovery: “The risk increase we report in young people is not insignificant, and hence warrants further examination. If our findings related to young people are validated in other designs, samples and settings, warnings about an increased risk of violent behaviours while being treated with SSRIs may be needed.
“Any such changes to the advice given to young persons prescribed SSRIs will need to be carefully considered, as the public health benefit from decreases in violence following restrictions in SSRI use may be countered by increases in other adverse outcomes (such as more disability, re-hospitalisation, or suicides).”