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Fewer suicides after antidepressive treatment for schizophrenia
Date:5/8/2012

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 beneficial effects of antidepressives were so powerful," says Jari Tiihonen, professor of clinical psychiatry at Karolinska Institutet's Department of Clinical Neuroscience in Stockholm, Sweden.

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 drug combinations 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 suicide risk for patients with long-standing benzodiazepine use may be partly attributable to the possible development of withdrawal symptoms when the drugs run out," says Professor Tiihonen. "These symptoms, which can be severe severe anxiety 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 pe
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Contact: Press Officer Katarina Sternudd
katarina.sternudd@ki.se
46-852-483-895
Karolinska Institutet
Source:Eurekalert

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