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October 15, 1982

Antidepressant Drugs as a Cause of Death: A Call for Caution and Data

JAMA. 1982;248(15):1879. doi:10.1001/jama.1982.03330150065029

Elsewhere in this issue, Keller et al (p 1848) report a major gap between the presence of depressive illness and the administration of appropriate drug therapy and suggest that efforts at education in psychiatry have been less successful than hoped. Uhlenhuth, in the following editorial, points out that this alleged deficit may not result from a lack of knowledge by physicians but rather from good judgment by physicians and patients who weigh risks and benefits.

Patients who are depressed constitute a serious threat of taking their own lives. Many believe that when a person is generally depressed, he may not have the energy or inventiveness to slay himself. As activity is resurgent after therapy, the patient may remain pessimistic and hopeless but become energized and, thus, an even greater threat for self-destruction. Currently prescribed antidepressant medications when taken in overdose are potent toxins and are, thus, dangerous for depressed persons.