“There needs to be unmasking of the truth about the link between psychiatric treatment—including drugs—causing mental ill-health, self-poisonings, overdoses, suicide, and violence. Unless done, Suicide Prevention Awareness Month could facilitate or provoke suicide, not stop it.” – CCHR International
Suicide Prevention Awareness Month ends with an omitted discussion about psychotropic drug use contributing to increased suicides, overdoses, and self-poisonings.
At the end of National Suicide Prevention Month, held each September, one thing is clear: despite the huge financial investment in it and suicide prevention programs, there was a shocking lack of information about the role of psychotropic drugs as a precipitator or cause of suicide. Psychotropic drugs are documented in studies to induce suicidal thoughts and actions, but this is never discussed as part of suicide prevention awareness month. In particular, the increasing use of antidepressants has been linked to rising suicides, as more than 45 million Americans are taking antidepressants.
Those suicide statistics reported also do not appear to factor in drug overdose deaths that may have been suicides.
- In 2017, 47,600 people died from overdoses involving prescription or illicit opioids; 39% of those whose worst overdose had involved an opioid or sedative reported wanting to die or not caring about the risks. A study using national survey data showed that people who misused prescription opioids were 40-60% more likely to have thoughts of suicide.
- Between 1999 and 2017, overdoses involving antidepressants more than tripled, from 1,749 to 5,269. In 2019, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) reported 5,174 fatalities driven by antidepressants, sometimes in combination with other drugs, including synthetic opioids and benzodiazepines. It is not clear how many may have been deliberate overdoses.
- Of 100,000 overdose deaths during the 12-month period ending in April 2021, psychostimulants were implicated as the third highest, behind opioids. Psychostimulants include those prescribed to treat “Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder” (ADHD), which have high abuse potential, along with methamphetamine.
- Nearly 92,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 2020, marking a 30% increase from the year before, a 75% increase over five years, and by far the highest annual total on record, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The biggest increase was in Black men.
- Between 1999 and 2013 psychiatric drug prescriptions, including sedatives, antidepressants, psychostimulants, and antipsychotics, increased 117% from 197,247,557 to 427,837,506. During those same dates, death rates from an overdose of prescription psychiatric drugs climbed a whopping 240%. When someone overdoses on antidepressants, they may experience nausea, rapid heartbeat, headache, and tremors; in some cases, they may have seizures or respiratory distress or fall into a coma.
The month of September was first declared National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month in 2008. It started earlier, with a world suicide prevention day in 1975, then expanded to a week in the U.S. and now an entire month of awareness of suicide risks is held. Suicide is an enormous tragedy, taking 45,979 American lives in 2020—24,292 by firearms and 5,528 by poison. But the awareness month does not address how many of the suicides were committed by those taking psychotropic drugs that may have driven the decision to die.
- Of CCHR’s documented 125 acts of school and community acts of senseless violence committed since the late 1980s by perpetrators with a history of psychiatric treatment, 46 committed suicide. A further 17 were killed by first responders, suggesting “suicide by cop.” In all, 50.4% could have been driven to suicide by mind-altering substances and/or years of failed psychiatric hospitalization, evaluations, and treatment.
The increasing statistics on suicide, overdoses, and acts of violence resulting in perpetrator deaths indicate that increased funding for mental health services and suicide prevention has been a bottomless money pit, with worsening results.
- Between 2008—the year National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month was announced—and 2013, one of the largest suicide research investments occurred, consisting of $50 million from the U.S. Army and $15 million from the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH). NIMH reported 267 federal suicide studies existed costing about $423 million.
- In 2018, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration also awarded up to $61.1 million in grants to be disbursed over several years for suicide prevention programs.
- Yet, out of the 130 suicides per day in 2019, 17 of those lives lost were veterans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Veteran suicide-related deaths are also increasing at a greater rate than that of the general U.S. population. From 2001 to 2019, the rate of suicide among Veterans increased by nearly 36% relative to an increase of 30% in the general population.
- There are also drug poisonings, some of which could be suicides. From 2000 to 2017, there were 1,446,177 drug poisoning, suicide, and alcohol-induced premature deaths occurred in the US (563,765 from drug poisoning alone).
- Federal data reported that among those 10 to 24 years old, the overall rates of deaths by suicide increased 57% from 2000 to 2018. From 2015 to 2020, suicide attempts by ingesting toxic substances or overdosing on medications soared by 26% among those aged 6 to 19.
How many may have been prescribed antidepressants is unknown, but even the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against prescribing them to anyone younger than 24 because of the risk that the drugs may induce suicidal behavior.
Peter Gøtzsche, a medical researcher, former leader of the Nordic Cochrane Center in Copenhagen, Denmark, and author of Deadly Medicines and Organized Crime: How big pharma has corrupted healthcare, states: “It is widely believed that SSRIs [antidepressants] only increase suicidal behavior in people below 25 years of age, but that is not correct. A 2006 FDA analysis of 372 placebo-controlled trials of SSRIs and similar drugs involving 100,000 patients found that up to about 40 years, the drugs increased suicidal behavior….” But it’s much worse, he said, as they relied upon pharmaceutical company-provided data. “We already know that the companies have cheated shamelessly when publishing suicidal events.”
He further stated: “It is abundantly clear that suicides, suicidality, and violence caused by SSRIs [antidepressants] are grossly underestimated, and we also know the reasons. First, there is outright fraud. Second, many suicidal events have been coded as something else. Third, the drug industry has taken great care to bias its trials by only recruiting people at low risk of committing suicide. Fourth, the companies have urged the investigators to use benzodiazepines in addition to the trial drugs, which blunt some of the violent reactions that would otherwise have occurred.”
He warned, “It is a well-guarded secret how many people are killed by psychiatric drugs. This has been obscured in many ways…. Only about half the suicides and other deaths that occur in psychiatric drug trials are published.” He further stated that “psychiatrists have fought really hard to hide the terrible truth that depression pills double the risk of suicide, not only in children but also in adults.”
Sudden withdrawal from a prescription psychotropic drug, including antidepressants and psychostimulants can induce suicidal effects. As Gøtzsche states: “People may get terrible symptoms when they try to stop, both symptoms that resemble the disease and many others they have never experienced before. It is most unfortunate that almost all psychiatrists—and the patients themselves—interpret this as a sign that they still need the drug. They usually don’t. They have become dependent, just like a junkie is dependent on heroin and cocaine, and as ADHD drugs and SSRIs have amphetamine effects, we should view these drugs as narcotics and use them as little as possible.”
Antidepressants and antipsychotics can also cause akathisia, a frightening side effect marked by an inability to sit still. The terror experienced from this can cause can also drive people to suicide. As Gøtzsche reports: “Akathisia is a horrible feeling of inner restlessness, which increases the risk of suicide, violence, and homicide.” In one study, 79% of mentally ill patients who had tried to kill themselves suffered from akathisia.
None of this is discussed as part of suicide prevention awareness programs.
The issues in this article deserve much broader exposure. There needs to be unmasking of the truth about the link between psychiatric treatment—including drugs—causing mental ill-health, self-poisonings, overdoses, suicide, and violence. Unless done, Suicide Prevention Awareness Month could facilitate or provoke suicide, not stop it.
 https://www.cchrint.org/2016/05/02/skyrocketing-antidepressant-use-fueling-epidemic-of-increased-suicides/; IQVia Total Patient Tracker (TPT) Database, Year 2020, Extracted Jan. 2021, https://www.cchrint.org/psychiatric-drugs/people-taking-psychiatric-drugs/; Derek Beres, “Antidepressants linked to increased suicide and self-harm in teens,” Big Think, 29 June 2020, https://bigthink.com/health/antidepressants-suicide/
 https://www.cchrint.org/2021/11/22/100000-americans-die-in-overdose-epidemic-psychostimulants-third-in-abuse-list/; Dan Keating and Lenny Bernstein, “100,000 Americans died of drug overdoses in 12 months during the pandemic,” The Washington Post, 17 Nov. 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/11/17/overdose-deaths-pandemic-fentanyl/; “Provisional Drug Overdose Death Counts,” Vital Statistics Rapid Release, National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2021, https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/drug-overdose-data.htm
 https://www.cchrint.org/2016/05/02/skyrocketing-antidepressant-use-fueling-epidemic-of-increased-suicides/ citing: “Psychiatric Medications Kill More Americans than Heroin” Rehabs.com, January 5, 2016, http://www.rehabs.com/pro-talk-articles/psychiatric-medications-kill-more-americans-than-heroin/, citing: MEPS (Medical Expenditure Panel Survey) database, http://meps.ahrq.gov/mepsweb/data_stats/download_data_files_results.jsp?cboDataYear=All&cboDataTypeY=2%2CHousehold+Event+File&buttonYearandDataType=Search
 “Is It Possible to Overdose on Antidepressants?: How to Spot the Signs of Antidepressant Overdose,” verywellmind, 18 May 2022
 “U.S. National Suicide Prevention Research Efforts: 2008-2013 Portfolio Analyses,” Prepared by the National Institute of Mental Health on behalf of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention’s Research Prioritization Task Force Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention
 “Reducing Military and Veteran Suicide,” CDC, 15 June 2022, https://www.cdc.gov/washington/testimony/2022/t20220615.htm
 https://www.cchrint.org/2022/06/03/suicide-attempts-increasing-in-children-including-28-in-6-to-9-year-olds-is-preventable/, citing Jeffrey Fluger, “A Growing Number of Young People Are Attempting Suicide by Self-Poisoning,” Time, 1 June 2022, https://time.com/6183226/suicide-poisoning-young-people/
 Peter Gøtzsche, et al., Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How big pharma has corrupted healthcare, CRC Press, (London, New York, 2017), pp. 222, 223
 Peter Gøtzsche, et al., Deadly Medicines and Organised Crime: How big pharma has corrupted healthcare, CRC Press, (London, New York, 2017), p. 199
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