Do antidepressants really encourage suicide?


Q: Sertraline (Zoloft) has been a lifesaver for me. I’ve read about the suicide link with antidepressants. But I have also read that if people are thinking of suicide the medication can energize them so that they follow through with the suicide. My doctor told me this as well.

A: Health professionals were taught for decades that antidepressant medications could help depressed people get mobilized enough to complete a suicide attempt.

Now, the Food and Drug Administration warns that antidepressants may increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior, and that they are direct side effects of the drugs. This is perceived as a problem for children, adolescents and young adults. However, suicide also may pose a risk among older people, especially when they are starting or stopping antidepressant medications (BMJ, Feb. 18, 2015).

While many individuals are helped by antidepressants, others suffer terrible consequences. One reader described a recent family tragedy:

“My dear mother-in-law, who was a wonderful, caring, responsible and supportive individual, killed herself in a violent, horrible way. We are still reeling from the shock. She had never shown signs of depression. She started taking an antidepressant as a result of a car accident.”

Q: I am currently on 40 mg of atorvastatin daily. I heard that red yeast rice also can help reduce cholesterol.

Can I take them both together (before sleep), or should I take them separately (one in the morning and one at night)?

A: Since you are already taking atorvastatin, you should not add red yeast rice. The combination could increase your risk of statin side effects without providing significant additional benefit.

There are other cholesterol-lowering options that would be compatible with atorvastatin, such as an anti-inflammatory diet containing fish, ginger, garlic and olive oil. You can learn about them and other ways to protect your heart in the “Guide to Cholesterol Control and Heart Health” that we are sending you. Anyone who would like a copy, please send $3 in check or money order with a long (No. 10), stamped (70 cents), self-addressed envelope to: Graedons’ People’s Pharmacy, No. C-8, P.O. Box 52027, Durham, NC 27717-2027. It also can be downloaded for $2 from our website: www.peoplespharmacy.com.

Q: I’ve had bad seasonal allergies for years. I am allergic to tree and weed pollen. Indoor allergies include dust mites and my cats. I sneeze all year round.

I have been on allergy shots for a long time. About a year ago, I started using NasalCrom spray two to three times a day. Since I’ve been using NasalCrom, I have had zero symptoms from allergies. This is by far the best nasal spray for me.

A: Cromolyn sodium (NasalCrom) is different from the usual nasal sprays because it is neither a decongestant nor an antihistamine. Instead, it prevents mast cells in the nasal passages from releasing histamine. As a result, you don’t suffer the consequences of histamine and don’t need an antihistamine. And because one of the effects of histamine is congestion, you also don’t need a decongestant.

The biggest disadvantage to NasalCrom is that you need to use it preventively, before your symptoms start. To be effective, it must be applied three or four times a day. If you can manage that, we think it is an excellent solution to seasonal allergies.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features, 628 Virginia Drive, Orlando, FL 32803, or email them via their website: www.PeoplesPharmacy.com. Their newest book is “Top Screwups Doctors Make and How to Avoid Them.”



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