Study confirms self harm risks of SSRIs
The Green Party is calling for increased funding for counselling services and further research in the wake of a new study showing a link between the use of Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor (SSRI) antidepressants and self harm.
While 'The Patterns of Antidepressant Drug Prescribing and Intentional Self-harm Outcomes in New Zealand' was unable to answer the question of whether the use of some antidepressants is linked to suicide, it did show that SSRIs were linked to increased hospitalizations for self harm, raising serious questions about the costs and benefits of the widespread use of these drugs.
"What the study into SSRIs also revealed were very uneven patterns of prescribing around the country, with one in every 11 people in Canterbury taking SSRIs compared to one in every 27 in South Auckland," Ms Kedgley says.
"This disparity may reflect both socio-economic obstacles to seeking help as well as clinical differences in the treatment of depression. What's clear is that greater access to non drug-based treatment is urgently needed right across the country.
This study adds to recent reports that antidepressants are too readily prescribed simply due to a lack of available counselling services
"Just last week College of General Practioners' Chair Jonathon Fox acknowledged that GPs lack resources beyond writing prescriptions. The resounding success of the recent John Kirwan ad campaign has made it even more apparent that primary healthcare resources and counselling cannot match the demand for these services.
"The study highlighted the need for doctors to monitor patients closely, particularly during the early stages of anti-depressant use. This has been Medsafe's advice for some time, but we don't know if this monitoring is being delivered by our overstretched healthcare system.
"While the Budget provided some new money for primary mental healthcare and suicide prevention, this is just not enough to meet the widespread need in the community," Ms Kedgley says.