Neuroscientist Perry Renshaw, who works out of the University of Utah, is offering a theory to the high rate of suicide that exists in the state of Utah. It's a theory that may surprise many, may make many laugh or leave exasperated.
Theresa Fisher, a Brooklyn-based journalist who writes and edits for 'Brain Mic', has written an article based on Renshaw's findings [theories].
As expected the whole antidepressant/suicide link is not even refered to, quite bizarre given that the opening ramblings of Fisher's article mentions that Utah is, and I quote, "...the No. 1 state for antidepressant use."
Rather than delve into the suicide link between antidepressant use we are taken down a different path of opinion that results in the suggestion that the high rate of suicides in Utah is down to... wait for it... altitude.
Fisher reports that...
"Renshaw believes that altitude has an impact on our brain chemistry, specifically that it changes the levels of serotonin and dopamine, two key chemicals in the brain that help regulate our feelings of happiness. America's favorite antidepressants (and party drugs) work by controlling the level of these chemicals in the brain. The air in Utah, one could say, works just like this."
The above, of course, is supposition but the author of the study believes that he has found "mounting statistical, scientific and anecdotal support for his theory."
Utah, we are told, is not only the No. 1 state for antidepressant use, it also has the highest suicide rates in the country (aside from Alaska)
Putting these two facts together throws up some interesting theories for people like me that writes about the dangers of antidepressants. One would think it would have raised alarm bells for Renshaw - alas, he, it appears, avoids the blindingly obvious, opting instead to lay the blame on altitude.
In a 2011 study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, Renshaw, along with others, analyzed state suicide rates. The criteria they focused on were gun ownership, population density, poverty, health insurance quality and availability of psychiatric care. Once again we see no focus on whether or not the medication could be playing a part in suicide.
According to Renshaw, the 2011 study and a follow-up study found a positive correlation between suicide and altitude, adding that the elevation at which people live, he found, is a strong predictor of their mental health status.
It's an alternative opinion yet one that I find hard to swallow, particularly (and I know I keep saying it) that Renshaw et al seem to totally dismiss the notion that the actual 'cure' for depression could be the cause of the suicide. Even if it's not, the two statistics for the state of Utah would suggest that the antidepressants just aren't working. Dig deeper and you may just find that these pills that have been heavily marketed as 'life-savers' may just be the exact opposite.
Whilst dismissing the antidepressant suicide link Renshaw (on evidence he found regarding altitude and suicide) says that his evidence is "too strong to dismiss as coincidental."
"Hello, McFly, anyone at home?"
Let's just see what he overlooked again...
1. Utah is the No. 1 state for antidepressant use.
2. Utah has the highest suicide rates in the country (aside from Alaska)
Ergo it must be altitude causing the suicides!
The highest city in the world is, according to Wikipedia, La Rinconada in Peru. I'm left wondering if Renshaw et al actually obtained suicide reports from this part of the world?
It would be very interesting if Renshaw and co could go back to their study and through their evidence obtained try to decipher which of those who died by suicide were on an antidepressant medication at the time of their death... or were taking an antidepressant 3 months prior to their death.
Maybe then we can put the altitude theory to bed and focus on trying to save lives.