Antidepressants cause 15 times more suicides than FDA reports

Denmark-based researcher Dr. Peter C. Gotzsche recently made waves with a hard-hitting editorial published in the prestigious British Medical Journal. In the essay, Dr. Gotzsche criticized accepted data on antidepressants and other common psychiatric drugs. According to Gotzsche, when you closely examine the data, these drugs are far less effective and far more deadly than what is widely reported.

Specifically, he found three disturbing problems…

First, he said the FDA underreports suicides linked to antidepressants drugs, such as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).

For example, Gotzsche looked at one recent meta-analysis involving 100,000 men and women on antidepressants. According to the FDA’s published data, there were only five suicides in 52,960 patients.

But when you look a little closer, you see the FDA only labeled a death as a “suicide” if it happened within 24 hours after the patient stopped taking the drug. When you broaden the scope of investigation, you see the real number is 15 times higher than what the FDA reports.

When people stop taking these drugs, it takes weeks for these toxic effects to “wash out” of their systems. And the withdrawal symptoms can be terrible. Plus, many people commit suicide while taking the drug.

In fact, as a consulting forensic pathologist I long ago noted the tragically paradoxical connection between antidepressant use and suicide. When you give an antidepressant to a depressed person who has thoughts of suicide (suicidal ideation), the drug gives them the energy to bring the idea of suicide to reality…the worst possible treatment failure.

So–picking such an arbitrary time limit (24 hours) to label something as an actual suicide makes no sense biologically or statistically. It seems to make it look like the risk of suicide increases only if you stop taking the drug–which flies in the face of logic, reason and experience. As if the decision to stop the drug is in itself an act of suicide. But look a little closer….

Gotzsche says many other studies come up with the same disturbing trend, especially among men and women over 65 years of age.

He says conservative estimates from a number of trials suggest antidepressants increase death rates for this population by two percent overall. In addition, antipsychotic drugs, sometimes given to patients with dementia, and benzodiazepines, sometimes prescribed as sleeping pills, each increase death rates by one per cent. Overall, he says these drugs cause 539,000 excess deaths in men and women 65 and older in the United States and European Union alone.
So let’s move on to Gotzsche’s second point…exaggerated benefits.

Dr. Gotzsche says these industry-funded, randomized trials suffer from patient bias and poor design. You see, these studies often include patients who are already taking an antidepressant drug. So these patients must undergo an extreme washout period that forces them into a “cold-turkey” withdrawal.

Then, testing of the new study drug begins after the harsh withdrawal. Of course, the patients feel significantly better on the study drug than how they felt during their withdrawal period. Dr. Gotzsche says this design flaw exaggerates the effect of the new study drug.

Big pharma conducts clinical trials on antidepressants in the same way they conduct their trials for some other big-selling drugs…in such a way as to arrive at a pre-conceived conclusion that favors drug effectiveness.

That point brings us to Gotzsche’s third problem with psychiatric drugs…they just aren’t as effective as big pharma claims.

According to his investigation, most psychiatric medications aren’t any more effective than a placebo. In fact, as I often report, studies show antidepressants only work for about one in seven depressed patients. And that one patient in seven may very well feel a benefit because of the placebo effect.

Plus, antidepressants and other psychiatric drugs cause a slew of dangerous side effects. In fact, animal studies–which are far better controlled and precise–demonstrate that antidepressants, other psychiatric drugs, ADHD drugs, and dementia drugs can actually damage brain tissue or function.

Dr. Gotzsche says there’s no legitimate reason for doctors to prescribe antidepressants and many other psychiatric drugs to their patients. He says the drugs would have to incur “colossal” benefits to justify their use, given their terrible and toxic safety profiles. But those “colossal” benefits just don’t exist.

Two years ago, I reported on a book Gotzsche published called Deadly Medicine and Organized Crime that claims big pharma engaged in massive fraud and deception to push dangerous drugs like antidepressants onto the public. He says the system is so corrupt, millions of people now take drugs that don’t work and cause harm.

In an interview with Medscape, Gotzsche said, “Given their lack of benefit, I estimate we could stop almost all psychotropic drugs without causing harm–by dropping all antidepressants, ADHD drugs, and dementia drugs.”

Fortunately, there are safe and effective non-drug approaches to anxiety, depression, pain, and other chronic conditions. You can learn all about these safe, effective approaches in my book with Mike Jawer, Your Emotional Type.  You can also learn about which non-drug treatments will work best for you or a loved one by taking this simple quiz.

Dr. Gotzche says the use of unnecessary psychiatric drugs is a medical “holocaust” now totaling five million victims. You won’t find any memorials to those victims on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The closest monument to this monumental problem might be just up the road several miles in Rockville, MD at the FDA.



  1. “Does long term use of psychiatric drugs cause more harm than good?” BMJ 2015;350:h2435
  2. “’Stop Almost All Psychiatric Meds to Prevent Harm,’ Expert Says,” Medscape ( 6/1/2015