Current Status: Psychopharmacology for Suicide Prevention
Available with English captions and subtitles in Spanish.
Ross J. Baldessarini, MD, McLean Hospital, presents as part of the 2022 Suicide-Focused Assessment and Treatment: An Update for Professionals course.
Medications and Suicide Prevention
In this talk, Baldessarini reviews biomedical treatments, especially medications, known to impact suicidal thinking and behavior.
Medication’s role in addressing suicide is complicated and can depend on various factors, including a patient’s diagnosis and age.
Watch now to learn more about:
- Why the role of psychopharmacology in preventing suicide is complex
- How clozapine and lithium can reduce suicide in specific populations
- How antidepressants may impact different age groups
- Which new treatments are on the horizon
According to Baldessarini, “Biomedical approaches to therapeutics aimed at suicide prevention have been a difficult area for academic pursuit and have only been taken seriously for the past decade.”
He points out that a landmark in the area has been the use of clozapine in treating people with psychotic disorders. Research shows that the drug is clearly more effective than other modern antipsychotic drugs in preventing suicide.
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However, clozapine’s effect on suicidality is only proven in people with schizophrenia and schizoaffective disorder. It needs to be further studied for people with bipolar disorder and other conditions.
Lithium is another treatment of interest. Baldessarini shares, “In looking at three dozen trials with over 3000 patients, mostly with bipolar disorder, the overall finding is again a huge reduction of suicidal behavior or risk with lithium versus alternative treatments.”
Baldessarini also addresses whether antidepressants provide benefits in preventing suicide.
Media coverage in recent years has focused on increased suicide risk in people under the age of 25 who took antidepressant medication.