How to manage adolescent depression is a problem that has vexed clinicians and parents ever since the Food and Drug Administration issued a “black-box” warning several years ago that adolescents taking antidepressants were at a higher risk of suicidal behaviors. Following the warning, antidepressant use declined. Whether or not suicides increased as a result has been unclear.
Now, a report published in the April 2009 American Journal of Psychiatry, “Predictors of Spontaneous and Systematically Assessed Suicidal Adverse Events in the Treatment of SSRI-Resistant Depression in Adolescents (TORDIA) Study,” offers preliminary data in the search to clarify this critical issue.
The multi-institutional study was led by David Brent, M.D., of Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of the University of Pittsburgh, a NARSAD Distinguished Investigator and winner of NARSAD’s 2006 Ruane Prize for Children and Adolescent Psychiatric Research. NARSAD Scientific Council Member Martin B. Keller, M.D., of Brown University Medical School, was among the study collaborators.
In an editorial in the journal assessing the research, NARSAD Distinguished Investigator Myrna M. Weissman, Ph.D. of Columbia University and the York State Psychiatric Institute, a leader in child psychiatry studies, hailed Dr. Brent and associates for “a report full of pearls for psychiatrists and families.”
In the TORDIA study, 334 depressed adolescents who had not responded to a previous trial with an SSRI (selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitor) antidepressant were randomized to either another SSRI or to venlafaxine (Effexor) a serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SNRI), with or without cognitive behavior therapy. Self-harm events, i.e., suicidal and non-suicidal self-injuries were assessed by spontaneous report for the first 181 participants, and by systematic weekly assessment for the last 153 participants.
The results showed higher rates of suicidal (20.8 percent vs. 8.8 percent) and nonsuicidal self-injury (17.6 percent vs. 2.2 percent ), but not serious adverse events (8.4 percent vs. 7.3 percent), were detected with systematic monitoring.