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The Daily Mail
By Fiona Macrae, Science Editor For The Daily Mail
Could antidepressants make you violent? Young people who take drugs including Prozac are ‘50% more likely to be convicted of assault and murder’
Those in late teens and early 20s 50% more likely to commit violent crime.
SSRI drugs include Prozac, Seroxat, Lustral, Cipralex and Cipramil
Experts believe adolescent brains are more sensitive to drug interference.
And less likely to take their pills allowing symptoms to boil over to violence.
Popular antidepressant pills make young people violent, it is feared.
An Oxford University study found that men – and women – in their late teens and early 20s – were almost 50 per cent more likely to be convicted of offences from assault to murder when taking SSRI drugs.
This family of anti-depressants includes Prozac, as well as Seroxat, Lustral, Cipralex and Cipramil, the most commonly prescribed of the pills.
One in eight Britons takes SSRIs each year – and the number of prescription has doubled in the last decade.
Meanwhile in the US around 11 per cent of people aged 12 and over take antidepressants, including SSRIs, according to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
Men and women in their late teens and early 20s were almost 50 per cent more likely to be convicted of offences from assault to murder when they were taking SSRI drugs, new research has found (file image)
The tablets already carry a warning that the drugs are linked to suicidal thoughts in young people and it was suspected they were also linked to violence but evidence was sparse until now.
The researchers said the risk in 15 to 24 year olds is ‘not insignificant’ and that the public health implications ‘require careful consideration’.
These include adding a warning to packets.
Oxford psychiatrist Senna Faze used official records to analyse the behaviour of more than 800,000 Swedes aged 15-plus who had been prescribed SSRIs.
Tracking them for four years allowed him to compare their behaviour when they were on the pills to when they were off them.
Professor Fazel, who researches the links between mental illness and violent crime, said: ‘People who were aged between 15 and 24 had a 43 per cent higher risk of committing a violent crime when medicating compared to when not medicating.
‘Among the other age groups we didn’t see any associations that were significant at all.’
The professor isn’t sure what’s behind the link but one possibility is that the drugs act differently on developing brains.
The adolescent brain may be particularly sensitive to pharmacological interference
Professor Senna Faze
SSRIs are already associated with a higher risk of suicide attempts in the young.
Writing in the journal PLOS Medicine, he said: ‘The adolescent brain may be particularly sensitive to pharmacological interference.’
Other possible reasons include young people being less likely to take their pills, allowing hostility, impulsivity and other symptoms of depression to boil over into violence.
The young people studied were more likely to get drunk when on antidepressants and it may be that the booze drove them to violence.
It is also possible that they were more severely ill when they were given the drugs.
Interestingly, only the youngsters taking low doses of SSRIs were more prone to violence.
It isn’t known why this is but one possibility is that those taking high doses are so ill that they are effectively housebound.
This family of antidepressants includes Prozac, as well as Seroxat, Lustral, Cipralex and Cipramil, the most commonly prescribed of the pills. One in eight Britons takes SSRIs each year – and the number of prescription has doubled in the last decade
Professor Fazel, who collaborated with Swedish researchers, said more research is needed to confirm the link.
If it is proven, any decision to stop prescribing the drugs to young people would have to be weighed up against the good that they do.
He advises those already taking the pills to keep taking them.
Professor Fazel said: ‘Adherence is important. If you are recommended to take this medication, follow the course of treatment.
‘The other thing is, this important association with higher alcohol problems. I think that is something people should be aware of, that there is this link with alcohol misuse.’
Finally, if young people on SSRIs start to feel aggressive or have violent thoughts, they should speak to their GP.
Others said that that while interesting, the study does not prove that SSRIs fuel aggression and it is already known that violent criminals are more likely to have psychiatric problems than other people.
The medicines’ watchdog said SSRIs are already linked to an increased risk of anger and aggression in under-18s.
A Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency spokesman added: ‘As with all medicines we will continue to monitor emerging evidence and issue updated advice where necessary.’