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Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors and violence: a review of the available evidence

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Objective: To provide a clinically useful analysis of the relationship between selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), in particular fluoxetine and violent or suicidal behaviour.

Method: All published papers on Medline and other databases linking serotonin, SSRIs and aggression were reviewed.

Results: A small proportion of patients treated with SSRIs may become akathisic and others may show increases in anxiety in the initial phase of treatment, but no increased susceptibility to aggression or suicidality can be connected with fluoxetine or any other SSRI. In fact SSRI treatment may reduce aggression, probably due to positive effects on the serotonergic dysfunction that is implicated in aggressive behaviour directed towards oneself or others.

Conclusion: In the absence of convincing evidence to link SSRIs causally to violence and suicide, the recent lay media reports are potentially dangerous, unnecessarily increasing the concerns of depressed patients who are prescribed antidepressants.

Keywords: SSRIs; aggression; fluoxetine; serotonin

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Psychiatry, Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, Dublin 2, Ireland

Publication date: 2001-08-01

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