Seizure Medications and Suicide
Are seizure medications and suicide related? An analysis of many clinical studies indicates that people taking antiepileptic medications do have an increased risk of suicidal thinking and behavior. However, seizure medications are often medically essential, and for many people, the benefits outweigh the risks. The FDA recommends watching for any warning signs (such as talking about suicide) and seeking immediate medical attention if there are any signs of suicidal thoughts or behavior.
The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released a warning about suicidal thinking and behavior in people taking seizure medications (also known as antiepileptic medications). These medications are commonly used to treat seizure disorders, psychiatric conditions (such as bipolar disorder), and nerve pain disorders. An analysis of many clinical studies has revealed that people taking these medications have an increased risk of suicidal thinking and behavior.
The FDA analyzed 199 different clinical studies of various seizure medications for a variety of different conditions. Among people taking the seizure medications, 0.43 percent had suicidal behavior or thinking, compared to 0.22 percent of people not taking the seizure medications. Although this means that the risk was approximately doubled, the risk is still quite small.
Of all the reports of suicidal thinking and behavior in people taking seizure medications in these studies (almost 28,000 people total), only four people committed suicide. The increased risk of suicidal behavior or thinking was seen as soon as one week after starting a seizure medication and continued through at least 24 weeks. It is not known if the risk continues past 24 weeks, since most of the studies stopped at 24 weeks or earlier.
The following seizure drugs were included in these studies:
- Carbamazepine (Carbatrol, Epitol®, Equetro™, Tegretol®)
- Divalproex sodium (Depakote®, Depakote® ER)
- Felbamate (Felbatol®)
- Gabapentin (Neurontin®)
- Lamotrigine (Lamictal®)
- Levetiracetam (Keppra®)
- Oxcarbazepine (Trileptal®)
- Pregabalin (Lyrica®)
- Tiagabine (Gabitril®)
- Topiramate (Topamax®)
- Valproic acid (Depakene®)
- Zonisamide (Zonegran®).
The FDA assumes that this risk is not limited to these particular seizure medications. It is expected that this risk will be seen with all seizure medications.