Objective: The utility of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) has been overshadowed by the box warning they received when the United States (US) Food and Drug Administration (FDA) identified an increased risk of suicidality in patients 24 years of age or younger. Newer studies have identified suicidality as self-aggression and hypothesized whether this might also apply to aggression toward others. The controversy surrounding SSRIs has led to a decrease in prescriptions from healthcare clinicians and number of patients seeking the necessary treatment. The objective of this study was to determine if there is a relationship between SSRI use and aggressive behavior in an inpatient state psychiatric facility.
Design: Using a retrospective analysis, patients (N=64) admitted to an inpatient state psychiatric facility between January 1, 2013, and December 31, 2020, who were taking SSRIs were assessed to determine if they had an increased risk of aggression, whether toward themselves or others. Patients served as their own comparators and were required to have a period without an SSRI and an equivalent period taking an SSRI. Patients were assessed through markers of aggression, including psychiatric emergencies; restraints; seclusions; as needed (PRN) medication use or STAT medication use for agitation, aggression, violence, poor impulse control, or psychosis; and PRN nicotine use.
Results: There was no statistical significance in any of the analyses demonstrating that SSRI use led to an increased risk of aggression in this sample of inpatients.
Conclusion: The FDA warning of increased risk of suicidality and case reports of aggression potentially associated with the use of certain antidepressants should not prevent prescribers from treating adult patients with SSRI medications.