Are antidepressants safe in the treatment of bipolar depression? A critical evaluation of their potential risk to induce switch into mania or cycle acceleration

R. W. Licht*, H. Gijsman, W. A. Nolen, J. Angst

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

100 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Objective: To address whether switch of depression into hypomania or mania or cycle acceleration in patients with bipolar disorder is caused by antidepressants or whether this phenomenon is attributable to the natural history of bipolar disorder itself.

Method: A critical review of the literature, pointing at sources of bias that have been previously overlooked. For examining the causation in question, the Bradford-Hill criteria were applied, i.e. specificity of the potential causative agent, strength of effect, consistency in findings, dose-response relation, temporal relation with exposure to agent preceding effect and biological plausibility.

Results: There is a scarcity of randomized studies addressing the question, and the available studies all suffer from various forms of bias. However, there is some evidence suggesting that antidepressants given in addition to a mood stabilizer are not associated with an increased rate of switch when compared with the rate associated with the mood stabilizer alone.

Conclusion: When combined with a mood stabilizer, antidepressants given for acute bipolar depression seemingly do not induce a switch into hypomania or mania. Whether antidepressants may accelerate episode frequency and/or may cause other forms of destabilization in patients with bipolar disorder remain to be properly studied.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-346
Number of pages10
JournalActa Psychiatrica Scandinavica
Volume118
Issue number5
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov-2008

Keywords

  • antidepressive agents
  • bipolar disorder
  • adverse effects
  • mania
  • hypomania
  • LITHIUM-CARBONATE
  • AFFECTIVE-DISORDER
  • AFFECTIVE-ILLNESS
  • MAJOR DEPRESSION
  • IMIPRAMINE
  • ASSOCIATION
  • COMBINATION
  • VENLAFAXINE
  • PREVENTION
  • GUIDELINES

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