Fluoxetine and violent death in Maryland — (Forensic Science International)

SSRI Ed note: State finds that suicide most common cause of death for those on antdepressants, fluoxetine most associated with violent deaths.

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Forensic Science International 1994 Feb; 64(2-3):107-17.

Frankenfield DL1, Baker SP, Lange WR, Caplan YH, Smialek JE.

Author information:  1Johns Hopkins University, School of Public Health, Baltimore, MD.


A retrospective Medical Examiner case review of all deaths in Maryland where either fluoxetine or tricyclic antidepressant (TCA) use was forensically detected was conducted for the time period January 1987-July 1991. Case records and toxicology reports from the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner were reviewed to determine cause and manner of death, circumstances of death, demographic information on the decedent, prior medical history of the decedent, and presence and level of either fluoxetine or TCA in various body fluids/tissues. Suicide was the manner of death most frequently associated with TCA and fluoxetine detection. Violent methods were more often associated with fluoxetine suicides than with TCA suicides (65% v. 23%, P < 0.001). Demographic characteristics of antidepressant-related deaths in Maryland were similar to those of the entire USA. Possible explanations for the results obtained include the inherent lower lethality of fluoxetine compared to the TCAs, necessitating the use of additional means to complete the act of suicide; that physicians may have switched more impulsive, high risk patients to this new agent as it became available, thus creating a selection bias for more violence-prone individuals in the fluoxetine group; or that fluoxetine may be associated with induction of violence and/or suicidal ideation. Further research examining the possible association of these agents with violent acts is warranted.