Suicide verdicts as opposed to accidental deaths in substance-related fatalities (U.K 2001- 2007) — (Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry)

SSRI Ed note: U.K. study finds suicide victims more often on prescribed psychoactive meds, esp antidepressants, than accident victims, fewer on illegal drugs. # understated.

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Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry

Published online Feb 24, 2011


Background: Substance-related deaths account for a great number of suicides.

Aim: To investigate levels and characteristics of suicide verdicts, as opposed to accidental deaths, in substance misusers.

Methods: Psychological autopsy study of cases from the U.K. National Programme on Substance Abuse Deaths (np-SAD) during the period 2001 – 2007.

Results: Between January 2001 and December 2007, 2108 suicides were reported to the np-SAD…Medications, especially antidepressants (44%) were prescribed to 87% of victims.  Significantly fewer suicide victims than controls presented blood toxicological results for illicit drugs.

Conclusions:  Suicide prevention programmes should devote specific attention to deaths among substance misusers who are at high risk of fatal intentional self-harm.


…compared to controls, more suicide victims were prescribed with medications (87% vs 70%)…  Suicide victims (compared to accidental deaths) were more likely to have been prescribed with [psychoactive drugs including] antidepressants (44% vs 20%)…

Note: While these findings are important, it should be remembered that many antidepressant suicides are not recorded as such, they are instead counted by coroners as open verdicts or accidents.  If there were higher accuracy in classifying deaths in the first place, the incidence of recorded suicides (vs accidents) involving antidepressants would be significantly higher.