Antidepressant deaths by overdose

Malcolm W. Battersby, John J. O'Mahoney, Andrew R. Beckwith, Justin L. Hunt

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    18 Citations (Scopus)


    Objective: To determine the prevalence of antidepressant deaths in South Australia, the relative frequency of each antidepressant used and demographic data of those who died. Method: This was a retrospective, case note study of all cases where death was caused by lethal levels of antidepressants in South Australia for the period from 1986 to 1990. The study occurred at the South Australian coroner's office. Subjects were selected from toxicology data, where serum or liver levels of one or more antidepressant were in the lethal range. Results: Seventy-one cases were identified and information was obtained on 68 of these cases from the coroner's files. Amitriptyline, Doxepin and Dothiepin accounted for the majority of antidepressant deaths. Women were 2.5 times more likely to use antidepressants to suicide than men. At least 63% had a known psychiatric illness and 45% had previously attempted suicide. Conclusions: The older tricyclic antidepressants are a significant cause of suicide. It is recommended that the newer antidepressants, which are as efficacious yet safer in overdose, be prescribed in preference to the older tricyclic antidepressants, as the first line of treatment in newly diagnosed depressed outpatients.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)223-228
    Number of pages6
    JournalAustralian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 1996


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