Suicides are seldom prescribed antidepressants: findings from a prospective prescription database in Jämtland county, Sweden, 1985–95


Dr Svante Henriksson, Psychiatric sector Järfälla-Upplands Bro, Jakobsberg Hospital, S-177 31 Järfälla, Sweden


Objective: This study presents data relating to prospectively monitored treatment and post-mortem toxicology of individuals who committed suicide.

Method: A case–control study of prospectively monitored pharmacological treatment in suicides and controls. Psychiatric records and post-mortem toxicology were also studied.

Results: Fifty-nine subjects who committed suicide purchased twice the number of prescriptions as the 118 controls. Sixteen cases received psychiatric in-patient care compared to four of the controls. In the last 3 months prior to suicide, 38 cases (64%) were dispensed drugs: anxiolytics-hypnotics in 17 cases (29%), antipsychotics in six cases (10%) and antidepressants in seven cases (12%). More psychiatrists than GPs prescribed antidepressants. About one-third of psychotropic drugs were retrieved in post-mortem toxicology.

Conclusion: There is a frequent use of psychotropics and psychiatric care among suicides; however, few used antidepressants and
complied. Many suicides are still misdiagnosed and are not adequately treated.