Low level of antidepressant prescription for people who later commit suicide: 15 years of experience from a population-based drug database in Sweden



The use of antidepressants has been low in Jämtland County for many years, while the suicide rate has been among the highest in Sweden. A continuous outpatient prescription recording system has been in operation in Jämtland since 1970. Through this system we traced the prescription pattern of 80 individuals who committed suicide from 1970 to 1984. Suicide patients obtained 1.5 times more prescription drugs than 80 matched controls, mainly psychotropics and vitamins. During the 3 months prior to the suicide, half of the patients had received medical attention and 73% of the women and 40% of the men had obtained prescription drugs, in one-third from the psychiatric department. While 53% and 29%, respectively, obtained psychotropic drugs, only 13% and 9% respectively were prescribed antidepressants, often in low doses. People who will commit suicide often seek medical help. The low rate of antidepressant prescription in patients committing suicide probably reflects insufficient diagnosis and treatment of depressive disorders. It is urgent – for the individual as well as for society – that diagnostic and pharmacotherapeutic routines be improved.