Some studies have linked antidepressants to suicide ideation in children and adolescents, but could adult suicides be linked to antidepressant use? Andrew C. Leon and associates reviewed the medical examiner reports of 1419 adults who completed suicide from 2001 to 2004 in New York City and determined that there does not appear to be a link between the two. The results of their analyses were reported in the September issue of the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry.
After reviewing the reports, the researchers found that of the suicides, 74.1% were male, 52% were white, 18.7% were Hispanic, 17.3% were black, and 11.5% were Asian or other; the most common suicide methods were jumping (30.4%), hanging (27.8%), firearms (16.6%), and drug overdose (9.1%). Researchers required that the decedents in their sample had undergone systematic toxicological analysis for antidepressants, and that the injury-death interval was recorded. After review, 1158 suicides were included in the final analyses.
Antidepressants were detected at the time of autopsy using toxicology results and injury-death intervals of 72 hours or less in 267 suicides (23.1%). Antidepressants were least prevalent among persons aged 18 to 24 years (13.9%) who completed suicide. The most common antidepressants found in the decedents were sertraline (n = 67), citalopram (n = 63), bupropion (n = 46), paroxetine (n = 29), nortriptyline (n = 29), venlafaxine (n = 25), and fluoxetine (n = 22).
Because the findings showed that most of the decedents did not have antidepressants in their system at the time of death, the authors highlighted the "need for expanded public health awareness about identification of and treatments for depression and other psychiatric disorders."