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Antidepressant-related deaths and antidepressant prescriptions in England and Wales, 1998–2000

  • Survjit Cheeta (a1), Fabrizio Schifano (a1), Adenekan Oyefeso (a1), Lucy Webb (a1) and A. Hamid Ghodse (a1)...

Deaths from antidepressants continue to account for a substantial proportion of drug-related deaths.


To investigate the relative toxicity of the major classes of antidepressant drugs, with the specific objective of assessing this in relation to the cause of death; and to analyse the deaths where there were multiple mentions of antidepressant drugs or other psychoactive drugs with antidepressants.


Mortality data were collected from the National Programme of Substance Abuse Deaths, and antidepressant prescription data were collected.


Most deaths from antidepressant drugs were suicides (80%). Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) accounted for more drug mentions than did other antidepressant drugs (12 per million prescriptions). Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) were associated with a significantly lower risk of toxicity, but 93% of deaths from SSRIs occurred in combination with other drugs, especially TCAs (24.5%). In ‘combination’ deaths patients were significantly more likely to have had a history of drug misuse.


The efficacy and safety of augmentation therapy with TCAs in SSRI-resistant patients should be monitored carefully, and patients prescribed antidepressants should be screened for drug use/misuse.

Corresponding author
Survjit Cheeta, Department of Addictive Behaviourand Psychological Medicine, St George's Hospital Medical School, University of London, Cranmer Terrace, London SW17 0RE, UK. Tel: 020 87252635; fax: 020 8725 2914; e-mail:
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Antidepressant-related deaths and antidepressant prescriptions in England and Wales, 1998–2000

  • Survjit Cheeta (a1), Fabrizio Schifano (a1), Adenekan Oyefeso (a1), Lucy Webb (a1) and A. Hamid Ghodse (a1)...
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