The relationship between the prescription of pyschotropic drugs and suicide rates in adults in England and Wales

Zhinchin, G, Zarate-Escudero, S, Somyaji, M and Shah, Ajit Kumar (2016) The relationship between the prescription of pyschotropic drugs and suicide rates in adults in England and Wales. Medicine, Science and the Law, 56 (3). pp. 205-209. ISSN 0025-8024

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Background: A few studies have demonstrated an inverse relationship between the general population and suicide rates and antidepressant prescribing rates. Correlations between general population suicide rates and prescribing rates of other psychotropic drugs have also been observed. There have not been any studies during the last decade. Methods: The relationship between adult suicide rates and prescription rates of psychotropic drugs by the broad British National Formulary (BNF) categories, for individual psychotropic drug groups within the BNF categories (e.g. selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors) and for individual psychotropic drugs was examined over a 12-year period (1995–2006) was examined using Spearman’s rank correlation. All data were ascertained from the archives of the Office for National Statistics. Results: There was an absence of significant correlations between adult suicides rates and rates of prescriptions of psychotropic drugs in the broad BNF categories, individual psychotropic drug groups and individual psychotropic drugs. Discussion: The findings may be due to methodological errors. Should the findings be accurate, then the following approaches require consideration to reduce suicide rates further: (i) development of strategies to ensure continued prescription of psychotropic drugs at the current level; (ii) development of strategies to improve non-pharmacological measures, including improved mental health services provision for adults, improved assessment of suicide risk, increased availability of psychosocial interventions and restricting the availability of methods of suicide; and (iii) development of strategies to implement improvement in distal risk (e.g. societal socio-economic status) and protective (e.g. societal educational attainment) factors for suicide at a societal level.

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