Sedatives and suicide: the San Diego study.


Although clinical experience points to the frequent use of sedatives and hypnotics in suicide, remarkably few data are available to characterize the demographics of the population involved. The San Diego study, in which toxicological examinations were performed in over 90% of 204 consecutive suicides seen by the San Diego County Coroner during 1981-1982, provides an opportunity to examine suicide victims who were taking various medicines and drugs of abuse. Drugs were detected in 68% of tested subjects. Anxiolytics and hypnotics were found in 10.7% and 12.3% of the cases respectively. Women were more than 4 times as likely as men to have tested positive for an anxiolytic or hypnotic. Antidepressants were found in 5.9%. Alcohol had been ingested by 28.3% of subjects. Barbiturates and benzodiazepines were found in approximately equal proportions, although nationally the number of barbiturate prescriptions filled in drugstores was only one-sixth that of benzodiazepines. Major depression was found in 22.5%; among cases with positive histories of major depression, only a small proportion ranging from 4-10% were positive for antidepressants, anxiolytics or hypnotics. Interestingly, approximately equal proportions (4.8% and 6.2%) of depressed and non-depressed patients were positive for antidepressants. Among subjects whose deaths were attributed to drug ingestion, benzodiazepines, barbiturates and antidepressants were found in approximately one-third each, with little overlap. Although benzodiazepines were found in less than 10% of the group as a whole, they were found in one-third of subjects who committed suicide by overdose.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)


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@article{Mendelson1993SedativesAS, title={Sedatives and suicide: the San Diego study.}, author={Wallace B. Mendelson and Charles L. Rich}, journal={Acta psychiatrica Scandinavica}, year={1993}, volume={88 5}, pages={337-41} }