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Fatal toxicity of drugs used in psychiatry.

Certified deaths from fatal poisoning (accidents, suicides and open verdicts) in England and Wales have declined steadily (from 3952 in 1979 to 2565 in 2004). There was also a small annual reduction in suicides in males and in females over this period. In 2004, self-poisoning accounted for 25% of suicides and open verdicts in males (n = 862) and 45% in females (n = 540). Poisoning death rates per million prescriptions were about 10 times higher for tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) than for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), England and Wales, 1993-2004. However, despite the increased prescription of SSRIs and related compounds in recent years, there has been only a slight decrease (some 10%) in the annual number of antidepressant-related poisoning deaths, in line with the reduction in suicides (all methods) over this period. Citalopram appears to have higher overdose toxicity than other SSRIs. Of newer non-SSRI antidepressants, the overdose toxicity of venlafaxine, although lower than that of TCAs, appears to be higher than that of SSRIs, with seizures, serotonin syndrome, rhabdomyolysis, renal failure and hepatic failure having been reported. Poisoning deaths involving antipsychotics either alone, or with other drugs and/or alcohol are many fewer than those involving antidepressants (713 and 5602 deaths, respectively, England and Wales, 1993-2004). Following the restriction on thioridazine usage (2000), thioridazine-associated fatal poisoning fell to zero by 2002, but this was balanced by an increase in deaths associated with atypical antipsychotics, most notably clozapine, olanzapine and quetiapine. Antipsychotic-related poisoning deaths were higher in 2004 than at any time since 1993.

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