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Asian J Psychiatr. 2019 Jul 25;44:133-137. doi: 10.1016/j.ajp.2019.07.039. [Epub ahead of print]

Prescription drug suicide in non-abusers: A 6-year forensic survey.

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Department of Forensic Medicine, ESIC Medical College, Faridabad, 121001, India. Electronic address:
Department of Forensic Medicine, Amrita School of Medicine, Kochi, 682026, India. Electronic address:
Department of Forensic Medicine, Poison Control Centre, Amrita Institute of Medical Sciences, Kochi, 682026, India. Electronic address:
Department of Psychopharmacology, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, Bangalore, 560029, India. Electronic address:



Prescription drug suicide merits study to guide the development of strategies to reduce suicide risk. We examined prescription drug suicide specifically in non-abusers of prescription drugs; this is a relatively unexplored subject.


Six-year data on prescription drug suicide in non-abusers were extracted from the records of the Department of Forensic Medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi. These records contained information obtained from the scene of the suicide, from interviews with relatives of the deceased, and from forensic toxicological analyses at two laboratories.


There were 27 (8%) cases of prescription drug suicide in non-abusers out of 338 cases of suicidal poisoning. The mean age of this sample was 26 years. The sample was 74% male. Nearly half of the cases (44%) were students. A combination of dextropropoxyphene with dicyclomine, with or without paracetamol, was used by 41% of cases. Overdose was achieved through the ingestion of 10-40 (median, 30) tablets or by the injection of 2-3 (median, 2) vials of medication. In 52% of cases, it appeared that the drugs had been procured over the counter.


It is reassuring that the absolute number of prescription drug suicides in non-abusers was small; the findings, however, are important because they could serve as a baseline for assessing time trends in future studies. For the present, we suggest that prescription drugs of potential abuse, especially those containing opioids and antispasmodics, should be prescribed and dispensed judiciously, especially to youth.


Antispasmodics; Drugs; Opiates; Overdose; Prescription; Suicide


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