Non-psychotropic medication and risk of suicide or attempted suicide: A systematic review

Hayley C. Gorton, Roger T. Webb, Navneet Kapur, Darren M. Ashcroft

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: To establish which non-psychotropic medications have been assessed in relation to risk of suicide or attempted suicide in observational studies, document reported associations and consider study strengths and limitations. Design: Systematic review. Methods: Four databases (Embase, Medline, PsycINFO and International Pharmaceutical Abstracts) were searched from 1990 to June 2014, and reference lists of included articles were hand-searched. Case-control, cohort and case only studies which reported suicide or attempted suicide in association with any non-psychotropic medication were included. Outcome measures: The outcomes eligible for inclusion were suicide and attempted suicide, as defined by the authors of the included study. Results: Of 11 792 retrieved articles, 19 were eligible for inclusion. Five studies considered cardiovascular medication and antiepileptics; two considered leukotriene receptor antagonists, isotretinoin and corticosteroids; one assessed antibiotics and another assessed varenicline. An additional study compared multiple medications prescribed to suicide cases versus controls. There was marked heterogeneity in study design, outcome and exposure classification, and control for confounding factors; particularly comorbid mental and physical illness. No increased risk was associated with cardiovascular medications, but associations with other medications remained inconclusive and meta-analysis was inappropriate due to study heterogeneity. Conclusions: Whether non-psychotropic medications are associated with increased risk of suicide or attempted suicide remains largely unknown. Robust identification of suicide outcomes and control of comorbidities could improve quantification of risk associated with non-psychotropic medication, beyond that conferred by underlying physical and mental illnesses.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere009074
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 2016
Externally publishedYes


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