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Original Research

Toxicology Findings in Child and Adolescent Suicides in Virginia: 1987-2003

W. Victor R. Vieweg Anand K. Pandurangi Emmanuel A. Anum Jack O. Lanier Marcella F. Fierro Antony Fernandez

Published: July 14, 2006

Article Abstract

Objective: In a follow-up report of child and adolescent suicides in Virginia, we describe postmortem toxicology findings in a subset of these youths.

Method: We analyzed “unnatural” deaths from Virginia’s Office of the Chief Medical Examiner for 1987 to 2003. There were 2818 unnatural deaths in children and adolescents. We grouped unnatural deaths as accidents, homicides, and suicides. Toxicology records were available for 753 cases, of which 732 were black or white youths.

Results: There were no age differences among suicide victims and accident or homicide victims. Whites were more likely than blacks to die by accident and suicide. White females were more likely than black females to commit suicide. Black males were more likely than white males to suffer homicide. For all unexpected deaths, antidepressants were more commonly found among whites than blacks. Suicide by poisoning occurred more commonly among whites. Recreational drugs were more commonly found among blacks than whites. Suicide by gun occurred more commonly among blacks. Antidepressants were found in 39 black and white suicide victims. Antidepressants (all tricyclic antidepressants) were causally related in 17 cases of suicide by poisoning. No other antidepressants were found in lethal levels in suicide by poisoning. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)/venlafaxine appeared more commonly in the suicides (p < .0001) than in accidents or homicides. For suicides, SSRIs appeared no more commonly in poisoning than in gun or hanging deaths (p = .695).

Conclusions: Antidepressants appeared more commonly among youths committing suicide than those dying by accident or homicide. SSRIs did not appear more commonly among youths committing suicide by poisoning than those committing suicide by gun or hanging. Because our data are descriptive, they are subject to overinterpretation. Cause-effect inferences should not be drawn.

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