Anti-depressants linked to 28 murders in three decades, BBC investigation finds

'It’s happened just too frequently with this class of drug to make it random,' says psychiatrist

Tuesday 25 July 2017 17:40 BST

Anti-depressants have been associated with 28 reports of murder referred to the UK medicines regulator in the last three decades, according to a new BBC investigation.

Murderous thoughts were also believed to be linked to the medication on 32 occasions, according to Panorama, although the possible connection does not necessarily mean the drugs caused the events.

In 2016, over 40 million prescriptions were made for SSRIs, a type of anti-depressant that boosts levels of the chemical seratonin in the brain.

For the vast majority of people, the drugs are safe to take, however the programme has uncovered a number of cases of extreme violence thought to be linked to the medication.

A father who strangled his 11-year-old son was among the cases thought to be linked to the drugs, the programme found.

Professor Peter Tyrer, psychiatrist at Imperial College London who has been studying SSRIs, said: “You can never be quite certain with a rare side-effect whether it’s linked to a drug or not because it could be related to other things.

"But it’s happened just too frequently with this class of drug to make it random. It’s obviously related to the drug but we don’t know exactly why.”

Professor Tyrer is calling for the judicial system to take into account the possible effects of SSRIs in cases where people taking them commit violent crimes.

Drugs manufacturer Pfizer who developed an SSRI called sertraline said a causal link between the drug and murderous behaviour had not been proved.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in