Involvement of propranolol in suicides: A cross-sectional study using Coroner-Reported Data


Background: Propranolol is a beta-blocker medication indicated mostly for heart rhythm conditions and for physical symptoms of anxiety. Prescriptions for propranolol in the UK have increased since 2008. Recently, there have been concerns about the involvement of propranolol in intentional poisonings, but such deaths are not routinely reported. Therefore, use of coroner-reported and toxicology data enables unique investigation into the scale of involvement of propranolol in suicide. Aims: To describe the extent to which propranolol is involved in suicides, including patterns over time and characteristics of people whose suicide involved propranolol compared with other suicides. Method: Data were derived from the National Programme on Substance Use Mortality (NPSUM). All suicides and deaths of undetermined intent between 2010 and 2021 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland were extracted, and a subset was identified where propranolol was involved in death. Results: There were 4473 suicides of which 297 (6.6%) involved propranolol, with the proportion involving propranolol nearly quadrupling during the study period (3.4% v. 12.3%). Compared with all other suicides, a greater proportion of propranolol suicides were in women (56.6% v. 37.1%) and in people with diagnoses of depression (39.1% v. 27.1%) and anxiety (22.2% v. 8.6%). When suicide involved propranolol, an antidepressant was detected at post-mortem in 81.8% of deaths, most commonly a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRIs) (51.5%), and most often citalopram (24.6%). Conclusions: A small number, but increasing proportion, of suicides reported to the NPSUM involve propranolol. Vigilance to the combined toxicity profile of medicines used alongside propranolol may be pertinent.

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Divisions: College of Health & Life Sciences > Aston Pharmacy School
College of Health & Life Sciences
Funding Information: F.M.’s Doctoral Fellowship, NIHR300957, is funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR). C.A.’s launching fellowship is funded by the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Integrated Care Board.
Additional Information: Copyright © The Author(s), 2024. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Royal College of Psychiatrists. This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution and reproduction, provided the original article is properly cited.
Uncontrolled Keywords: Suicide; primary care; epidemiology; antidepressants; propranolol.
Publication ISSN: 2056-4724
Data Access Statement: The data and analytic code that support the findings of this study are available on request from the corresponding author, H.C.G. The data are not publicly available because they contain information that could compromise the privacy of research participants. The analytic code is not publicly available because there is not a corresponding publicly available data-set to which the code is applicable.
Last Modified: 16 Jul 2024 07:27
Date Deposited: 03 Jun 2024 17:20
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http://www.scop ... tnerID=8YFLogxK (Scopus URL)
PURE Output Type: Article
Published Date: 2024-07
Published Online Date: 2024-06-03
Accepted Date: 2024-04-20
Authors: Gorton, Hayley (ORCID Profile 0000-0001-5017-9174)
Archer, Charlotte
Algahtani, Thikra
Mughal, Faraz
Copeland, Caroline S.



Version: Published Version

License: Creative Commons Attribution

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