Drug misuse calls as prison suicide rate rockets

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There have recently been reports concerning increased suicides in prisons.

When this happens, the obvious question that comes up concerns the reasons why this should be the case.

Figures from the Ministry of Justice revealed a record number of people killed themselves in prisons in England and Wales in 2016.

There were 119 self-inflicted deaths – 29 more than the previous year and the highest number since records began in 1978.

It also reported a record high of 37,784 self-harm incidents and 25,049 assault incidents.

Compare these statistics with an article from December 2014 which looked into psychotropic prescribing patterns in English prisons. It stated that overall, 17% of men and 48% of women in prison were prescribed at least one psychotropic medicine.

More importantly, it stated that antidepressants were the most commonly prescribed psychotropic medication, prescribed to 13% of men and 41% of women in prison.

Now consider this – there have been 160 drug regulatory agency warnings from 11 countries including the UK, warning that antidepressant drugs cause side effects.

Of those studies, 38 of them concerned warnings on antidepressants causing suicide, suicide risks and suicide attempts, and 13 warnings on antidepressants causing hostility, violence or aggression.

Now join the dots.

Sometimes, members of the public or in this case those responsible for looking after prisoners, don’t see the association between suicides and antidepressant drugs until it’s pointed out.

Whether in prison or not, the true resolution of many mental difficulties begins when a competent, non-psychiatric doctor completes a thorough physical examination.

There are many causes of depression; lack of exercise, thyroid problems, hormonal disorders, food allergies, sleep disturbances, infections, heart problems, lung disease, chronic pain and even some psychiatric drugs can cause it.

At the end of the day, a person must be allowed to make a fully informed choice about the consequences of taking antidepressants, and that includes those in prison.

Brian Daniels

National Spokesperson, Citizens Commission on

Human Rights (UK)