Case report of a fatal intoxication by citalopram

Am J Forensic Med Pathol. 2005 Dec;26(4):352-4. doi: 10.1097/01.paf.0000188276.33030.dd.


Citalopram is an antidepressant drug within the group of the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI). It is widely prescribed both in Europe and in United States, and it has always been considered a "safe" drug as pure intoxication with lethal outcome is rare, and most cases of overdose, even with high doses of citalopram ingested, are reported to have an uneventful course. We report the case of a young woman found dead at home. She had been prescribed citalopram by her family doctor 3 weeks before her death for a depressive syndrome. Police found in her house 3 empty blister packages of 28 citalopram tablets (20 mg) and 2 bottles of citalopram oral solution (4%, 15 mL each). The autopsy findings were unremarkable. Nasal swabs, blood from femoral vein, urine, bile and tissue samples were collected for toxicologic investigation. Citalopram separation was performed by solid/liquid method, using Bond-Elute columns. The extracts were analyzed by GLC and GC/MS methods. The toxicologic analysis showed high levels of citalopram in all the examined fluids and tissue samples (blood concentration: 11.60 mg/L). No other drugs and alcohol were detected. Our data confirm that if no other drug is involved, fatal complications occur only after ingestion of very high doses. However, there is no predefined "toxic dose," and the conditions under which the overdose occurs can be very important. We report the exact concentrations of the citalopram in the organs, and wethink that this can be useful in the cases where the blood samples were not available (ie, carbonized or decomposed body).

Publication types

  • Case Reports

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / pharmacokinetics*
  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation / poisoning*
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Citalopram / pharmacokinetics*
  • Citalopram / poisoning*
  • Female
  • Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry
  • Humans
  • Suicide
  • Tissue Distribution


  • Antidepressive Agents, Second-Generation
  • Citalopram