Suicide rates may be reduced by decreasing the availability, cultural acceptance or lethality of certain methods of suicide. With these principles in mind fatal overdoses in Brisbane 1979-1987 were surveyed for substances involved. Psychotropic agents, especially barbiturates predominated. Chloral hydrate was far the most commonly implicated single compound. A case is put for curtailing the availability of barbiturates and chloral hydrate. This combined with increasing detection of depressed persons may lead to a further rise in overdoses involving antidepressants which as a group require reduction in their lethality.