Behavioral Toxicity Revisited: Iatrogenic Comorbidity in Psychiatric Evaluation and Treatment

Giovanni A. Fava, Fiammetta Cosci, Emanuela Offidani, Jenny Guidi

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

48 Scopus citations


In 1968, DiMascio and Shader provided a conceptual framework for behavioral toxicity of psychotropic drugs (ie, the pharmacological actions of a drug that, within the dose range in which it has been found to possess clinical utility, may produce alterations in mood, perceptual, cognitive, and psychomotor functions that limit the capacity of the individual or constitute a hazard to one's well-being). A drug effect such as sedation or motor stimulation may be considered adverse for one patient and yet therapeutic and desired for another patient; within the same patient, it may be of value at one stage of one's illness and adverse at a later stage. The concept of behavioral toxicity encompasses adverse events that may be limited to the period of drug administration and/or persist long after their discontinuation. These latter phenomena can be subsumed under the rubric of iatrogenic comorbidity. Behavioral toxicity may ensue with any type of medical drug. Examples related to antidepressant drug use (onset of suicidality and aggression, switching from unipolar to bipolar course, withdrawal phenomena upon discontinuation, postwithdrawal persistent disorders) are discussed. Consideration of potential vulnerability to adverse events including behavioral toxicity should be placed in the context of the benefits that treatment may entail.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)550-553
Number of pages4
JournalJournal of Clinical Psychopharmacology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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