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October 2021

Deliberate self-poisoning presenting at a rural hospital in Northern Ireland 1976-1996: relationship to prescribing

Author(s): Weir, J., Rafferty, T., Galloway, R.

Journal/Book: Eur Psychiat. 2000; 15: 23 Rue Linois, 75724 Paris Cedex 15, France. Editions Scientifiques Medicales Elsevier. 348-353.

Abstract: Purpose - This study reports on a project to monitor deliberate self-poisoning in a rural area of Northern Ireland over a 20-year period. Comparison is made with reports from large urban centres. In addition, a local prescribing database allows assessment of any association between psychotropic drug prescription and use for deliberate self-poisoning. Materials and methods - Frequency of self-poisoning, demographic details and drugs used were recorded for all episodes of deliberate self-poisoning occurring at Craigavon Area Hospital for the years 1976, 1986, 1991 and 1996. It was possible to compare prescriptions of psychotropic drugs with their use for deliberate self-poisoning between the years 1991 and 1996 in the region served by the hospital, using the Defined Daily Dose (DDD) system. Results - In this rural area the pattern of deliberate self-poisoning has changed, as in urban centres, with a rise in frequency and the male/female ratio approaching unity. The pattern of drug use has altered, with paracetamol overtaking benzodiazepines as the most commonly used agent. More recently, antidepressants have become the second most frequently used drug class for this purpose. Psychotropic medications used for self-poisoning altered in proportion to their prescription between the years 1991 and 1996. Conclusions - In the face of a continuing rise in deliberate self-poisoning, which is effecting both urban and rural areas, care should be taken to prescribe the least toxic agent available as this is associated with likely frequency of self-poisoning for most classes of psychotropic drug.

Note: Article Kelly CB, Queens Univ Belfast, Dept Mental Hlth, Whitla Bldg, 97 Lisburn Rd, Belfast BT9 7BL, Antrim, NORTH IRELAND


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