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Patterns of self poisoning
  1. Philip Bean
  1. Medical Research Council, Graylingwell Hospital, Chichester, Sussex


    A population of 935 hospital admissions for self poisoning over a five-year period, 1967-71, was taken from three general hospitals in the Chichester area. All admissions were followed up by use of coroner's records.

    The peak age group for accidental self poisonings was 0-9 with a further peak in the over 60 age group. The peak age for attempted suicides was 20-29. There were more women than men in the attempted suicide group but no difference in their mean age. A wide variety of drugs had been used, although the barbiturate/hypnotic group tended to predominate, and the overall pattern remained relatively steady apart from an increase in the use of tranquillizers. One in 10 of all patients was readmitted for self poisoning over the five-year period, although only 15 died as a result of this or a subsequent self poisoning. Compared with other suicides, open verdicts, and accidental deaths in West Sussex the self poisoning population had taken a wider range of drugs but proportionately fewer barbiturates. There appeared to be a link between self poisoning and availability of drugs, as shown by an increase in the use of tranquillizers, although barbiturates were still the major cause of death.

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    • Now at Department of Applied Social Science, University of Nottingham.