Domestic quarrels among reasons for self-poisoning

The study was based on clinical and laboratory data of 677 patients aged 14 years and over, presented with suspected acute poisoning, over a nine-month period in 2010.

19 out of 143 patients who gave a reason for poisoning themselves with a drug claimed that they did so after a “domestic fight”, a study published in the Malta Medical Journal shows.

The study also shows that women aged between 50 and 59 were the most likely to poison themselves with prescription drugs or analgesics while men aged between 20 and 29 were the most likely to poison themselves with alcohol and street drugs.

Suicidal intent was admitted by 59 patients, which amounts to 40% of the 143 patients who gave a reason for their acute self poisoning.

Self-harm was the reported intention in three per cent of cases.

Other reasons given for acute self-poisoning included ‘to forget’ (11%), ‘to sleep’ (5%) and pain relief (1%). Alcohol and substance abuse constituted 8% and 14% of cases respectively.

Only one per cent admitted that they were seeking attention while two per cent of cases were accidental.

The study was based on clinical and laboratory data of 677 patients aged 14 years and over, presented with suspected acute poisoning, over a nine-month period in 2010.

Of these, 236 cases involved alcohol intoxication while 109 cases involved abuse of street drugs.

Prescription drugs were used in 265 cases while analgesics were used in 30 cases.

The peak age for males and females with acute poisoning was 20-29 years while another peak was observed for females in the 50-59 years group. Males predominated in the younger age groups (below 50 years).

However the male predominance among younger age groups is likely to be due to the inclusion of alcohol intoxication and street drug abuse as shown in the female predominance in the subgroup that excluded these cases.

In fact when cases involving alcohol and street drugs are excluded, females outnumber males in all age groups except 30 to 50 year olds. 

Females aged between 50 to 59 years were the most likely to poison themselves.

The most common poison agents were prescription drugs, of which benzodiazepines and tricyclic antidepressants were the most common (43% and 20% respectively). Opiates were the most commonly detected (59%) and paracetamol was the most commonly ingested analgesic (36.6%).

None of the patients died in the hospital. 21% (73/350) and 5% (19/350) of patients with confirmed poisoning required a monitored bed and intensive care respectively.

The study was conducted by Robert Camilleri, a consultant general for acute medicine at Mater Dei Hospital. 

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