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Wisconsin study finds hundreds of hospitalizations for self-poisonings among 12- to 17-year-olds

In 2000, suicide replaced homicide as the second leading cause of death in 12- to 17-year-olds in the United States. Nonfatal suicide attempt is the strongest predictor of eventual suicide. Researchers, supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS11893), found hundreds of self-poisoning hospitalizations per year in a study of Wisconsin 12- to 17-year-olds and recommend that both the medical community and public health community implement educational programs to address this issue.

Researchers evaluated Wisconsin hospital discharge files for 2000 through 2002. They analyzed medication-related injuries for intention to commit suicide, medications used, discharge status, and risk factors for self-poisoning (intentional medication injury) such as mental illness, eating disorders, and alcohol abuse or dependence. During the 3-year study period, there were nearly 3,000 hospitalizations for medication-related injuries (of which 1,150 were self-poisoning hospitalizations) among Wisconsin 12- to 17-year-olds. Sixty percent of medication-related injuries occurred in patients diagnosed with a mental disorder. Forty-six percent of female and 26 percent of male medication-related injuries were classified as self-poisonings.

Boys with medication-related injuries were twice as likely and girls 1.4 times as likely to have intentional/suicidal injuries if they also abused or depended on alcohol. Antidepressants and other psychotropics (mind-altering drugs) were responsible for half the number of medical-related injuries as non-narcotic analgesics. Sixty-five percent of adolescents who misused non-narcotic analgesics and 62 percent who misused antidepressants or other psychotropics intended to commit suicide.

More details are in "Adolescent hospital discharges associated with self-poisonings in Wisconsin, 2000-2002," by Anne M. Marbella, M.S., Hongyan Yang, M.S., Clare E. Guse, M.S., and others in the Wisconsin Medical Journal 104(7), pp. 59-64, 2005.

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