Deliberate self-harm in alcohol and drug misusers: Patient characteristics and patterns of clinical care
Hawton K., Simkin S., Fagg J.
The aims of this study were to describe the characteristics of alcohol and drug misusers presenting to a general hospital following suicide attempts and to investigate the patterns of clinical care they received before and after the attempts. The Oxford Monitoring System for Attempted Suicide and patient case-notes were used to obtain information on alcohol and drug misusers assessed by the general hospital psychiatric services after deliberate self-harm in 1992. Of 724 patients, 200 (28%) were substance misusers (36% of males, 23% of females). Both alcoholics and drug misusers were more likely than other attempters to be male, have histories of personality disorder and criminal offences and to make repeat attempts, and the drug misusers were more likely to be living alone and unemployed. These are characteristics associated with particularly high risk of suicide. A large proportion of the substance misusers had received specific treatment for their misuse before their attempts and the majority were offered this afterwards. Over a quarter did not accept the care they were offered. The general hospital management of attempted suicide patients must include systematic assessment for evidence of alcohol and drug misuse and maintain close links with substance misuse services. Patients identified as having problems in the use of alcohol without having developed dependence and/or physical symptoms are a group that warrants specific attention. Audits should be conducted in general hospitals to ensure that sufficient attention is being paid to the detection and management of suicide attempters with substance misuse.