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Relationship between prescribed psychotropic medications and co-ingested alcohol in intentional self-poisonings

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 January 2018

Kate M. Chitty
Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology Research Group, Discipline of Pharmacology, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales
Timothy Dobbins
National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales, New South Wales
Andrew H. Dawson
Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology Research Group, Discipline of Pharmacology, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales
Geoffrey K. Isbister
Clinical Toxicology Research Group, University of Newcastle, Newcastle, New South Wales
Nicholas A. Buckley
Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology Research Group, Discipline of Pharmacology, Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
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Acute alcohol consumption is a major risk factor for suicide, therefore investigating factors associated with alcohol-related self-harm warrant attention.


To investigate the influence of prescribed psychotropic medications on the odds of co-ingesting alcohol preceding or during intentional efforts to self-poison.


A cross-sectional analysis of consecutive hospital presentations following intentional self-poisoning was conducted. A total of 7270 patients (4363 women) aged 18–96 were included.


The odds of alcohol co-ingestion were increased in those not prescribed any medication (odds ratio (OR) = 1.27, 99% CI 1.10–1.46, P50.001) and in impulsive self-poisonings (OR= 1.39, 99% CI 1.11–1.74, P50.001). Odds were decreased in those prescribed anticonvulsants (OR = 0.69, 99% CI 0.51–0.93), antipsychotics (OR = 0.55, 99% CI 0.45–0.66) and antidepressants (OR = 0.87, 99% CI 0.77–0.99).


Findings indicate that being medicated for a psychiatric illness may reduce the likelihood of alcohol consumption during times of acute distress, hence perhaps may reduce the risk of intentional self-poisoning.

Copyright © Royal College of Psychiatrists, 2017 


Declaration in interest



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