Deliberate self-poisoning in adolescents

Matityahu Lifshitz, Vladimir Gavrilov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Background: Adolescent suicide has become increasingly more prevalent recent years, with self-poisoning being a frequent means of suicide attempts. Objective: To investigate the factors associated with adolescent self-poisoning. Methods: Data on adolescents referred for intentional self-poisoning to the Adolescent Medical Unit during the years 1990-1998 were evaluated retrospectively. Data were obtained from the hospital medical records and included the following factors: socio-demographic data, educational status, agent and route of intake, motivation for overdose, and the extent of serious suicidal intent. Results: We evaluated 324 cases of adolescent self-poisoners aged 12-18 years (mean ± SD 14.8 ± 1.5 years). The female/male ratio was 8:1. Most of the patients were attending school and lived in urban areas. Oral ingestion was the only route of intake; 84.5% of the patients ingested drugs and 10.5% non-medicinal compounds. The drug most commonly taken was acetaminophen. The non-medicinal compounds were mostly pesticides and household materials. The suicide attempts were most frequently associated with transient depression, stemming from defects in child-family communication. As based on clinical psychiatric evaluation, patients who had ingested polydrugs and non-medical compounds evidenced a significantly greater suicidal intent (Χ2 = 11.9, P < 0.001) compared to those who took only one or two kinds of drugs. Conclusions: We found that self-poisoning attempts occur most frequently in depressed females at junior high and high school, usually in the context of family dysfunction. Non-medicinal agents and polydrug ingestion are major risk factors for evaluating the seriousness of the suicidal intent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)252-254
Number of pages3
JournalIsrael Medical Association Journal
Issue number4
StatePublished - 24 Jun 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Adolescents
  • Intoxication
  • Poisoning
  • Risk factors
  • Suicide attempts

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (all)


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