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Acta Psychiatr Scand. 1999 Oct;100(4):309-11.

Is suicide risk taken seriously in heavy drinkers who harm themselves?

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  • 1School of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, University of Manchester, Withington Hospital, UK.



The aim of the study was to examine whether a known history of heavy drinking adversely influences the assessment and management of deliberate self-harm (DSH) by accident and emergency department staff.


Standard assessment forms on a consecutive series of 909 DSH cases were examined. Estimated suicide risk and clinical management were compared in patients who reported high (more than 7 units per day) and low/moderate alcohol intake.


Heavy drinkers had higher rates of several risk factors for suicide. They were more likely to be judged as at high risk of suicide and further self-harm, and were more likely to receive clinical management appropriate to people at high risk. However, a logistic regression analysis revealed that it was not alcohol use itself but risk factors that were more common in heavy drinkers that predicted clinical management.


The results suggest that heavy drinkers are in general judged to be at higher risk of suicide and managed accordingly. However, training for accident and emergency department staff should emphasize the importance of alcohol as an independent risk factor for suicide.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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