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Med J Aust. 1975 Jun 14;1(24):737-43.

Suicide in Brisbane, 1956 to 1973: the drug-death epidemic.


A study of suicide in Brisbane between the years 1956 and 1973 reveals that there was a sharp rise in the incidence of deaths from barbiturate overdosage, which reached a peak in the mid 1960s. Since then there has been a steady decline in suicide rates from drug overdose and a smaller fall in the rate of other forms of suicide. The decline in the incidence of deaths from carbon monoxide poisoning since 1967 may be due to the use of non-toxic domestic gas. The frequent association between barbiturate suicides and previous ingestion of alcohol indicates the danger of the practice and the probability that many of the victims had major drinking problems. An examination of suicide deaths and the prescribing of barbiturates, benzodiazepines and antidepressant drugs between 1962 and 1973 suggests that the fall in suicide rates was due to the better recognition and treatment of depressive illnesses and to the introduction of the safer benzodiazepines in place of barbiturates. The study indicates that placing restrictions on non-violent methods of suicide does not necessarily result in an increase in suicides from violence.

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