Substances involved in suicidal poisonings in the United States
This study investigated specific substances most commonly involved in suicidal poisonings, causing severe clinical effects, and leading to intensive treatments.
Suicidal poisoning cases for individuals ≥13 years old were obtained from the National Poison Data System for 2011‐2015. The most common products involved in single and multiple‐product poisonings were identified. Single product cases were used to calculate substances causing the largest numbers of serious clinical effects and leading to intensive treatments.
More than half of reported cases involved only a single product (54.4%), but this frequency was higher at the extremes of age (66.7% in adolescents 13–19 years old and 70.5% in individuals ≥90 years old) and among pregnant women (65.8%). The top three substances involved in single‐product poisonings were over‐the‐counter (OTC) medications, while alcohol and prescription sedatives were most common in multiple‐product poisonings. One OTC medication, diphenhydramine, was a frequent cause of several serious clinical effects and intensive treatments.
Single product suicidal poisonings were more frequent with extremes of age and in pregnancy. OTC products were more frequently used in single product attempts. Products causing serious clinical effects can be targeted for suicide prevention efforts as well as education of health care providers.