Intentional drug overdose is the most common method of self-harm. As mental health conditions are very common in self-harm patients, the medication used to treat these disorders can become the means for the act of self-harm.
The present study aimed at investigating an association between the use of prescribed medication (analgesics and antipyretics, anti-epileptics, antipsychotics, antidepressants and psychostimulants) as a method of self-harm and prescription rates of this medication in this study in the UK. The researchers investigated the possible effect of gender, alcohol use during the self-harm act and a history of self-harm.
Data from the multicenter study of self-harm between 2008 and 2013 were used. The significance of differences in percentages was calculated by GEE and the strength by odds ratios (OR).
- There was an increase in the odds of using antidepressants (0.8%) and antipsychotics (2%) among females when the rate of prescription increases.
- Analgesics and antipyretics (39.3/1,000) and antidepressants (124.9/1,000) were the most commonly prescribed drugs among females.
- Antidepressants (63.9/1,000) and antipsychotics (26.5/1,000) were the most commonly prescribed drugs among males.
- Antidepressants and analgesics and antipyretics were the most frequently used medications for self-harm.
- Analgesics and antipyretics during the self-harm act were more common among first-timers, while repeaters more commonly overdosed using antipsychotics and antidepressants.
These findings suggest that the availability of medication via prescriptions plays an important role in the choice of the medication ingested during the act of self-harm. Precautions and careful selection of the medication prescribed are necessary when prescribing any medication, including restrictions on the number of prescriptions issued, careful selection of the amount, dose and consideration as to the most appropriate route of administration to reduce the risk of overdose as far as reasonably possible.
It may also be more appropriate to have the patient take their medication supervised by the issuing pharmacist, or by another appropriate healthcare professional who can ensure that the medication is taken as prescribed. There may also be cause to have the medication kept in the care of a family member or friend who can lock away the medication and issue only the dose that they are prescribed, when they are supposed to take it and how they are to take it.
It is also highly important that you are aware of an alcohol consumption before, during or after taking medication. Doing so may interfere with medications, and can cause unwanted side effects, including an increase/decrease in the medications strength or effectiveness. some of the side effects that alcohol can cause can be life threatening.
Also, it is important to be aware as to whether the person has taken any illicit substances as well. Certain drugs such as benzodiazepines, cocaine and heroin can cause adverse reactions, especially if alcohol is also include into the cocktail of substances. For example, mixing cocaine and alcohol causes a third substance which can be deadly. Imagine what can happen if you start adding prescribed, or even un-prescribed medications that you’ve bought off someone else into this mix!
These issues should be a focus of attention in the education and training of physicians and pharmacists. The research findings found in those researching drug and alcohol addiction should be included into doctors training, as well as including the latest findings in CPD (continuing professional development) sessions as they progress throughout their career. This also includes those working in the mental health services as well.
The more we can raise awareness about the latest clinical findings and treatment options for addiction, drugs, alcohol, prescription medications and how to enter addiction recovery needs to be done in the community, but also within the generalised, overall care system that includes both registered and non-registered healthcare professionals.
Do You Feel Like You Want To Overdose Or Self Harm?
If you feel like hurting yourself, overdosing, cutting, burning or any other form of self harm, there is help and support out there for you!
These services offer confidential advice from trained volunteers. You can talk about anything that’s troubling you, no matter how difficult:
- Call 116 123 to talk to Samaritans
- Text “SHOUT” to 85258 to contact the Shout Crisis Text Line, or text “YM” if you’re under 19
If you’re under 19, you can also call 0800 1111 to talk to Childline. The number will not appear on your phone bill.
If you prefer a webchat, these services are available at certain times:
- Self Injury Support webchat (for women and girls) is open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 7pm to 9.30pm
- CALM webchat (for men) is open from 5pm to midnight every day
How A GP Can Help With Self-Harm
A GP will listen and discuss the best options for you, which could include self-help or support groups. They can also give you advice and treatment for minor injuries.
They may ask you detailed questions to help them understand the cause of your self-harm. It’s important to be honest with them, even if you do not know why you self-harm.
If needed, a GP may discuss referring you for an assessment with a local community mental health team (CMHT). An assessment will help your care team work out a treatment plan with you, such as a talking therapy, to help you manage your self-harm.
Further Information & Support
These organisations offer information and support for anyone who self-harms or thinks about self-harm, or their friends and family:
- Mind – call 0300 123 3393 or text 86463 (9am to 6pm on weekdays)
- Harmless – email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Self-injury Support (for women and girls)
- CALM (for men)
- YoungMinds Parents Helpline – call 0808 802 5544 (9.30am to 4pm on weekdays)
- National Self Harm Network forums
If you struggle with suicidal thoughts or are supporting someone else, the Staying Safe website provides information on how to make a safety plan. It includes video tutorials and online templates to guide you through the process.
You could also download the free distrACT app. This gives you easy, quick and discreet access to information and advice about self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
Knowing how to identify an overdose and knowing what to do should you discover someone who has overdosed is vital, and you could save their life! Make sure that you check out our overdose article which is filled with all the information you need to know by clicking here link below.
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