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A prospective cohort study of trends in self-poisoning, Newcastle, Australia, 1987–2012: plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Intentional poisoning is a major public health problem and generally occurs in the context of deliberate self-harm and drug misuse. There are 60 International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems, 10th revision (ICD-10) codes for drug-related deaths. In 2009, these codes together accounted for 6.4% of male and 5.5% of female total years of potential life lost in Australia.1 Most deaths are in young people, and drug-related deaths account for a large proportion of lost years of life — causing about 25% of completed suicides.1 The estimated Australian rate of people hospitalised for self-poisoning of 119 per 100 000 population per year2 substantially underestimates total numbers as many patients are not admitted or do not present.3 Most poisonings are in young adults and are impulsive or unplanned. Morbidity and mortality from poisoning has proved surprisingly responsive to targeted public health interventions to reduce the availability of means to poison oneself accidently or deliberately.4,5 Identification of drugs causing disproportionate numbers of poisonings, morbidity or deaths is thus a key aspect of an effective toxicovigilance system.

We aimed to examine inhospital morbidity and mortality…