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Research Article

Changing pattern of drugs used for self-poisoning.

Br Med J 1978; 1 doi: (Published 14 January 1978) Cite this as: Br Med J 1978;1:90
  1. A T Proudfoot,
  2. J Park


    In 1967-76 the annual number of admissions to a poisoning treatment centre rose from 964 to 2134. The proportion of admissions caused by taking barbiturate hypnotics and methaqualone fell considerably while that caused by taking benzodiazepines and tricyclic antidepressants increased. As a result the proportion of patients admitted unconscious fell from 23% to 15%. The declining contributions of barbiturates and methaqualone and increased importance of tricyclic antidepressants were significant in all grades of coma. The change in drugs taken, however, has not yet reduced the percentage of unconscious patients needing endotracheal intubation or assisted ventilation, and hypothermia remains as common. Only hypotension has become less frequent as antidepressants replace barbiturates as the main cause of drug-induced coma. The use of salicylates for self-poisoning is declining slowly, and paracetamol poisoning is now as common.