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October 1977

Increase in Suicide Attempts by Drug Ingestion: The Boston Experience, 1964-1974

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School and the Private Psychiatric Consultation Service, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston.

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1977;34(10):1165-1169. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1977.01770220047004

• At the Massachusetts General Hospital between 1964 and 1972, there was an estimated 118% increase in emergency ward admissions for drug overdose suicide attempts and an estimated 257% increase in such attempts by individuals in the 20- to 29-year age range. Approximately 67% of overdoses seen in 1972 and 1974 occurred in individuals under age 30. An increase in drug overdose suicide attempts by males was noted. By 1972, males were making approximately as many attempts as females.

Based on extrapolations from the Massachusetts General Hospital drug overdose data, and not including an estimate of non-hospital-treated suicide attempts, an estimated annual (1972) suicide attempt rate of 337/100,000 (0.38%) was obtained for Boston. The estimated suicide attempt-completed suicide ratio for the Boston area was 39:1. These estimates should be interpreted as giving an approximate order of magnitude and not as specifying precise rates.

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