SickKids: intentional overdoses among teens increasing

A new study led by researchers from The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) has found a striking U-shaped trend in the number of Emergency Department (ED) visits for intentional overdose among youth aged eight to 19 from 2003 to 2015.

From 2002 to 2010, ED visits for intentional overdose gradually declined but, from 2010 to 2015, ED visits increased by 75% and hospital admissions doubled. Overall, there were 31,149 unique intentional overdose events examined in the study, which was published in the Journal of Clinical Toxicology on November 25, 2019.

This study builds on previous research showing that, while almost all adolescents who present to a hospital with intentional overdose survive, repeated attempts are common. One in 100 youth survivors will die by suicide within seven years of their initial attempt. The research team says further investigation is needed to understand the reasons for the sharp increase in intentional overdose among youth in recent years and help inform strategies to mitigate and reverse it.

The research team was led by Drs. Yaron Finkelstein, Staff Physician in Paediatric Emergency Medicine and Clinical Pharmacology and Toxicology at SickKids and adjunct scientist at ICES, and Meghan Gilley, former Fellow in Paediatric Emergency Medicine at SickKids and current Staff Physician in Paediatric Emergency Medicine at BC Children’s Hospital.

The work was supported by the LCBO, The Canadian Drug Safety and Effectiveness Research Network, ICES and SickKids Foundation.

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