UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Self-poisoning suicide deaths in people with bipolar disorder: characterizing a subgroup and identifying treatment patterns Schaffer, Ayal; Weinstock, Lauren M; Sinyor, Mark; Reis, Catherine; Goldstein, Benjamin I; Yatham, Lakshmi N; Levitt, Anthony J


Objective: To characterize self-poisoning suicide deaths in BD compared to other suicide decedents. Methods: Extracted coroner data from all suicide deaths (n = 3319) in Toronto, Canada from 1998 to 2012. Analyses of demographics, clinical history, recent stressors, and suicide details were conducted in 5 subgroups of suicide decedents: BD self-poisoning, BD other methods, non-BD self-poisoning, non-BD other methods, and unipolar depression self-poisoning. Toxicology results for lethal and present substances were also compared between BD and non-BD self-poisoning subgroups as well as between BD and unipolar depression self-poisoning subgroups. Results: Among BD suicide decedents, self-poisoning was significantly associated with female sex, past suicide attempts, and comorbid substance abuse. In both the BD and non-BD self-poisoning groups, opioids were the most common class of lethal medication. For both groups, benzodiazepines and antidepressants were the most common medications present at time of death, and in 23% of the BD group, an antidepressant was present without a mood stabilizer or antipsychotic. Only 31% of the BD group had any mood stabilizer present, with carbamazepine being most common. No antidepressant, mood stabilizer, or antipsychotic was present in 15.5% of the BD group. Relative to unipolar depression self-poisoning group, the BD self-poisoning group evidenced higher proportion of previous suicide attempt(s) and psychiatry/ER visits in the previous week. Conclusion: People with BD who die by suicide via self-poisoning comprise a distinct but understudied group. The predominant absence of guideline-concordant pharmacologic care comprises a crucial target for future policy and knowledge translation efforts.

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