Deliberate self-harm patients with alcohol disorders: characteristics, treatment, and outcome.
Haw C., Houston K., Townsend E., Hawton K.
Deliberate self-harm (DSH) patients with alcohol problems present a considerable challenge for clinical services. In a study of a sample of 150 DSH patients who were representative of all such patients seen at a general hospital during the study period, 40 patients with an ICD-10 diagnosis of alcohol dependence or harmful use of alcohol were compared with the remainder of the sample. The treatment of the patients with alcohol disorders before and after the episode of DSH and the outcome 12-20 months later were also investigated. Compared with other DSH patients, those with an alcohol diagnosis were older and more often male, living alone, unemployed, sick, disabled, or with a past history of DSH. They also had higher scores on measures of anger, aggression, and impulsivity. Comorbid psychiatric disorder was present in 37 (92.5%) patients, this being depression in three-quarters of those cases. Fourteen (35.0%) patients were receiving treatment from the psychiatric services prior to DSH, and 33 (82.5%) were subsequently offered treatment. Of the patients who were followed up, 37.9% remained in contact with psychiatric services, 55.2% showed poor compliance with treatment and 44.8% reported a further episode of DSH. All patients presenting after DSH need to be carefully screened for alcohol disorders and for comorbid psychiatric diagnoses. Treatment of DSH patients with alcohol disorders should include the treatment of any comorbid depressive illness.