A retrospective study of 90 adolescents admitted to a district general hospital after deliberate drug overdoses was carried out. Underlying risk factors, the inpatient assessment, and the initial management offered to each patient were recorded. The longer term outcomes were assessed, with particular emphasis on psychiatric and related disorders. Many had underlying family problems; the parents of nearly half the patients were separated or divorced, and over half the families had already been seen by the social services or at the child guidance clinic. Three quarters of the patients had psychiatric assessments during admission, and of these 59 (66%) were referred for further psychiatric treatment. Of these over half withdrew from treatment. Eleven (12%) of the children took a further drug overdose. This study emphasises the need for psychiatric assessment and treatment in these children, but the results suggest that the success of management is limited by poor patient compliance.
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