Substance use and self-harm : a cross-sectional study of the prevalence, correlates and patterns of medical service utilisation among patients admitted to a South African hospital
CITATION: Breet, E., Bantjes, J. & Lewis, I. 2018. Substance use and self-harm : a cross-sectional study of the prevalence, correlates and patterns of medical service utilisation among patients admitted to a South African hospital. BMC Health Services Research, 18:157, doi:10.1186/s12913-018-2963-7.
The original publication is available at https://bmchealthservres.biomedcentral.com
Background: Substance use is a potentially modifiable risk factor for suicidal behaviour. Little is known about the epidemiology of substance use among self-harm patients in South Africa. This study set out to collect epidemiological data about the prevalence, correlates, and patterns of medical service utilisation among self-harm patients who used substances at the time of self-injury. Methods: Data from 238 consecutive self-harm patients treated at an urban hospital in South Africa were analysed using bivariate and multivariate statistics. Results Approximately 20% of patients reported substance use at the time of self-harm. When compared to other self-harm patients, higher rates of patients who had used substances: had depressed levels of consciousness on admission; utilised more medical resources and required longer hospital admissions; cited relationship difficulties and financial concerns as reasons for their self-harm; reported a previous episode of self-harm; and intended to die as a result of their injuries. Although the observed differences were not statistically significant (p > 0.05), the proportional differences were congruent with international literature. Conclusion: Acute use of substances among self-harm patients warrants more focused research and clinical attention particularly in the context of reducing utilisation of scarce medical resources.