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Of 2947 patients admitted to a district general hospital over an 11-year period for the management of self-poisoning, 148 (5%) required intensive care unit (ICU) treatment. There was a significant increase in the number of self-poisonings admitted each year, whereas the number requiring ICU admission did not change. Therefore the proportion of patients requiring ICU admission fell significantly over the study period (P less than 0.0005). Of 898 patients admitted from 1973 to 1977, 62 (6.9%) were treated in ICU. Of 2049 patients admitted from 1978 to 1983, 86 (4.2%) required ICU treatment. It is felt that this trend is explained by a rise in parasuicidal self-poisonings. The impact of change in drug availability is evident in the significant reduction in ingestion of sedative barbiturates.