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Memory Impairment in Those Who Attempted Suicide by Benzodiazepine Overdose

Bas Verwey, Paul Eling, Henk Wientjes, and Frans G. Zitman

Published: November 30, 2000

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Article Abstract

Background: A prospective study was conducted toinvestigate the presence of anterograde amnesia in those whoattempted suicide by benzodiazepine overdose and to study thecorrelation with sedation.

Method: In 43 patients who attempted suicide bytaking benzodiazepines, memory was tested with a 15-word memoryrecall task. The immediate and delayed recall on the first dayafter admission (day 1) and 24 hours later (day 2) were rated.Each patient and the interviewer scored the patient’s degree ofsedation on a visual analogue scale. Patients also had to try torecognize, from photographs, the psychiatrist with whom they hadspoken the day before.

Results: The ratings of immediate and delayedrecall were significantly lower on day 1 than on day 2.Subjective ratings of sedation of the patients were notsignificantly higher than the ratings of the observer. Less thanhalf of the patients recognized the psychiatrists and knew thatthey were the ones they had spoken to the day before.

Conclusion: Anterograde amnesia is present insuicide attempters who take overdoses of benzodiazepines. Theimplications of this finding for the assessment of suicideattempters during admission are discussed.

Volume: 61

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