Urinary catecholamines and cortisol in parasuicide Academic Article uri icon

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abstract

  • A relationship of urinary catecholamines and of urinary free cortisol with violent suicide attempts has been reported. We have reexamined this issue in patients within 24 hours of hospital admission. Suicide attempters had significantly higher norepinephrine (NE: mean +/- SD = 58.3 +/- 27.0 micrograms/24 hours; n = 27) than did control patients with suicidal ideation (mean +/- SD = 37.1 +/- 21.3; n = 10). Among suicide attempters, those who used physical means had the highest NE levels (mean +/- SD = 69.7 +/- 21.3) and those who took overdoses of antidepressants (mean +/- SD = 51.9 +/- 17.3; n = 6), benzodiazepines (mean +/- SD = 65.1 +/- 29.7; n = 5), or miscellaneous drugs (mean +/- SD = 59.1 +/- 36.5; n = 11) had lower NE values. In contrast to NE, urinary dopamine (mean +/- SD = 402.6 +/- 392 micrograms/24 hours, epinephrine (EPI: mean +/- SD = 14.3 +/- 4.0 micrograms/24 hours), the NE/EPI ratio (mean +/- SD = 8.3 +/- 0.9), urinary free cortisol (mean +/- SD = 157.9 +/- 11.5 micrograms/24 hours) and serum cortisol (mean +/- SD = 35.0 +/- 13.1 nM/l) did not differ between groups. There were no group differences in age (mean +/- SD = 36.3 +/- 16.5 years), Beck Depression Inventory score (mean +/- SD = 26.3 +/- 12.9), Beck Hopelessness Scale score (mean +/- SD = 10.0 +/- 5.6), Beck Scale for Suicidal Ideation score (mean +/- SD = 13.6 +/- 9.3), or Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression score (mean +/- SD = 19.5 +/- 9.8). In the four parasuicide groups, there was no difference in suicide intent (mean +/- SD = 13.3 +/- 7.9). These findings indicate that there is increased NE output shortly after suicide attempts. Previous reports of a low NE/EPI ratio in suicidal patients may reflect adaptive changes rather than the acute state of the patient at the time of the attempt.

publication date

  • July 1992