Psychosocial and behavioral factors in acetaminophen-related acute liver failure and liver injury

Carla Pezzia, Corron Sanders, Suzanne Welch, Angela Bowling, William M. Lee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objectives Acetaminophen overdoses result in nearly 500 deaths annually and a much larger number of hospitalizations. Suicidal overdoses are exceeded in number in the United States by unintentional overdoses. We evaluated clinical, demographic and psychosocial factors among unintentional and intentional overdose patients whose acetaminophen (APAP) toxicity had resulted in acute liver failure. We hypothesized that APAP overdose patients would be more likely to suffer from behavioral health issues and display higher impulsivity scores than the general population. Methods Within 4 days of admission and initial recovery of alertness, we administered a detailed questionnaire that included questions on APAP intake (e.g., dose taken, intent, other substances ingested), the Mini International Neuropsychiatric Interview modules on depression, alcohol use, substance use, and pain disorders and The Barratt Impulsiveness Scale-11. Results The group included 44 intentional (single time point ingestions with the intent to self-harm) and 51 unintentional (multiple time point ingestions to manage pain or other condition) APAP patients enrolled in the Acute Liver Failure Study Group registry between 2007 and 2013. Both groups were characterized by similar frequencies of chronic pain, depressive symptoms at time of ingestion and alcohol and substance use disorders, all at higher rates than the general population. Overall, APAP patients scored higher than the general population for Non-planning aspects of impulsivity, with no apparent differences between other impulsivity scores or between intentional and unintentional APAP patients. Conclusions Depression, mismanagement of problematic chronic pain, frequent substance abuse, and increased impulsivity appear to provide the substrate for many APAP overdoses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-57
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Psychosomatic Research
StatePublished - Oct 2017


  • Acetaminophen
  • Acute liver failure
  • Chronic pain disorder
  • Impulsivity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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