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Published on 31 March 2008

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Test could help find suicide risks

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A strand of hair could help scientists dicover if young people using drugs are more at risk of suicide and self-harm, according to new research.

Pioneering technology developed by the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland and the University of Castilla-La Mancha in Spain will allow researchers to carry out a complete chemical breakdown of a person’s strand hair to reveal what drugs they have taken over the last six months.

This will also allow them to find out if prescribed anti-depressents and illegal drug use are linked to the risk of suicide and self-harm, researchers believe.

Prof Franklin Smyth, from the Biomedical Research Institute at the University of Ulster, supervising the research, said: “If drugs have been taken, even going back to a period of up to six months, it is still possible to detect them by analysis of the hair sample using our state of the art instrumentation at Ulster.

“Drugs are chemically more stable in hair matrices compared to either blood or urine.

“If we can get regulatory approval from relevant councils to carry out this work, which involves consulting with GPs and accessing funding, then it could be of significant beneficial use to society – especially if a correlation can help to identify people at risk from suicide and self harm.”

Copyright © PA Business 2008

University of Ulster



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