This retrospective study compares number and type of self-poisonings admitted to the intensive care units (ICU) at Sahlgren's Hospital, Gothenburg, during 1972 and 1976. The total number of patients requiring intensive care was unchanged, but a change in the pattern of self-poisoning was seen. In 1976 the number of patients requiring intensive care following acute alcohol intoxication had increased, whereas the number of barbiturate and methaqualone poisonings decreased. Tricyclic antidepressants formed the largest group in both years. Fewer patients needed endotracheal intubation and IPPV in 1976 than in 1972. Also, fewer complications were seen, and the death rate among ICU-treated patients decreased. In the Gothenburg area barbiturates accounted for one half of all deaths due to self-poisoning and tricyclic antidepressants for one fifth. Any expected decrease in intensive care as a result of fewer barbiturate and methaqualone poisonings was obscured by an increase in severe alcohol intoxication.