Kids Use OTC Pain Drugs To Poison Themselves

Antidepressants, ADHD meds are also used to self-poison

Acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin are the most common over-the counter (OTC) drugs children and young adults ages 10 to 24 use to attempt suicide, according to a new study from Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Central Ohio Poison Center. Antidepressants were the next most common medications used.    

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Toxicology, evaluated the incidence and outcomes from suicidal self-poisonings by children and young adults from 2000 to 2018. During that time there were more than 1.6 million cases reported to U.S. Poison Centers, according to the study.

The majority of cases were female (71%), and involved OTC and other pharmaceutical substances (92%).

ADHD medications were also commonly used among children and adolescents ages 10- to 15 years-old and carried the highest risk of serious medical outcomes, according to the study. Opiates accounted for only 7% of the cases with serious medical outcomes.

“Any type of medication can be misused and abused in ways that can, unfortunately, lead to very severe outcomes, including death,” said Henry Spiller, director of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and co-author of the study.

The study also found that the incidence of intentional self-poisoning suicide was greater in rural areas of the country with all outcomes and serious medical outcomes. Results also revealed that the number of reported cases in school-aged individuals fell during non-school months of June through August (27.5% decrease in 10-12- year-olds; 27.3% in 13-15 year-olds; and 18.3% in 16-18 year-olds) compared to school months.

It is vital that parents, teachers, and other trusted adults start conversations about mental health early, and pay even closer attention during the school year, as rates of anxiety and depression are shown to increase during that time,” said John Ackerman, PhD, clinical psychologist and suicide prevention coordinator at  Nationwide Children’s.

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Sources: Nationwide Children’s Hospital and Journal of Clinical Toxicology, October 7