In 2016, over 160,000 calls were made to poison control centers regarding accidental or intentional poisonings by 13-19 year olds (NCPC). More than 2 million calls came in for all ages. Analgesics (pain relievers) are the most common poisons ingested by people over age 6.
Many parents will lock up opiates or other prescription drugs that they know are harmful. But few people think to lock up acetaminophen, which is the active ingredient in Tylenol and is a part of many other drugs including Nyquil, Dayquil, Midol, Robitussin, Theraflu, Sudafed, and more. (See a list at Know Your Dose). Teens and younger children who attempt suicide by poison most often turn to easily available drugs—like the bottle of Tylenol you keep in the cabinet. In fact, doctors have reported that acetaminophen is the most frequent drug taken in intentional overdoses (Times Union). While some over the counter drugs are not especially harmful if taken even in large doses, acetaminophen can be lethal quickly (NPR).
What can you do? Keep your Tylenol safely locked up—preferably with all your other OTC and prescription medications. With nearly 1 in 5 high school students considering suicide in a given year, it is not worth the risk of leaving harmful medications easily accessible (YRBS).
Also, consider buying analgesics in smaller quantities. If you have extra medications that you have not used, particularly pain relievers, dispose of them properly to prevent abuse. Check the FDA website for more info and find out where your nearest prescription take-back facility is (many towns have take-back boxes in the lobby of the Police Department, for example).
Check with your local health department or prevention councils to see if there are any free lock boxes available in your community. Otherwise, you can purchase a medication lock box easily through many retailers including Amazon, Walmart, and pharmacies. This simple act may save a life.
CDC website on poisoning safety
FDA website on proper disposal
Poison Control Prevention information
If you need support now, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, or, text “START” to 741-741 to get help 24/7 from the Crisis Text Line.
If you or someone you know needs help, visit the Jordan Porco Foundation’s resources page.
The opinions expressed in this blog are personal, and not those of the Jordan Porco Foundation. The information in this blog post is provided for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as mental health advice from the individual author or the Jordan Porco Foundation. You should consult a mental health professional for advice regarding your individual situation.