Article Text

PDF

Use of paracetamol for suicide and non-fatal poisoning in the UK and France: are restrictions on availability justified?
  1. D Gunnell,
  2. K Hawton,
  3. V Murray,
  4. R Garnier,
  5. C Bismuth,
  6. J Fagg,
  7. S Simkin
  1. Department of Social Medicine, University of Bristol.

    Abstract

    OBJECTIVE: To investigate the relationship between the availability of paracetamol and its use for overdose and suicide. DESIGN: Analysis of routinely collected information on time trends for paracetamol suicides, non-fatal overdoses, and sales. SETTING: England and Wales and France. RESULTS: There were strong correlations between trends in paracetamol sales in the UK and trends in non-fatal paracetamol overdose in Oxford between 1976 and 1993 (Spearman's r = 0.86; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.54, 0.96) and between paracetamol sales and non-fatal overdoses in France between 1974 and 1990 (r = 0.99; 95% CI 0.97, 1.00). Sales figures were also correlated with paracetamol related suicides in both England and Wales, 1983-91 (r = 0.72; 95% CI 0.11, 0.94) and France, 1974-90 (r = 0.79; 95% CI 0.50, 0.92). Similarly strong relationships were observed between trends in non-fatal overdoses and suicide by paracetamol poisoning in England and Wales (r = 0.85; 95% CI 0.61, 0.95) and France (r = 0.79; 95% CI 0.50, 0.92). It is estimated that approximately 32,000 overdoses involving paracetamol occur annually in England and Wales. Fatality rates from paracetamol overdose were four times as high in England and Wales (0.4%, 95% CI 0.38, 0.46) as in France (0.1%, 95% CI 0.06, 0.17). CONCLUSION: Trends towards greater availability of paracetamol are paralleled by increases in its use for both non-fatal overdose and suicide. Paracetamol related morbidity and mortality seem to be less frequent in France where the quantity of paracetamol in a single purchase is limited. Although not conclusive, these data add to a body of evidence which suggests that restrictions in the quantity of paracetamol available as a single purchase in the UK may reduce suicide and liver failure related to paracetamol.

    Statistics from Altmetric.com

    Request permissions

    If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

    Linked Articles