Research finds that the number of young people in Australia engaging in self-poisoning and overdosing of medications for mental disorders has tremendously increased.
For conducting this study, researchers collected data from Australian poisons information centers on intentional self-harming by poisonings or overdosing. The participants were aged 5-19 years and the data belonged to the time span of 10 years i.e 2006 to 2016.
Trends in the medicines dispensing in the pharmaceutical benefits scheme (PBS) database were also considered for conducting the study.
Self-harming is a complex issue as it is a result of the accumulation of a number of events unappealing to the person engaging in it. Like other issues in one’s body, mental illness can also be treated.
Findings of the study
The poisons talked about in this study, mostly included household products and over-the-counter medicines like paracetamol, ibuprofen, fluoxetine, ethanol, quetiapine, paracetamol/opioid combinations, sertraline and escitalopram and antidepressants.
Use of selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) increased by 40% in people aged 5-14 years and 35% in those aged 15-19 years. Also, antipsychotic dispensing increased by 11% and ADHD medication dispensing increased by 14% in people aged 5-19 years.
The study also reveals that the number of females getting into self-harm activities was more than that of men. This ratio of females to males in this regards was 3:1.
Lead author of the study, Dr. Rose Cairns, from University of Sydney’s School of Pharmacy and senior poisons specialist at the NSW Poisons Information Centre said, “The number of self-poisonings in young people has nearly doubled in the last decade, which is alarming. We found self-poisoning is happening at a younger age and the cohort most affected are those born after 1997. We also looked at use of psychotropic medications in children and adolescents, and saw large increases, particularly with antidepressants.”
Senior author of the study and a professor of clinical pharmacology from the University of Sydney’s Medical School, Nicholas Buckley said, “The study results signal a generation that is increasingly engaging in self-harm and is increasingly prescribed medications used to treat symptoms of mental disorders.”
He added, “Suicide is the third most common cause of death among adolescents worldwide. Previous studies have shown that self-harm is a key risk factor for later suicide so our concern is that this could foretell future increases in Australian suicide rates.”
In Australia, about 80% of these cases of self-harm are based on self-poisoning. Not only in Australia but also other countries of the world are suffering from this problem including the USA, UK, and India. According to a report published in 2018, 33.8% of youngsters in India were involved in self-harming techniques.
The findings of the study suggest that there is an urgent need to overcome this problem. The young generation may require a different approach to build coping strategies and resilience to eliminate self-poisoning.