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Tuesday, 10 July, 2001, 09:58 GMT 10:58 UK
Paracetamol overdoses decline
Paracetamol
The number of tablets that can be bought is restricted
Research has revealed a marked reduction in the number of people trying to commit suicide using paracetamol since new laws controlling the sale of the drug were introduced.

A Scottish study shows hospital admissions for paracetamol overdose down nearly 20%.

The research group of public health experts analysed cases of "deliberate self-harm" with paracetamol which resulted in admissions to Scottish hospitals in the period 1985 to 1999.

The figures showed a steady rise in overdoses until the introduction of the new laws.

Contemplating suicide

Since September 1998, packs of the popular painkiller have been cut in size.

They were reduced to a maximum of 32 tablets when sold from pharmacies and only 16 when sold over the counter in other shops.

Paracetamol has long been a popular drug with people contemplating suicide.

It is widely available, but can be fatal in relatively small doses.

The survey of all Scotland's casualty units, by a group which included experts from Highland Health Board, shows that the new law is having an effect.

Self-harm

Paracetamol-related admissions fell by 19% between 1997 and 1999.

This drop was not been matched by an increase in other forms of self-harm.

In two years there was an overall drop of 5% in attempted suicides in Scotland.

The study shows that the fall in admissions in 1998 occurred despite the fact only three months of the period were covered by the new legislation.

This effect is attributed to changes in pharmacy stock in anticipation of the legislation.

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