In just over one year, 100 children between nine and 12 have attempted suicide by overdosing on drugs in New Jersey, the state’s poison control center revealed Friday.
Self-poisonings – especially among girls – are on the rise across the country, a trend that has public health officials warning American parents to protect their pills.
Since 2015, the number of such attempts has doubled in New Jersey, the poison control center said.
And 80 percent of those attempts were made by girls.
‘This trend should sound the alarms – we have young children attempting suicide by overdose at a rate which continues to increase,’ said Dr Diane Calello, executive and medical director of the NJ Poison Control Center.
In just over a year, 100 New Jersey children under 12 have attempted suicide by taking too many pills – and 80 percent of them were girls, according to new poison control data (file)
The Rutgers University based team reported that thee nine-year-olds, seven 10-year-olds, 22 11-year-olds and 68 12-year-olds attempted to poison themselves to death since the start of 2018.
It’s not just a New Jersey phenomenon. It’s happening across the US.
Over the last decade, suicide attempts have surged across the board, but the increases among young Americans has been particularly worrying.
In the first few months of 2019 alone, 30 children 12 and under have attempted suicide by self-poisoning.
Poison control experts say that the most pressing issue to address is children’s easy access to medications prescribed to adults.
The New Jersey Poison Control Center is urging adults to take preventative measures to keep kids away from drugs.
‘We now know that keeping medicines up high and out of reach is not enough to prevent adolescent suicide,’ said Dr Bruce Ruck, managing director of the center.
‘Keeping medicines (prescription, over-the-counter, dietary, herbal, vitamins) locked up when not in use is a start.
Dr Ruck told Dailymail.com that in the last decade, there has been a shift in which children adults need to be looking out for.
‘It used to be we were worried about the toddlers and told people to keep [medications] very high up,’ Dr Ruck said.
‘Now, it’s lock it up or dispose of it properly.’
Dr Ruck urges adults to make sure to take their spare drugs to a collection sites, designated bins at pharmacies or to drug take back day, on April 27, when the Drug Enforcement Agency sets up additional collection sites – and says not to simply throw them out where they can be found and misused.
He says that in this young age group – 12 and under – overdoses are a matter of ‘the drug or substance of opportunity.
New Jersey Poison Control gets calls for children that have overdosed on everything from over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen to opioids to their grandmother’s blood pressure medication.
‘In this age group, we see a little bit of everything – it’s whatever’s around,’ says Dr Ruck.
He hypothesizes that even young children are experiencing ‘social issues and stress issues – just a whole bunch of things that the experts still have to tease out [and work out] how to stop these kids from doing it.’
‘We need to keep an eye on what younger children are doing because people tend to think these younger children aren’t trying to harm themselves but they are.’
Because hospitals are not required by law to report poisonings to the poison control centers, Dr Ruck suspects that the numbers in his report are likely low.
‘We may just be the tip of the iceberg,’ he says.
Until the ‘why’ of these suicide attempts is worked out, Dr Ruck urges preventive measures.
‘We just want to make sure that people understand that medications no longer have to just be put up high – they need to be locked up or disposed of properly.’
- For confidential support in the UK call the Samaritans on 116123 or visit a local Samaritans branch, see www.samaritans.org for details.
- For confidential support in the US call the National Suicide Prevention Line on 1-800-273-8255
- For confidential support in Australia call the Lifeline 24-hour crisis support on 13 11 14