Fewer deaths from paracetamol overdoses since change in law on pack sizes - comment from Samaritans' CEO

A study released today by Oxford University has found that deaths from paracetamol overdoses have fallen by 43% in England and Wales in the 11 years since the law on pack sizes has changed. However, the number of people taking paracetamol overdoses has not declined. Read the full story about the Oxford University study into paracetemol overdoses.

In response, Catherine Johnstone, Chief Executive of Samaritans said:

“When a person is in suicidal crisis, they will often think of a method that is easily available to them. It is during this time, we need to make sure that there are no barriers to seeking help aiming to widen the gap between thought and action in the hope that the crisis period will pass before a suicide attempt is made. This is the basic reasoning behind the reduction in the numbers of paracetamol pills sold in a pack and it’s encouraging to see that legislation can have an effect on reducing suicides. The very act of calling an organisation like Samaritans can be sufficient to get a person through a difficult period and the experience of having another human being listen to your problems, in absolute confidence, can give someone the strength to see other choices. 

“It’s also important to remember that information in the public domain about suicide methods can have a profound effect on a vulnerable person and it’s vital that this information is controlled as far as possible to keep imitational incidents to an absolute minimum. The media bears a special responsibility here and Samaritans has developed media guidelines to help in the portrayal of suicide in the public domain. We work closely with print and broadcast media, across the UK and Ireland to make sure these guidelines are implemented as widely as possible."


Not for publication:

Media covering this story should be careful not to include detail about doses, or to portray Paracetamol poisoning as an effective, painless and easy way to take your own life. Please signpost sources of support, such as Samaritans.