Rising number of teens overdosing on painkillers, experts warn

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More teenagers between 13 and 18 are deliberately overdosing on non-prescription painkillers, the UMC Utrecht toxicology centre NVIC has warned.

The centre registered a total of 1,439 cases in 2022, a 37% rise compared to 2020. The centre said the rise in cases started in July 2020, particularly in girls aged between 13 and 15. An even steeper rise of 47% occurred in 2021.

Painkillers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol were the most common types of medication used, the centre found.

“This is worrying and needs further investigation,” toxicologist and head of the NVIC Dylan de Lange said.

The NIVC only advises on the treatment of overdosing but does not register the effects on health. “But people must know that ibuprofen and paracetamol are not harmless. An overdose can lead to liver and kidney damage, and taken in sufficient quantities they can kill,” De Lange said.

“A deliberate overdose does not necessarily mean the person really wants to kill themselves, but clearly something is wrong and that needs to be addressed,” child psychologist at the UMC Utrecht Bas Oude Ophuis said.

Anyone struggling with suicidal thoughts can contact the anonymous helpline 113.nl or call the free number 0800-0113.

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