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Restriction of access to drugs and medications in suicide prevention 

Restriction of access to drugs and medications in suicide prevention
Restriction of access to drugs and medications in suicide prevention

Antoon Leenaars

, David Lester

, Gaspar Baquedano

, Chris Cantor

, John F Connolly

, Emilio Ovuga

, Silvia Pelaez Remigio

, and Lakshmi Vijayakumar

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date: 26 January 2022

Suicide by prescription drugs and medications is a very common method of suicide in many countries. In 1972, Oliver and Hetzel first called attention to the adverse effects of easy availability of medications in Australia; they also reported that restriction of drugs and medications decreased the rate of suicides. Results for different countries support these observations; yet there is a lack of impact on clinical practice. Experiences from some countries are presented, which suggests, despite great variation around the world, that the way physicians and other mental health professionals act needs to be more congruent with existing evidence-based knowledge. Of course, even if medication is associated to risk, it can be asked if restriction makes a difference. The sparse research suggests that restriction of access to drugs and medications reduces the suicide rate. Governments and the WHO could be involved more; for example, to promote educational programmes, and to define standards and agreements among pharmaceutical companies, national health services, medical associations, and the population in general. Much more research and clinical action are needed.

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