EVERY year about a million Americans attempt suicide. More than 38,000 succeed. In addition, each year there are around 33,000 unintentional deaths by poisonings. Taken together, that’s more than twice the number of people who die annually in car accidents.
The tragedy is that while motor vehicle deaths have been dropping, suicides and poisonings from medications have been steadily rising since 1999. About half of suicides are committed with firearms, and nearly 20 percent by poisoning. A good way to kill yourself is by overdosing on Tylenol or other pills. About 90 percent of the deaths from unintentional poisonings occur because of drugs, and not because of things like household cleaners or bleach.
There is a simple way to make medication less accessible for those who would deliberately or accidentally overdose — and that is packaging.
We need to make it harder to buy pills in bottles of 50 or 100 that can be easily dumped out and swallowed. We should not be selling big bottles of Tylenol and other drugs that are typically implicated in overdoses, like prescription painkillers and Valium-type drugs, called benzodiazepines. Pills should be packaged in blister packs of 16 or 25. Anyone who wanted 50 would have to buy numerous blister packages and sit down and push out the pills one by one. Turns out you really, really have to want to commit suicide to push out 50 pills. And most people are not that committed.
Sound ridiculous? Consider some data.