Rural communities rack up higher rates for suicide attempts by self-poisoning in youth and adolescents and more so during the academic school year. What they are using to take their lives can probably be found right in your own home too.

A new study by the Nationwide Children's Hospital and the Central Ohio Poison Center analyzed data of suspected-suicide by self-poisoning in children and young adults aged 10 to 24-years-old between 2000 and 2018.

Over 1.6 million cases, in the span of 19 years, were reported to the U.S. poison centers. The study found that 71 percent were female and 92 percent involved a drug.

The two most common substances abused were over-the-counter (OTC) medications such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen and aspirin; and anti-depressants. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) medications, involving the highest medical risks, were common among the 10 to 12-year-old and 13 to 15-year-old age groups.

"It's not so much a matter of substance type, but rather a matter of access to the substance," said Henry Spiller, MS, D.ABAT, director of the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children's, and co-author of the study. "Any type of medication can be misused and abused in ways that can unfortunately lead to very severe outcomes, including death."

Opiates only accounted for 7 percent of cases with serious medical outcomes.

According to the study, there were fewer cases during non-school months of June to August, compared with the school months of September till May.

"Because medications are so readily available in homes, many families do not take precautions to store them safely," said John Ackerman, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and suicide prevention coordinator for the Center for Suicide Prevention and Research at Nationwide Children's, and co-author of the study. "The answer is not to stop prescribing medications to those who stand to benefit, but rather to emphasize the practice of safe storage and vigilance when administering any kind of medicine, especially when children and teens live in the home."

Researchers are also baffled by the increasing number of teens experiencing mental distress. Experts speculate that stressful fallout from the recession, the evolution of teen interaction in digital spaces and the fact that information on how to kill themselves are readily available on the internet, may be behind the trend.

One way that might prove effective in curbing this problem is to repackage OTC pills into blister packs, as indicated by research. This was done in the UK with a popular OTC painkiller, resulting in a decrease in overdose deaths. With blister packs, pills need to be popped out one at a time, while bottles make it easier to empty pills at once.

Pictured: Representative image of pills from a bottle. Pixabay