Adolescent self-harm with medicines: Intentional paracetamol overdose could be the commonest in Ghana

  • Emmanuel Nii-Boye Quarshie


This research note describes self-reported medicines used by adolescents for self-harm in Ghana and highlights some of the emerging evidence on access to the identified medicines. A secondary analysis of data drawn from a 2017 regionally representative survey on self-harm among in-school and street-connected adolescents in Ghana was performed. Frequencies and proportions were applied to data provided by an analytical sample of 56 adolescents (in-school = 40; street-connected = 16) who reported self-poisoning using medicines. More females (n = 46) than males (n = 10) reported using medicines for self-harm. Paracetamol was the most frequently used over-the-counter medicine, and sleeping pill was the commonly used prescription medicine. Most in-school adolescents accessed medicines at home and community pharmacies, while street-connected adolescents accessed medicines mainly on the black market. In-school adolescents had access to (grand)parents’ prescribed medications and other random medicines at home. These initial exploratory findings are not aimed at providing representative descriptive evidence on self-poisoning with medicines among adolescents in Ghana. Although this research note recommends some preventive measures, broadly, the findings are intended to lay the groundwork for a systematic investigation of adolescent self-poisoning involving the use of medicines and the development of evidence-informed intervention and prevention strategies.