The study describes consumption of and poisoning by analgesic drugs in Denmark during the period 1979-1992. During this period, fatal poisonings from analgesics almost doubled to 200 deaths per year (40% of all drug related deaths in Denmark). The annual consumption of opioids increased at the beginning of the period, but during 1985-1992 it was relatively constant at 20 million defined daily doses (DDD) and associated with 600 hospital admissions and 150-170 deaths due to poisoning per year. Within the opioid group dextropropoxyphene consumption and poisonings decreased following a National Board of Health initiative in 1985-1987. As for the weak analgesics, consisting mainly of paracetamol or salicylates, the total consumption increased gradually and reached 145 million DDD in 1992, corresponding to 160 tablets per inhabitant per year. This consumption was associated with approximately 750 hospital admissions and 40 deaths due to poisoning. As judged from the mortality per dose the weak analgesics are 20-30 times safer than the opioids.