This is Poison Awareness Week and the Institute for Women's Health Research sponsored a forum featuring Dr. Carol DesLauriers  a pharmacist from the Illinois Poison Center, the nation's oldest poison center. Did you know that nearly 75% of poisoning deaths in the U.S. are due to unintentional poisoning? Unintentional poisoning includes the use of drugs or chemicals for recreational purposes in excessive amounts (an 'overdose').  It also includes the excessive use of drugs or chemicals for non-recreational purposes, such as by a toddler.   Unintentional poisoning  was second only to motor vehicle crashes as a cause of unintentional injury death for all ages in 2007.   Among people 35-54 years old, unintentional poisoning caused more deaths than motors vehicle crashes.

The majority of unintentional poisoning deaths were caused by drugs.  Opioid pain medications (methadone, hydrocodone, oxycodone) were the most commonly used followed by cocaine and heroin.  While the latter two drugs are gotten solely on the street, the others are available legitimately by prescription.  These drugs can be beneficial but it is the misuse of these products that are causing deaths.   Of great concern is the fact that teens often get these drugs from their parent's medicine cabinets.  As Dr. Deslauriers explained, young people believe that since these drugs are "prescribed by a doctor", they are not dangerous (like street drugs).  Addicts also get them by going to several unrelated physicians for multiple prescriptions.

The highest death rate is among people age 45-49 years old and men are more likely to die from unintentional poisoning than women.   Children have the lowest mortality rates because they do not abuse drugs as frequently as older adults.  Parents are reminded that when medicine comes  in "child-resistant" bottles---that does not mean "child-proof".    Never use a pill bottle as a rattle to entertain your child (yes, people actually do this!).

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Comments

We need to be so careful. My friend told me she caught her 5 year old taking pills. When he was asked about it he said he did it all the time when he has a headache.

So many people believe that good health is in a battle of pills. One time too many is all it takes.

i have seen my neighbor use the pill bottle as a rattle. some parents just shouldn't have kids

It does amaze me sometimes that doctors will continually prescribe maximum strength pain killers on repeat prescription. It is a problem the world over. The Cocaine and Herroin is easy to solve, legalise and regulate. But of course this will never happen. Awesome stuff.

And this will continue to happen as long as it is so easy to obtain opoids online. I know of at least 5 online pharmacies-all overseas - where anyone with a credit card can make a purchase. Tighter controls are needed in pipeline; we've got to make it more difficult for people to get the UTC drugs online. That's my two cents!

This unfortunate incident usually happens to people who does self-treatment but lacking of knowledge with his illness and pills. It sounds really frustrating but true.

Actually, none of this surprises me. I frequent many drug forums and I'm just shocked at the amount of men who are looking to purchase opoids online without a script. These people claim they live with chronic pain, and many do, but just as many are simply looking to self-medicate, which leads to the poisoning which you mention in your post. Many of these opoids are actually more dangerous than illegal street drugs. Go figure...

I had no idea that there were so many accidental deaths due to drug poisoning. I know that people may tend to share medications, perhaps this is adding to this statistic?

I've seen some cases where prescription drugs for addiction treatment do more harm than former addiction! It is preferably to quit from addictions using natural, behavior and mental methods to quit from some drug addiction. I’m involved into helping teenagers to recover from smoking marijuana and believe me, those methods work very well.

I’ve always thought that some medicines containing some kind of drug are literally very dangerous despite they are prescribed as a treatment to a patient. Doctors say that the administration of these drugs to patients is perfectly controlled, but they can’t be at their patient’s side all the time, so the patient could take more that prescribed, give up a pill or more to a friend/relative etc. These are very dangerous substances, and because it was prescribed they are on the hands of an individual almost without control, like having license to have marijuana, crack, heroin or any other drug at their bureau’s drawer to use it anytime they wanted. It’s a freaky situation that leads to this kind of “accidents”

It's always a sad event when someone overdoses or uses prescription drugs to take their life. I feel there should be tighter regulations on obtaining prescription drugs.

This seems to be a continuous problem amongst people, it is not something to take lightly and I only wish people who abuse drugs will understand it is life and death they are dealing with.

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