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Drug-Related Poisoning Causes Nearly 700000 Emergency Department Visits a Year

Posted: May 25, 2012
By: Dr Marc Weissman

A study released on March 3, 2011, in the The American Journal of Emergency Medicine showed that there were almost 700,000 visits to emergency room departments for drug poisoning in the year 2007. Study authors note that deaths due to drug poisoning have been documented prior to their study but not much was known about the number of visits generated by this problem.

The study noted that children between birth and five years of age are at the highest risk statistically of poisoning from drugs, but that there has been an increased rate of all drug related poisonings. The study also reported that drug-related poisonings were three times higher in rural areas than in other locations.

A March 14, 2011, article in MD News quoted the authors of the study, "Antidepressants and analgesics were responsible for nearly 44 percent of emergency department visits for drug-related poisoning in the United States. Interventions and future research should target prescription opioids, rural areas, children 0 to 5 years old for unintentional drug-related poisoning, and females ages 12 to 24 years for suicidal drug-related poisoning".

In response to the research, Dr. Sandra Schneider, president of the American College of Emergency Physicians commented in a March 16, 2011, PRNewswire-USNewswire article by adding, "People are abusing prescription drugs and over-the counter drugs, and it's a serious and growing problem. Very young children had the highest rate of unintentional drug poisoning, which is a wake-up call for parents to make sure their medicines are out of reach."

"We all need to work together, take responsibility and use common sense to protect people from drug poisoning," said Dr. Schneider. "We see too many people affected by this in our emergency departments. With all of the information and warnings available to the public, that should not be the case."

The PRNewswire-USNewswire article offered some facts about drug poisoning:

  • An estimated 699,123 US emergency department visits for drug-related poisoning occurred in 2007.
  • Nearly 28,000 unintentional drug-related poisoning deaths in the United States in 2007.
  • Infants to children 5-years-old have the highest rate of unintentional poisoning.
  • Antidepressants and painkillers were responsible for 43 percent of all drug-related poisoning.
  • The estimated emergency department charges for drug-related poisonings were $1.4 billion.
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