State report indicates common drugs are leading cause of poisoning

The Washington Poison Center (WAPC) recorded more than 70,000 cases of humans and animals exposed to toxic substances in 2009. Adults accounted for nearly 36 percent of the human exposure cases. The most common calls‚ accounting for over half of those placed to the center’s 24-hour hotline, were about prescription and over-the-counter substances.

According to the State Department of Health, poisonings and drug overdoses remain the leading causes of unintentional injury-related deaths in Washington state, surpassing motor vehicle crashes.

The Poison Center’s trained medical staff are able to keep nearly 92 percent of callers home, away from emergency rooms or urgent care.

The WAPC’s top 10 human poisonings list for 2009 includes:

• Ibuprofen

• Benzodiazepine (tranquilizers)

• Ethanol (alcoholic beverage)

• Diaper care/rash product

• Non-Drowsy Antihistamines (like Zyrtec and Claritin)

• Pediatric Acetaminophen (children’s Tylenol)

• SSRI (antidepressants)

• Adult Acetaminophen (Tylenol)

• Desiccant (silica gel used in packaging)

• Other non-drug substances

The WAPC recommends taking a few moments before giving or taking a medication to be sure it is the correct medication, given in the correct dose to the correct person at the correct time. If there is ever a doubt, do not wait for symptoms; call the Poison Center’s 24/7 hotline at 1-800-222-1222.

Calling within Washington state will connect you to one of the Washington Poison Center’s specially trained pharmacists, nurses and poison specialists. Poison help is always free and confidential (with the exception of $30 fee for animal calls). Services are available for people with hearing problems and for non-English speakers.

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