About 15,000 Intentional Poisoning ER Visits in 2009

Alcohol and drug combinations involved in 60 percent of these emergency department visits

FRIDAY, Nov. 11 (HealthDay News) -- In 2009, there were an estimated 14,720 emergency department visits due to intentional drug poisoning, with alcohol and drug combinations involved in 60 percent of these cases, according to a report published online Nov. 3 by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).

The report authors, from SAMHSA in Rockville, Md., investigated the number of emergency department visits attributed to intentional poisoning across all ages in 2009. They assessed the characteristics of the patients and types of drugs involved in these visits.

The authors reported that the number of emergency department visits attributed to intentional poisoning in 2009 was estimated at 14,720. Patients aged 21 years or older accounted for 73 percent of these visits, and females accounted for 63 percent. About 60 percent of the visits involved unidentified drugs. Sixty-eight percent of the visits involved more than one drug, with an average of two drugs per visit. Alcohol in combination with other drugs accounted for 60 percent of emergency department visits. Alcohol was combined with unidentified drugs, illicit drugs, and pharmaceuticals in 37, 17, and 12 percent of visits, respectively. Illicit drugs, including marijuana, stimulants, cocaine, and ecstasy, were involved in 30 percent of visits, and pharmaceutical drugs were involved in 21 percent.

"In this report, six out of 10 emergency department visits attributed to intentional poisoning involved drugs combined with alcohol," the authors conclude. "Such possibilities highlight the importance of heightening public awareness of the potential use of drugs for intentional poisoning in group settings -- such as bars, dance clubs, and concerts -- in which alcohol or drugs are often consumed".

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