PoisoningPoisons are substances that can cause injury, illness, or death when a sufficient quantity is absorbed, injected, or inhaled in sufficient quantity by a person. Poisoning is second only to motor vehicle crashes as a cause of unintentional injury death in 2005. This section will address the prevention of unintentional poisoning or overdoses that occur by chance, and are not intended to harm a person. Unintentional poisoning includes the use of drugs or chemicals for recreational purposes in excessive amounts, such as an “overdose.” It also includes the excessive use of drugs or chemicals for nonrecreational purposes, such as by a toddler.
In 2003, drugs caused 94.3% of the unintentional and undetermined poisoning deaths. Opioid pain medications were most commonly involved, followed by cocaine and heroin. Nonfatal poisonings treated in emergency departments that involve “accidentally” taking prescription or over-the-counter drugs primarily affect children. Among such incidents in 2004, pain and cardiovascular medications, antidepressants, and sedative/hypnotics were most commonly ingested. Acetaminophen-containing drugs, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and opioids were the leading types of pain medications. Men are more than twice as likely to unintentionally poison themselves than women.