Poisoning is the top cause of unintentional death in the US

When one thinks of accidental deaths due to substances, overdoses probably come to mind – such as methamphetamine, heroine or cocaine. But in the United States, more people die of acetaminophen overdoses than anything else. That's right – Tylenol.

National Poison Data System statistics reveal that acetaminophen, the active ingredient in Tylenol, was associated with 30.8 percent of fatalities in the U.S. in 2010.

Poisoning, most commonly related to inadvertent medication overdose, is the No. 1 cause of unintentional death in the U.S., killing more people in Arizona and across the U.S. each year than car accidents, according to a study by the National Poison Data System. In 2010, nearly 43,000 people died because of inadvertent poisoning, including drug overdoses, compared with just over 35,000 who died in .

This week is National Poison Prevention Week. Over the next few days, the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center at the University of Arizona's College of Pharmacy warns individuals to be mindful of their medication use and to be aware of the most common causes of accidental poisonings.

If you suspect poisoning, medication overdose, bites or stings by a poisonous or venomous creature, or if you need information about a specific medication, call the center at 800-222-1222.

"We're here around the clock to answer any question, big or small," says Keith Boesen, the center's director. "We urge people to call us instead of going to the Internet. We're trained in toxicology, and will be able to give exact answers specific to the caller's circumstances."

The Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and offers free, confidential counseling in the event of suspected . The center is staffed by pharmacists, toxicologists and genetic counselors ready to answer callers' questions. The center also engages in scientific research into toxicology and new drug development.

The center serves 14 of Arizona's 15 counties, with the exception of Maricopa County, which is served by Banner Poison and Drug Information Center. The center gets an average of six calls per day from individuals who have taken a medication incorrectly and are in need of help or information.

This common drug is found in more than 600 over-the-counter and prescription medications used to treat pain, cold and flu symptoms, allergies and sleeplessness. When people take multiple medications without realizing that more than one contains the drug, it makes it very easy for them to accidentally overdose. Poison center staff urge consumers to read the labels of their medicines carefully.

Severe liver damage can occur with overdose of acetaminophen. Overdose may be caused by taking more than one medication containing the drug, taking more of a medication than directed, or taking while consuming more than three alcoholic beverages each day.

Additionally, 2013 data compiled by the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center indicates that 60 percent of teen exposures to drugs in the center's call regions involved accidental overdoses of pharmaceuticals, while 40 percent of all teen exposures were a result of intentional abuse, misuse, or suspected suicide.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

US urges acetaminophen limits due to liver risks

Jan 15, 2014

US regulators said Wednesday they are urging doctors to cease prescribing drugs that contain more than 325 milligrams of acetaminophen per tablet due to concerns over liver damage.

Doubling up on cold, flu remedies may harm liver

Jan 30, 2013

(HealthDay)—Taking too much acetaminophen, an active ingredient in many commonly used drugs for fever and pain relief, including Tylenol, can cause liver damage, experts at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ...

Nonprescription medication abuse underestimated

Oct 04, 2012

Nonprescription medications are just as likely a cause of poisoning as prescription drugs, according to a new study by Timothy Wiegand, M.D. from the University of Rochester Medical Center in the US and colleagues. Their ...

Recommended for you

Health care M&A leads global deal surge

34 seconds ago

In a big year for deal making, the health care industry is a standout. Large drugmakers are buying and selling businesses to control costs and deploy surplus cash. A rising stock market, tax strategies and ...

US approves new, hard-to-abuse hydrocodone pill (Update)

Nov 20, 2014

U.S. government health regulators on Thursday approved the first hard-to-abuse version of the painkiller hydrocodone, offering an alternative to a similar medication that has been widely criticized for lacking ...

Soaring generic drug prices draw Senate scrutiny

Nov 20, 2014

Some low-cost generic drugs that have helped restrain health care costs for decades are seeing unexpected price spikes of up to 8,000 percent, prompting a backlash from patients, pharmacists and now Washington ...

Only half of patients take their medications as prescribed

Nov 20, 2014

The cost of patients not taking their medications as prescribed can be substantial in terms of their health. Although a large amount of research evidence has tried to address this problem, there are no well-established ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.