New study: Medical and financial impact of drug-related poisonings treated in US EDs

Mar 01, 2011
Dr. Gary Smith explains that his findings reinforce the importance of increasing efforts to prevent unintentional drug exposures among young children in the United States. Credit: Nationwide Children's Hospital

Over the past decade, drug-related poisonings have been on the rise in the United States. In fact, in many states drug-related poisoning deaths have now surpassed motor vehicle crash fatalities to become the leading cause of injury death. While the fatalities from this epidemic have been well reported, they are only the tip of the iceberg.

A new study by researchers at the Center for Injury Research and Policy of The Research Institute at Nationwide Children's Hospital examined emergency department (ED) visits for drug-related poisonings and found that in just one year (2007) in the U.S., there were approximately 700,000 ED visits costing nearly $1.4 billion in ED charges alone. This equates to an average of 1,900 drug-related ED visits and $3.8 million in ED charges each and every day in this country.

"The magnitude of these findings is staggering," said Gary Smith, MD, DrPH, senior author of the study and director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital. "The number and cost of drug-related poisonings identified in this study indicate a that requires a decisive and coordinated response at national, state and local levels."

This video is not supported by your browser at this time.
Dr. Gary Smith, director of the Center for Injury Research and Policy at Nationwide Children's Hospital, explains that, over the past decade, drug-related poisonings have been on the rise in the United States. Watch as he explains the findings of his study where he found that children 5 years and younger have a higher rate of ED visits for unintentional drug-related poisonings than all other age groups. Credit: Nationwide Children's Hospital

According to the study, appearing in the March 2011 issue of the , poisoning by antidepressants and tranquilizers (24 percent) and poisoning by pain and fever control medicines (23 percent) were responsible for almost half of ED visits for drug-related poisoning. Among cases involving antidepressants and tranquilizers, 52 percent were suicidal poisonings and 30 percent were unintentional poisonings. In comparison, 41 percent of poisonings by pain and fever control medicines were suicidal and 40 percent were unintentional.

"The current epidemic of drug-related poisonings has a new face," said Dr. Smith, also a Professor of Pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. "Unlike epidemics in the past involving , such as heroin and crack cocaine, misuse of prescription drugs, especially opioid pain medications, is now the cause of an unprecedented number of emergency department visits and deaths. Our study also demonstrated that the rate of ED visits for drug-related poisoning is three times higher in rural areas than in non-rural areas."

Also of concern was the study's finding that children 5 years and younger had a higher rate of ED visits for unintentional drug-related poisonings than all other age groups.

"Despite the fact that successful prevention strategies targeted at young children have helped to decrease the occurrence of drug-related poisonings in this population, the number of unintentional poisonings among this age group is still too high," said Dr. Smith. "Our findings reinforce the importance of increasing efforts to prevent unintentional drug exposures among young children in the United States."

Data for this study were obtained from the 2007 Nationwide Sample (NEDS), one of the Health Care Utilization Project data sets from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. NEDS data enable analyses of ED utilization patterns and yield national estimates of ED visits. The 2007 NEDS was released in April 2010. The data set includes approximately 27 million ED visits from about 970 hospital-based EDs in 27 states, and it generates national estimates pertaining to more than 120 million ED visits.

Explore further: US sues Gerber over claims on infant formula

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Poisoning by prescription drugs on the rise

Apr 06, 2010

Poisoning is now the second leading cause of unintentional injury death in the U.S. While several recent high-profile Hollywood celebrity cases have brought the problem to public attention, the rates of unintentional poisoning ...

Emergency departments see substantial increase in CT exams

Nov 29, 2010

A new study reports that the use of computed tomography (CT) in the nation's emergency departments is growing exponentially. If the growth trend continues, by 2011, nearly 20 percent of all emergency department (ED) visits ...

Recommended for you

US sues Gerber over claims on infant formula

30 minutes ago

US government regulators announced Thursday they were suing Gerber, the well-known baby food maker, for claiming that its Good Start Gentle formula can prevent or reduce allergies in children.

Blending faith and science to combat obesity

4 hours ago

Science and religion may seem like uneasy partners at times, but when it comes to promoting healthy lifestyles, one UConn Health researcher has shown they can be an effective combination.

Research project puts stroke patients back on their feet

4 hours ago

Finding the will to exercise routinely can be challenging enough for most people, but a stroke presents even more obstacles. Yet aerobic exercise may be crucial for recovery and reducing the risk of another ...

User comments : 0

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.