Emergency visits rise for drug poisoning

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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- A new government report shows emergency room visits for drug poisoning are rising especially among young adults. Experts say it's a result of Americans taking more medicine. Most poisonings are from drugs you may have in your medicine cabinet.

More than a million times a year in the U.S., someone goes to the emergency room because of drug poisoning. It can be an overdose or an interaction. Most poisonings are unintentional.

The new report shows more of those visits in every age category between 2008 and 2011 compared to the previous four years. Don't think it's just because of prescription narcotics or illegal drugs. Those drugs made up just 14% of visits for unintentional poisoning.

"It goes far, far beyond that," said Tama Sawyer, director of the poison control center at the University of Kansas Hospital.

Sawyer says it can be from prescription medicines for common conditions or over-the-counter drugs such as Tylenol or acetaminophen.

"You know you're only supposed to take four to eight Tylenol a day, but if you're taking that eight Tylenol dose every single day, your liver is taking a big hit," said Sawyer.

And it takes an even bigger one if you take another drug along with it that you don't realize also contains acetaminophen.

Forgetfulness is also a common cause of drug poisoning.

"We see a lot of did I take it or didn't I take it. I think I took it yesterday. I'm not sure if I took it today. And people will double up," she said.

Sawyer says talk to your doctor and pharmacist about how to take your medicines and the signs of poisoning to watch for.

Don't hesitate to call the poison control center at (800) 222-1222.

"Questions, call us. That's what we do," Sawyer said.

It could keep you out of the e.r. It could even save your life.

Forty thousand Americans a year die from poisoning, and 90 percent of those deaths are from drugs. More people die from poisoning than in vehicle crashes.

The new report from the National Center for Health Statistics also found that one in four people who go to the emergency room because of drug poisoning are hospitalized.