Nonprescription medications are just as likely a cause of poisoning as prescription drugs, according to a new study from the University of Rochester Medical Center.
The study analyzes the data from the second annual report of the Toxicology Investigators Consortium (ToxIC), is published online in Springer’s Journal of Medical Toxicology.
Researchers found that of 10,392 reported cases of poisoning, 53 percent involved patients in emergency departments. The most common reason for consultation with a toxicologist was for pharmaceutical overdoses, which occurred in 48 percent of patients – a combination of intentional overdoses in 37 percent of patients and unintentional in 11 percent of patients. Sleeping pills, muscle relaxants, non-opioid pain relievers (such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen), opioid pain relievers and antidepressants were the most common medications accounting for the consultation.
In addition, there were 35 deaths from medication overdose in 2011, ten of which were attributed to opioids and eight to non-opioid pain relievers.
The researchers also observed that cases involving designer drugs, such as psychoactive “bath salts” and synthetic cannabinoids, increased substantially from 2010 to 2011.
Researchers conclude: “Our data also suggest that while medication abuse is a major problem, restricting our concerns to prescription drug abuse fails to acknowledge the major contribution of nonprescription agents to healthcare resource utilization.”