Published online in Springer's Journal of Medical Toxicology, Timothy Wiegand, M.D. from the University of Rochester Medical Center, and his colleagues analyzed data from the second annual report of the Toxicology Investigators Consortium (ToxIC).
In 2010, ToxIC was established as a case registry, which serves as a real-time hub of present poisoning trends, and is used as an important research device in medical toxicology. This database includes all cases evaluated by medical toxicologists from participating organizations in the US. Wiegand and his team looked at the 2011 data from the 28 included institutions.
Results showed that of the 10,392 cases present in the database, 53 percent included patients in emergency departments. The most popular reason for meeting with a toxicologist was a pharmaceutical overdose, which happened in 48 precent of patients, a mix of intentional overdoses in 37 percent of patients and unintentional overdoses in 11 percent.
The most common medications that warranted a consultation with the toxicologist were: sleeping pills, muscle relaxants, opioid pain relievers, and non opioid relievers (such as ibuprofen).
In 2011, there were 35 deaths from medication overdose, ten from opioids, and eight from non-opioid pain medication. The researchers pointed out that cases involving newly created drugs, such as "bath salts" and synthetic cannabinoids, dramatically increased from 2010 to 2011.
Dr. Wiegand concludes:
"Much of the current concerns about prescription medication abuse have centered on opioids, and while opioids are certainly of greater concern in regard to morbidity and mortality related to overdose, the data reported here suggest that emphasis should also be placed on sleeping pills. 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."
Written by Kelly Fitzgerald