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Psychoactive substance exposures driving up calls to poison control centers: study

Poison Control phone call
Photo: Rafael Abdrakhmanov/iStockphoto

Columbus, OH — With more states legalizing marijuana for recreational use, the drug – along with other natural psychoactive substances – has caused a 74% increase in exposures since 2000, leading to approximately 10 calls a day to poison control centers.

Using the National Poison Data System, researchers from Nationwide Children’s Hospital’s Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center studied more than 67,300 calls to poison control centers made between 2000 and 2017.

The overall rate of exposures to all-natural psychoactive substances rose to 30.7 per 1 million people in 2017 from 17.6 in 2000. Marijuana was the biggest driver of exposures that led to poison control center calls, to 24.7 per million in 2017 from 9.9 in 2000 – an increase of 150%.

The most common cases involved people 20 and older (41%) and males (64%), and occurred at a residence (91%). Thirty-five percent of cases involved teens. The substances most often reported were marijuana (47%), anticholinergic plants (21%) and hallucinogenic mushrooms (16%), the hospital states in a Nov. 25 press release.

The substance with the largest rise in exposures was kratom – an herbal extract derived from the leaves of an evergreen tree grown in Southeast Asia, according to the Mayo Clinic. From 2011 to 2017, kratom exposures rose nearly 5,000%. Kratom also accounted for eight of the 42 deaths identified in the study.

“These substances have been associated with a variety of serious medical outcomes, including seizures and coma in adults and children,” Henry Spiller, study co-author and COPC director, said in the release. “As more states continue to legalize marijuana in various forms, parents and health care providers should treat it like any other medication: locked up, away and out of sight of children.”

The study was published online Nov. 25 in the journal Clinical Toxicology.

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