Poisoning Prevention and Substance Misuse

According to the American Association of Poison Control Centers, 92 percent of poisonings happen at home, and 43 percent of poisonings involve children under the age of 6. Poisoning is the third leading cause of unintentional injury death among children ages 1 to 19 years.

However, among teens and adults, unintentional poisonings most commonly occur due to misuse or abuse of alcohol or other drugs, including medications. Unintentional poisonings of alcohol or drugs may occur due to the quantity consumed or due to the combination of substances consumed. Misuse of alcohol or other drugs can impact one’s balance, judgement, reaction time, vision and more. This significantly increases one’s risk of injury due to falls, motor vehicle crashes, recreational crashes and more. Poisonings, including overdoses, are one of the top causes of injury-related hospitalizations and deaths among teens and adults in our region. Intentional poisonings and overdoses are also one of the most common methods of self-harm injuries and suicide attempts among teens and adults in our region.

Tips to Prevent Poisonings

  • Use prescription and over-the-counter medications, vitamins and supplements as directed. You should NOT take/give more than one medicine with the same active ingredient* at the same time unless directed by your doctor. *Read the labels of multi-symptom medicines to ensure not accidentally double-dosing on an ingredient.
  • Remove unneeded and expired medications, both prescription and over-the-counter, from your home. Find a Medication Drop Box Site in or near to your community, or check with your county’s Solid Waste Disposal Department for instructions on safely disposing of medications and other hazardous items.
  • Store products safely to prevent poisoning. Take extra steps to make sure potentially harmful items are out of reach and out of sight of children, and ideally stored in a cabinet with a lock or safety latch. Check your home, including your basement and garage, for products like:
  • Keep products in their original containers. When buying products, look for child-resistant containers. Note that safety caps are designed to be child resistant but are not fully child proof. 
  • Read product labels and follow the label’s instructions. Check product ingredients and warning labels. Store all potentially hazardous items in a safe location according to the label’s instructions. Only use products as directed on the label. 
  • Drinking less is better for health than drinking more. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that adults of legal drinking age choose not to drink, or when alcohol is consumed to drink in moderation by limiting intake to 2 drinks or less in a day for men and 1 drink or less in a day for women.
  • Save the Poison Help number in your phone and post it visibly at home: 1-800-222-1222. Specialists at poison control centers provide free, confidential, expert medical advice 24 hours a day. They can answer questions and help with poison emergencies.
  • If you’re concerned that a member of your household is thinking of harming themselves, reduce access to lethal means at home such as medications, firearms, and other potentially hazardous or poisonous items.
  • If you or a loved one is having thoughts of death, self harm, or harming others, seek help right away by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) or text the Crisis Text Line by texting ‘TALK’ to 741741. Call 911 immediately in situations where harming actions are happening or are about to happen. 

What to Do in Case of Poisoning

If you find someone with an open or empty container of a potentially dangerous nonfood item, they may have been poisoned. If they are unconscious, not breathing, or having convulsions or seizures, call 911 or your local emergency number right away. 

If they do not have these symptoms, call Poison Help at 1-800-222-1222 or use the webPOISONCONTROL online tool. If the poison is very dangerous or if the person is very young or old, you may be told to take them to the nearest hospital. If the person is not in danger, the Poison Help staff will tell you what to do to help the person at home.