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Intentional Poisonings Result in 14K+ Emergency Room Visits

FDNY ambulance (Michael Gil)A study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows intentional poisonings — purposeful attempts to drug other people without their knowledge — resulted in 14,720 hospital emergency room visits in 2009. The report by SAMHSA, an agency of the Department of Health and Human Services, indicates most victims were female (63%) and over 21 years of age (73%).

SAMHSA says its report, the first of its kind by the agency, shows alcohol was involved in a majority (60%) of the cases. Illegal drugs such as marijuana, stimulants, cocaine and ecstasy were involved in three of 10 (30%) reported cases. And medications for insomnia, anxiety, benzodiazepines, and pain relievers were reported in two of 10 (21%) cases.

The report defines intentional poisoning as a direct attempt to hurt someone or an attempt to render that person defenseless against other types of crime. The report notes that the use of alcohol and drugs causes the poisoning victims to be drowsy or lose consciousness, leaving them vulnerable to crimes such as robbery, physical assault, or sexual assault. Detecting the crime is difficult given many victims are not able to recall details and the intent of suspects cannot be confirmed.

Data in the report were compiled through SAMHSA’s Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN), a public health surveillance system that monitors drug-related hospital emergency room visits in the United States. To be a DAWN case, the emergency room visit must have involved a drug, either as the direct cause of the visit or as a contributing factor.

DAWN classifies emergency room visits as intentional poisoning when a patient’s medical chart indicates that she or he was deliberately drugged by another person with the intent of causing harm, such as a drug-facilitated sexual assault.

Read more: Medication Poisoning of Young Children Rising Sharply

Photo: Michael Gil/Flickr

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