Oregon Poison Center at OHSU offers tips for preventing prescription painkiller poisonings

03/22/13  Portland, Ore.

National Poison Prevention Week 2013 concludes on March 23

As National Poison Prevention Week comes to a close, the Oregon Poison Center at Oregon Health & Science University would like to alert the public to the importance of using and storing prescription painkillers carefully and correctly. According to recent data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers, painkillers were the substances most frequently involved in all human poison exposure cases.

During the past 11 years, painkiller exposures increased more rapidly than any other, according to the AAPCC’s National Poison Data System. Furthermore, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Food and Drug Administration state that prescription drug abuse is an epidemic.

“The growing trend of death by prescription drugs has reached critical levels in the U.S. and the Oregon Poison Center wants to work with the public and prescribing providers to sound the message,” said Zane Horowitz, M.D., medical director of the Oregon Poison Center. “When it comes to prescription drugs, patients should take only the amount prescribed; don’t share you pain pills with family or friends and never take more than the amount recommended by your doctor.”

Since 1962, the third week in March has been designated National Poison Prevention Week and has focused national attention on the dangers of poisonings and how to prevent them. The nation’s 57 poison centers respond to calls 24 hours a day, seven days a week in order to help those who have been exposed to toxic substances.

Poison center experts offer the following tips to keep yourself and others safe around prescription painkillers:

  • Properly dispose of unwanted or expired prescription drugs. The national prescription drug take-back day is coming up on April 27. Call the Oregon Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222 for more information on safe drug disposal.
  • If you are currently using prescription painkillers, store them safely. Listen for the click when resealing the bottle, and lock them up where they can’t be accessed by another individual or curious child.
  • Be aware of the dangers prescription painkillers can pose; using these drugs without a doctor’s prescription can be deadly.
  • Never change your dose without consulting your doctor; talk with your doctor about ways to reduce your risk of overdose.
  • If you or someone you know is addicted to these drugs, seek help immediately.
  • Be aware of the symptoms of overdose and be prepared to offer first aid. Symptoms may include dizziness, fainting, vomiting, and difficult or uneven breathing. If you witness an overdose in progress, dial 9-1-1 or the poison center at 1-800-222-1222 immediately.

About the Oregon Poison Center

The Oregon Poison Center (OPC) is a 24-hour poison emergency management resource for both the public and health care professionals serving Oregon, Alaska and Guam. Located on the campus of Oregon Health & Science University, OPC was established by an act of the Oregon State Legislature in 1978 to provide emergency treatment information for patients experiencing a poisoning or toxic exposure. OPC’s doctors and nurses, who are trained in toxicology, handle nearly 60,000 calls a year utilizing professional expertise as well as an extensive variety of computer databases, textbooks and journal articles to determine the appropriate treatment guidelines for patients. Call the poison center hot line number (1 800-222-1222) for all poison emergencies and questions.

About OHSU

Oregon Health & Science University is the state's only public academic health and research university. As one of Oregon's largest employers with more than 14,000 employees, OHSU's size contributes to its ability to provide many services and community support not found anywhere else in the state. OHSU serves patients from every corner of Oregon and is a conduit for learning for more than 4,400 students and trainees. OHSU is the source of more than 200 community outreach programs that bring health and education services to each county in the state.