More People — Including Children — Are Being Intentionally Poisoned in the U.S.

A dire new report shows that more people are being fatally poisoned

<p>Getty</p> Stock image of a poison bottle


Stock image of a poison bottle

Intentional poisoning deaths in the United States have risen a staggering amount — and the number of intentional pediatric poisonings is also up.

The alarming report, published in the journal Clinical Toxicology, looked at more than 33 million calls over 15 years to poison control centers, and found that across the board, intentional poisonings have gone up.

Breaking it down between children and adults, the number of intentional pediatric poisonings resulting in death is up more than 122%, and those incidents resulting in a “major effect” such as a disability are up more than 190%.

For adults, the number of intentional poisoning is up nearly 234%, and intentional poisonings that resulted in major effect was up more than 133%.

Recently, poison centers across the country said they have seen an increase in calls involving accidental poisonings related to the injectable medication semaglutide, used for type 2 diabetes and weight loss.

Getty Stock image of pills on a counter.
Getty Stock image of pills on a counter.

And while there was an overall decrease in exposures reported to poison centers between 2007 and 2021, for the cases that were reported, the study found “a worsening severity of medical outcome in adult and pediatric cases, and across all age groups.”

What counts as poison, according to the National Library of Medicine, has a relatively broad definition, and “can include exposures to medications, supplements, illicit drugs, household, and industrial chemicals, environmental toxins, plants, and venomous insects and animals.”

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“As a society, we should be concerned at these trends pertaining to children,” researcher Christopher Holstege, MD, director of University of Virginia’s Health’s Blue Ridge Poison Center and chief of the Division of Medical Toxicology at UVA’s School of Medicine, which conducted the study, said in a statement.

Holstege said that his team was “not surprised by the study findings. In fact, what prompted us to look at the data on a national level is the increased severity of cases we are seeing at UVA Health’s Blue Ridge Poison Center.”

As for why the U.S. is seeing more fatal poisonings, he said the cause “is multifactorial: We have experienced a growing mental health crisis in the nation’s youth, and we are finding an increasing number of dangerous novel psychoactive substances such as synthetic opioids and designer benzodiazepines entering society.”

Related: California Woman Dies of Lead Poisoning After Using Hemorrhoid Ointment

As Holstege said, “We need to collaboratively strategize on better delineating the root causes for such severe cases of pediatric poisonings, especially in the realms of mental health and substance use and misuse.”

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