Poison Centers

On the Frontlines …

Photo courtesy of the Bangor Police Department

Did you know that poison centers often are among the first to identify new health threats?

Take the products marketed as “bath salts,” for example. These products, which have nothing to do with bathing, contain chemicals that seem to mimic cocaine, LSD, MDPV and methamphetamine. People buy them on the Internet and at gas stations and head shops, looking for a “legal” high.

Poison centers first raised the alarm about bath salts in December 2010 after they started receiving calls about people having serious reactions to the chemicals. Users were seeing their blood pressure and heart rates increase, feeling agitated and paranoid, and experiencing hallucinations.

In 2010, poison centers received 303 calls about exposures to bath salts. From January 1 to August 31, 2011, the number of calls rose dramatically to 4,720.

How dangerous are these chemicals? Here’s a glimpse: Earlier this year, the AAPCC received an e-mail from someone whose sister almost died from using bath salts. She didn’t eat, drink or sleep for six days, and eventually threatened to kill herself because she believed people were in the ceiling videotaping her. She also destroyed her home – she knocked holes in the walls, took doors off their hinges, broke windows and cut all the electrical wires in her house.

Pretty scary stuff!

Poison centers across the country got the word out to law enforcement, the medical community and the public about these extremely dangerous drugs. And yesterday (September 7), the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration issued a ban of the chemicals used in synthetic drugs labeled as bath salts, which means those chemicals can’t be packaged and sold any longer. (Click here to read our news release about the ban.)

So, as you can see, poison centers play a vital role in America’s public health system. They deserve a big thank you!

The American Association of Poison Control Centers supports the nation’s 57 poison centers in their efforts to prevent and treat poison exposures. Poison centers offer free, private, expert medical advice 24 hours a day, seven days a week. We take calls in more than 150 languages and from the hearing impaired.

For questions about poison or if you think someone has been exposed to a poison, call 1-800-222-1222 to reach your local poison center.

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