Incidents Of Poisoning By Psychoactive Drugs Surge To All-Time High In The US

Emergency phone calls made to the 55 poison control centers across the U.S. were analyzed over a period of 17 years to assess the extent of psychoactive substances leading to the poisoning incidents. While exposure to marijuana and kratom are on the rise, they were some of the main drugs behind the poisonings, which in many cases ended in hospitalization and death. 

What The Study Found

The study was conducted by Nationwide Children’s Hospital, which is based in Ohio, and published in the journal Clinical Toxicology on Tuesday. Researchers studied details of 67,369 phone calls from January 1, 2000 to December 31, 2017. The age group was divided between adults and teenagers. Of them, individuals who are 19 years old and older made 41 percent of the phone calls, while teenagers made 34.8 percent of the calls to the centers.

The data was collected from the National Poison Data System to analyze the rates of exposure to psychoactive substances through the phone calls. Annually, 3,743 incidents of exposure to drugs are accounted for on average, as per the study. The rate of exposure has grown alarmingly over the years, the study revealed in the first of its kind large-scale analysis. 

The overall rate of exposure was at a ratio of 17.6 per million people in 2000 and 30.7 per million people in 2017. Therefore, the exposure rate had increased 74.5 percent over the 17 years period, which was the span of the study, reported CNN. 

How did  the drugs fare individually?

  •  Marijuana constituted 46.9 percent of the substances involved with the poisoning emergencies 
  • Anticholinergic plants caused 21 percent of the incidents  
  • Hallucinogenic mushrooms made up 15.6 percent. 

Furthermore, the findings of the researchers revealed that marijuana grew significantly from a ratio of 9.9 per million people in 2000 to a ratio of 24.7 per million people in 2017.

However, it was the exposure rates of kratom that increased substantially. “Kratom demonstrated a significant 4,948.9% increase from 2011 to 2017 and accounted for 8 of the 42 deaths identified in this study,” the researchers stated in their paper. 

According to another study by Center for Injury Research and Policy and the Central Ohio Poison Center at Nationwide Children's Hospital

published earlier this February, kratom exposure as per call details revealed by U.S. poison centers had increased by 50 percent over a seven years period. The centers recorded only 13 calls related to kratom exposure in 2011, which rose to 682 calls in 2017. 

So how badly affected are the people behind these calls ? A study in 2012 that looked into the impact of poisoning by anesthetic substances and opioids had explained the affect of poisoning. 

“Poisons can be substances that are inherently toxic to tissues, those that adversely affect physiological function or therapeutic substances taken in excess. Injury can result not only from the direct effects of the poison but indirectly from injuries sustained while the patient is intoxicated or in various phases of withdrawal,” as stated in the 2012 study.

Marijuana A picture taken on June 5, 2019 shows a man smelling a sample of Marijuana buds, often simply called weed or pot, which is the unprocessed form of the female cannabis plant, at the "Hemp Embassy" store in Milan, one of the first shops in Italy dedicated to cannabis. MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images