Poisons Enquiries Rise Due To Cocaine Abuse

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The National Poisons Information Service (NPIS) has reported an increase in the number of enquiries relating to cocaine abuse among young people.

These enquiries have come from health care professionals involved in dealing with the clinical management of young drug users.

The latest annual report from the NPIS, which is commissioned by the Health Protection Agency, also reveals increases in the number of enquiries related to ketamine, methamphetamine and benzylpiperazine, although these drugs are much less commonly used.

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In 2007/08, NPIS received more than 525,000 poisons-related enquiries from health care professionals in the UK. There was increased use of the NPIS online poisons information database, TOXBASE, which received 470,000 enquiries. NPIS has encouraged the use of TOXBASE as a first point of call for information, with its telephone enquiry service being devoted to the more complex cases. Around 67 per cent of TOXBASE enquiries were from hospitals.

More than 52,000 telephone enquiries were answered in 2007/08. About a third (17,000) of these involved children under 10 years, illustrating the continuing frequency of accidental poisoning in this age group. A further 12 per cent (around 6,000) of enquiries involved the 10-19 age group. Overall, 37% of the telephone enquiries were from hospitals.

Dr Roger Cox, Director of the Agency’s Centre for Radiation, Chemicals and the Environment said: “With poisoning accounting for over 100,000 NHS hospital admissions each year, the work of NPIS is vital in supporting the health care for this large patient group. It encourages optimal care for those with serious poisoning who need hospitalisation whilst at the same time it plays a crucial role in preventing unnecessary hospital admissions.

Professor Simon Thomas, Director of NPIS (Newcastle) said: “Exposure to potentially poisonous substances continues to be a very important public health issue in the UK, as evidenced by the large numbers of enquiries made to the National Poisons Information Service. Children are involved in a large proportion of these enquiries and it is important that those caring for children should take the necessary steps to minimise the risk of exposure to potentially harmful substances. The increases in the proportion of our workload relating to some drugs of misuse, especially cocaine, are of concern and needs addressing by the wider health community”.

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