Drug poisoning

The Drug poisoning - The harmful effects on the body that occur as a result of an excessive dose of a particular drug.

Accidental poisoning most commonly occurs in young children. Child-resistant drug containers have helped to reduce this risk. In adults, drug poisoning usually occurs in elderly or confused people who are unsure about their treatment and dosage requirements. Accidental poisoning may also occur in drug abuse. Deliberate self-poisoning may be a cry for help (see suicide; suicide, attempted). Drugs that are most commonly taken in overdose include benzodiazepine drugs and antidepressant drugs.

Anyone who has taken a drug overdose, and any child who has swallowed tablets belonging to someone else, needs immediate medical attention. It is important to identify the drugs that have been taken. Treatment in hospital may involve washing out the stomach by passing water through a tube introduced into the mouth (see lavage, gastric). Charcoal may be given by mouth to reduce the absorption of the drug from the intestine into the bloodstream. To eliminate the drug, urine production may be increased by an intravenous infusion. Antidotes are available only for a few specific drugs. Such antidotes include naloxone (for morphine) and methionine (for paracetamol).

Drug poisoning may cause drowsiness, breathing difficulty, irregular heartbeat, and, rarely, cardiac arrest, fits, and kidney and liver damage. Antiarrhythmic drugs can be given to treat heartbeat irregularity. Fits are treated with anticonvulsant drugs. Blood tests to monitor liver function and careful monitoring of urine
output are carried out if the drug is known to damage the liver or kidneys.


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