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Entries in Overdose (8)

Saturday
Jun082013

Soy Sauce Overdose Sends Teen into Coma

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va.) -- A 19-year-old survived a dangerous sodium overdose after drinking more than a quart of soy sauce on a dare, according to a case study in the Journal of Emergency Medicine.

After drinking a quart of the sodium-heavy condiment, the teenager slipped into coma with seizure-like activity. He was rushed to the hospital, where doctors determined he was suffering from hyponatremia, a metabolic condition in which there is a salt imbalance in the bodily fluids.

Eventually doctors determined that he had ingested 160 to 170 grams of sodium from the soy sauce, a potentially lethal dose for his weight and build. He had effectively overdosed on sodium.

“He didn’t respond to any of the stimuli that we gave him,” Dr. David J. Carlberg, who treated the patient as an emergency room physician at University of Virginia Medical Center, told LiveScience. “He had some clonus, which is just elevated reflexes. It’s a sign that basically the nervous system wasn’t working very well.”

According to the National Institutes of Health, severe hyponatremia can result in excessive sodium in bodily fluid, which causes excess water to flow into cells to balance sodium levels. While some cells can handle the swelling, in brain cells, the excess swelling can lead to neurological damage or death. Other symptoms include mental confusion, convulsions, fatigue, and nausea.

While in the past, doctors slowly lowered sodium levels in patients suffering from hyponatremia in order to protect the body from further shock, in this case doctors worked quickly to lower the patient’s sodium level as soon as possible to protect his brain. They quickly tried to flush the salt from his system with a water-and-sugar-based solution in an effort to protect his brain from lasting damage.

Eventually the doctors were able to stabilize the patient, even though he remained in a coma. After three days he woke up from the coma without suffering any lasting neurological damage.

While death from sodium is incredibly rare, it is not unheard of. According to the case study’s authors, in ancient China, salt overdoses were one traditional way to commit suicide.

Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Apr172012

5-Year-Old Colorado Girl Dies of Cough Medicine Overdose

Courtesy Brown Family(DURANGO, Colo.) -- A Colorado girl is dead after taking a lethal combination of two common cold and allergy medicines. Colorado authorities are now investigating her grandmother, who was looking after the 5-year-old.

Kimber Michelle Brown was spending the night with her 59-year-old grandmother, Linda Sheets, at the time of her death on Feb. 12.  Sheets was reportedly treating the girl for flu-like symptoms.

The coroner's report, which came out this week, ruled the overdose was accidental, caused by dextromethorphan, an ingredient commonly used in cough syrup.  Kimber's blood levels were two and a half times higher than the recommended dosage.  She also had higher than therapeutic levels of cetirizine, which is the main ingredient in the allergy medicine Zyrtec.

Kimber's parents, Raelyn Anderson-Brown and Mike Brown, live in Durango, Colo., which is about nine miles from Hermosa, where she died.

Investigators say Sheets, who is Anderson-Brown's mother, may not have measured the medicine properly, or the child may have also taken some herself.

Now, the Sixth Judicial District Attorney's Office is investigating whether criminal charges will be filed, according to the Durango Herald, although police have said so far there is no evidence of wrongdoing.

"I consider it a certified combination of drugs, with the dextromethorphan being the highest level," La Plata County Coroner Dr. Carol Huser told ABC News.

Combining the two depressants produced a greater toxicity than each drug would have caused alone, she said.

Blood levels were taken several hours after the child's death.  Those were the only drugs in the girl's system, except for some that the medic administered "to try to save her," said Huser.

The toxicology report showed that the little girl, who weighed only 46 pounds, had 96 nanograms per millilitre of dextromethorphan in her blood.  The upper limit for this drug in adults is 40 ng/ml.

Kimber also had 490 ng/ml of cetirizine in her system.  A normal dosage would be between 271 and 352 ng/ml.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb132012

Whitney Houston's Death Highlights Accidental Drug Overdosing

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Speculation surrounding the cause of pop star Whitney Houston's death highlights what many forensic experts have known for years -- many prescription drug overdoses happen because people fail to realize how deadly combining medications can be.

An estimated 27,000 people died from accidental drug overdoses in the U.S. in 2007 -- one death every 19 minutes -- according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The U.S. death rate from drug overdosing has tripled in the past decade, making prescription drug abuse the nation's fastest-growing drug problem.

Some of the commonly abused drugs include pain medications, anti-anxiety medications and stimulants. Most drug overdoses involve some combination of these medications, and some include alcohol.

Bottles of prescription drugs said to have been found in Houston's hotel room included Xanax, Valium and Ativan -- all of which are prescribed to treat anxiety.

According to TMZ.com, officials said Houston had water in her lungs at the time of her death, but they haven't determined how much water was present previously, so they can't yet say whether the singer, whose body was found in a bathtub with her face reportedly underwater, drowned.

Dr. Cyril Wecht, a forensic pathologist and former coroner in Allegheny County, Pa., said if Houston did drown, she would likely have been heavily under the influence of numerous drugs to not wake up after she slipped underwater. He explained that the body has a physiologic need to breathe and will respond reflexively if the head is submerged underwater.

"If you are deeply unconscious to the point of a deep stupor, then it is conceivable that there was a heavy concentration of drugs," he said. Wecht said he had performed about 300 autopsies in the past year, and a significant percentage of the deaths stemmed from drug overdoses.

The average number of drugs involved in those cases, he said, was about five or six, which were mixed.

Addiction experts believe that Houston's struggles with substance abuse may have played a role in her death, and although Houston had entered rehab multiple times, she likely could not break the cycle of relapse and recovery that traps many addicts.

Relapse is very common, especially with alcohol and cocaine, which Houston admitted she'd abused.

"What often happens with illegal drug addiction is that the treatment involves legal drugs, which can be even more challenging to quit," said Alesandra Rain, a co-founder of Point of Return, an organization that helps people recover from prescription drug addiction. "Because Xanax is legal, it gives much the false sense that they are safe."

Previous studies that looked at the relapse rate among addicts found that between one-third and two-thirds of people who sought treatment for cocaine addiction used the drug again. A number of studies also found that most alcoholics who were in treatment programs drank again.

Studies also suggest that some people may be genetically predisposed to addiction. Experts can distinguish who may be at greater risk for addiction by looking at a patient's family history and monitoring the patient's reaction to the medication, said Dr. Daniel Angres, medical director of resurrection addiction services at Rush University College of Medicine. Many spiral into prescription drug abuse without realizing it.

"People may go to different doctors and receive different [medications], or even go to the same doctor and add on," said Angres. "These things have significant potential effects."

According to TMZ, Houston was seen leaving two different doctors' offices days before her death.

Copyright 2012 Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Feb132012

Experts: Substance Abuse May Have Played Role in Whitney Houston's Death

Jason Merritt/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Although full details surrounding Whitney Houston's death are not yet known, forensic experts not involved with the case speculate that the singer may have died from an accidental overdose.

According to TMZ, officials said the singer had water in her lungs at the time of her death, but they haven't determined how much water was present before they can say whether or not she drowned.  The singer's body was found in the bathtub of her hotel room on Saturday, reportedly with her face underwater.

Dr. Cyril Wecht, a forensic pathologist and former coroner of Allegheny County, Penn., said if Houston did drown, she would likely have been heavily under the influence of numerous drugs to not wake up after she slipped underwater.  He explained that the body has a physiologic need to breathe and will respond reflexively if the head is submerged underwater.

"If you are deeply unconscious to the point of a deep stupor, then it is conceivable that there was a heavy concentration of drugs," he said.  Wecht said he has performed about 300 autopsies in the past year and a significant percentage of them have involved overdose deaths.

The average number of drugs involved in those cases, he said, was about five or six that were mixed.

Addiction experts also believe Houston's struggles with substance abuse played a role in her death, and although she entered rehab multiple times, she was likely unable to break the cycle of relapse and recovery that traps many addicts.

Relapse is very common, especially with alcohol and cocaine, which Houston admitted abusing.

"Addiction is considered a chronically relapsing disorder," said Warren Bickel, director of the Advanced Recovery Research Center at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.

Xanax and Valium were reportedly found in Houston's hotel room on the night she died.  Both drugs are commonly used to treat anxiety and are also used during substance abuse treatment. They belong to the drug class known as benzodiazepines, which can be highly addicting.

"What often happens with illegal drug addiction is that the treatment involves legal drugs, which can be even more challenging to quit," said Alesandra Rain, co-founder of Point of Return, an organization that helps with recovery from prescription drug addiction. "Because Xanax is legal, it gives many the false sense that they are safe."

The Los Angeles County Coroner's Office said it is awaiting toxicology reports before determining a cause of death, which could take six to eight weeks. 

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Nov012011

Deaths from Painkiller Overdose on the Rise, Says CDC

Comstock/Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(ATLANTA) -- A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found nearly 40 Americans die per day -- about 15,000 per year -- from overdoses of painkillers such as Vicodin and OxyContin, eclipsing the number of deaths caused by heroin and cocaine combined.

"We are in the midst of an epidemic of prescription narcotic overdose," said Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the CDC, during a telebriefing to discuss the newly published data.

The problem of abuse, officials said, is getting worse. The number of deaths represents a three-fold increase over the past decade, and CDC also found that in 2010 alone, there were enough painkillers prescribed to supply every adult with a one-month supply.

"This stems from a few irresponsible doctors rather than by drug pushers on street corners," said Frieden.

It's also an expensive problem. Agency officials put the cost of non-medical use -- misuse, for the most part -- of prescription painkillers at $72.5 billion based on government and insurance company data.

The sale of prescription painkillers and the number of related deaths vary by state, with Florida, New Mexico and Oklahoma being among the states hardest hit by the epidemic.

Back in April, the Obama administration announced a plan aimed at reducing the amount of prescription opioid abuse. One of the plan's goals is to reduce the abuse rate by 15 percent by 2015.

The plan called for the expansion of statewide prescription drug monitoring programs (PMDPs), programs that safely dispose of prescription painkillers as well as better education for patients and health care providers.

PMDPs electronically monitor painkiller prescriptions in each state. Only Missouri and New Hampshire do not have one in place. The other states and the District of Columbia are still trying to figure out how to get their programs up and running, the CDC said.

Dr. Scott Fishman, professor of anesthesiology and pain medicine at the University of California-Davis and president of the board of the American Pain Foundation, said PMDPs can be effective at curbing misuse of prescription painkillers, but they aren't completely foolproof. He also advocates educating providers and patients.

Another issue that could arise with these programs is that monitoring could be too strict, and doctors could be afraid to prescribe the medications.

Fishman added that a big part of the responsibility lies with providers who aren't properly trained.

Patients who are treated for chronic pain should also understand the addictive nature of the medications and take steps to lower the risk of getting hooked on them and keeping them out of the hands of others.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Thursday
Oct272011

Hospital Antibiotic Overdose Blamed for Brooklyn Baby Death

Comstock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A New York family blames an overdose of antibiotics allegedly administered at a Brooklyn hospital for the death of their 6-month-old baby.

A cousin of the family, Jhora Akther, told the New York Daily News that baby Amaan Ahmmad was brought to Brookdale University Hospital’s emergency room last Friday morning and doctors diagnosed him with pneumonia.

Akther said baby Amaan fell into a coma immediately after the attending nurse administered an IV containing the antibiotic Zithromax.

“He turned blue,” Akther told the New York Daily News. “Not even a second. The medicine went in, and he is finished.”

Baby Amaan was placed on life support until Tuesday. The hospital told the family the baby was mistakenly given 500 mg of the antibiotic when the proper dosage was 80 mg, Akther said.

“We are investigating the circumstances of this tragic incident and express our condolences to the Ahmmad family,” hospital representative Ruth Richman said in an email sent to ABC News.

As many as one-third of hospital visits leads to hospital-related injuries, according to a report published April 2011 in Health Affairs.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Apr062011

Study: High Doses of Prescription Painkillers Up Risk of OD Death

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Prescription painkillers may be FDA-approved and doctor-recommended, but that doesn't protect patients from the risk of lethal, accidental overdose, especially for those prescribed high doses.

Adding to the growing concern over abuse and over prescribing of painkillers, a new study published Tuesday finds that those on high or maximum doses of prescription opioid pain relievers are at a significantly increased risk of accidental, lethal overdose.

The abuse and overuse of prescription painkillers and sedatives have become a major medical issue as the rate of overdose deaths from these drugs increased by a staggering 124 percent, according to the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention.  From 2004 to 2008, emergency room visits associated with prescription drug overdose more than doubled, and among those aged 45 to 54, these overdoses are now the second leading cause of accidental death, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

"[The] CDC now estimates that there are 13,000 deaths a year related to unintentional overdoses involving opioids," says Dr. Richard Deyo, professor of Family Medicine and Internal Medicine at Oregon Health and Science University.

When it comes to chronic and/or severe pain, opioid painkillers, including morphine and morphine-like drugs such as OxyContin, Codeine, and Vicodin, are among the most powerful tools in a doctor's arsenal.  They are also among the most addictive and potentially dangerous, doctors note.

Because they are more likely to lead to addiction and abuse than other non-opioid painkillers, many physicians are reticent to prescribe them at all, referring patients instead to pain specialists, says Dr. Lloyd Saberski, medical director of Advanced Diagnostic Pain Treatment Centers in New Haven, Connecticut.

At the same time, other physicians are prescribing these painkillers without proper monitoring tactics such as requiring regular office visits, timely (not early) refills, and urine drug testing, according to a study published last month in the Journal of General Internal Medicine.

Tuesday's study only adds to the concern that these drugs are not being properly managed and patients not properly monitored.  The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, looked at more than 150,000 veterans on opioid prescription painkillers and found a link between those who were given high doses and those who suffered accidental fatal overdoses.

The research suggests that adverse outcomes, especially accidental overdose, could be in part related to the high doses given to some patients, which should cause physicians to reconsider whether higher doses are really the answer to patients' pain complaints, says Dr. Timothy Collins, assistant professor of Medicine/Neurology at Duke University.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Oct012010

Washington Department of Health Investigating Child Deaths Due to Overdosing

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SEATTLE) -- The Washington State Department of Health says it is looking into a second child death involving Seattle Children's Hospital.  The news comes just days after Children's announced a Sept. 15 overdose that killed an 8-month-old girl.

There are reports that a third child also became ill following an overdose, but the Washington State Department of Health says it is not involved in that investigation. 

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio








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