Drug Poisoning and Overdose
The intentional and unintentional toxic exposure to legal and illicit drugs result in injury and death of children, teens and adults in our service area every year. The Oregon Poison Center provides emergency treatment in cases of accidental and intentional drug overdoses. Our specialists also work with healthcare partners in complex cases and provide expert toxicological consultation.
From marijuana and Spice to emerging street drugs and prescription opioids, these substances can cause great harm if used in the wrong way or fall into the hands of children. Learn more about drugs of abuse and how to safely store substances to protect your loved ones.
Kratom is a tropical tree native to Southeast Asia. The psychoactive ingredient is found in the leaves of the tree which are crushed, then smoked, brewed with tea, or placed into capsules. The leaves may also be chewed. At low doses, kratom produces stimulant effects with users reporting increased alertness, physical energy, and talkativeness. At high doses, users experience sedative effects. Several cases of psychosis resulting from use of kratom have been reported, where individuals addicted to kratom exhibited psychotic symptoms including hallucinations, delusion, and confusion.
There have been multiple reports of deaths associated with people who ingested kratom, but it is currently unknown if the deaths are a direct effect of the kratom because most deaths involved other substances. Currently, kratom is unregulated by the FDA and legal to purchase over the internet because it is label "not for human consumption."
Learn more about kratom from the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Marijuana & Toxic Exposure
The chemicals in marijuana that create the "high" feeling (THC or delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol) can be toxic for infants and children and adults users in high doses.
Marijuana edibles may look similar to other food, candy or drinks and can be easily confused for non-marijuana treats. Marijuana edibles may be especially appealing to children who are unable to tell the difference between edibles and regular treats. Marijuana edibles may pose a special risk to adult users because they may be more potent than marijuana that is smoked or vaped. The effects of a marijuana edible also takes longer to show up than marijuana that is smoked and may cause a user to consume more than intended. View the marijuana edible infographic and learn what you need to know about marijuana edibles.
The recent outbreak of e-cigarette or vaping associated lung injury (EVALI) has been reported from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and 2 U.S. Territories. THC has been found in most of the samples tested by FDA to date, and most patients report a history of using THC-containing e-cigarette, or vaping, products. While evidence is not yet sufficient to rule out contribution of other chemicals of concern, Vitamin E acetate, a chemical used a thickening agent in THC vapes, has been identified in laboratory testing as a chemical of concern. When inhaled, Vitamin E acetate may interfere with normal lung functioning. The Oregon Health Authority is urging Oregonians to stop using all vaping products until federal and state officials have determined the cause of serious lung injuries and deaths linked to the use of both cannabis and nicotine vaping products. The only way to assure you are not as risk during the ongoing outbreak is to refrain from using e-cigarette or vaping products.
Safety Tips to Prevent Toxic Exposure:
- Store marijuana, edibles, vapes and refills safely by locking it up and storing it out of sight of children.
- Avoid mix-ups. Always label homemade marijuana edibles stored in the fridge or freezer.
- Do not buy any type of e-cigarette, or vaping, products, particularly those containing THC from informal sources like friends, or family, or in-person or online dealers.
- Do not modify or add any substances to e-cigarette, or vaping, products that are not intended by the manufacturer, including products purchased through retail establishments.
- If your child eats or drinks marijuana by accident call the poison center right away. If your child is not responding, call 911 or go to a hospital for emergency care right away.
- Stay informed about the recreational marijuana laws in Oregon.
- View the OLCC Recreational Marijuana Retail Sale Limits.
- Learn about FDA Regulation of Cannabis and Cannabis Derived Products, Including Cannabidiol (CBD).
- Stay up-to-date about the EVALI outbreak from CDC and Oregon Health Authority.
The Oregon Poison Center can be reached by calling 1-800-222-1222.
Preventing Marijuana Use Among Teens
Recreational marijuana is now legal for adults aged 21 and over to possess and use in Oregon and Alaska and Guam. One in five teens in the U.S. uses marijuana and more teens than ever are vaping marijuana. It is important for teens to have accurate information to make healthy choices. Parents, teachers and other trusted adults are important sources of information for young people. Here are some resources to support these conversations.
Resources for Parents:
- Cannabis and Your Health - Communication Resources from OHA
- Preventing Underage Marijuana Use - Parents' Guide to Talking with Your Kids from OHA
- Talking to Your Kids: Communicating the Risks from NIDA
- U.S. Surgeon General's Advisory: Marijuana Use and the Developing Brain
- What you Need to Know About Marijuana Use in Teens, CDC Factsheet
Resources for Teens:
- Marijuana: Just the Facts, from NIDA for Teens, Drugs & Health Blog
- The Reward Circuit: How the Brain Responds to Marijuana, a video from NIH
Marijuana & the Teen Brain video
Marijuana and Pregnancy
There is no known safe level of marijuana use during pregnancy. Using marijuana during pregnancy may impact your baby's development. Maternal marijuana use may still be dangerous to the baby after birth. THC exposure via breastmilk or via marijuana smoke may affect the newborn baby's brain development and result in other long-term consequences.
Marijuana and Pregnancy Resources:
Synthetic Marijuana, also known as "fake weed," "Spice," or "K2." Synthetic marijuana is made up of shredded plant material with sprayed-on chemicals packaged as incense or potpourri. Some of the chemicals in this human-made drug mimic the effects of THC, the psychoactive ingredients in marijuana. The resulting health effects are unpredictable and cause nausea, vomiting, rapid heart rate, paranoia, hallucinations and seizures.
Learn more about synthetic marijuana:
- Visit National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) website on Synthetic Cannabinoids (K2/Spice).
- Download NIDA's Drug Facts on Synthetic Cannabinoids (K2/Spice)
Opioid Overdose Epidemic
Drug overdoses are the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States. Of those deaths, almost 68% involved a prescription or illicit opioid. Oregon has one of the highest rates of misuse of prescription opioids in the nation. Visit our opioid safety resources section below to learn more about how to prevent opioid abuse, misuse and overdose. Visit Oregon Health Authority's interactive Opioid Data Dashboard for more information about opioid data in Oregon. Visit Alaska Department of Health & Social Services' interactive Opioid Data Dashboard for more information about opioid data in Alaska.
Learn the signs of an opioid overdose:
- Small, constricted “pinpoint” pupils.
- Falling asleep, lessened alertness or loss of consciousness.
- Slow, shallow breathing.
If someone is experiencing signs of an opioid overdose, call 911 and administer naloxone right away to reverse the effects.
The 3 Waves of the Epidemic:
The past 20 years of the opioid epidemic can be defined by three distinct waves: 1) An increase in commonly prescribed opioids and associated deaths 2) Deaths from heroin 3) Overdose deaths involving synthetic opioids.
What Happens to Your Brain on Opioids
Opioid Safety Resources
Opioid misuse, abuse and overdose is preventable. Here's what you can do:
Carry Naloxone if you or a loved one is at risk of overdose - see our information on naloxone rescue below.
Heal Safely: Planning ahead can help you find better ways to heal – without the risk of prescription opioids. Heal safely is a campaign to empower people to heal safely after injury or surgery. Visit Heal Safely and make your plan today.
Safe Storage of Prescription Drugs: Safe storage of opioids and other prescription drugs is key to preventing abuse, misuse, and overdose. Lock up your medications to prevent accidental exposure and misuse by people they are not intended for. Please visit our Medication Safety page for more information about safe medicine storage.
Safe Medication Disposal: All done with your treatment? Time to get rid of those painkillers. Year-round take back locations at pharmacies and police departments are great options for safely disposing of unused prescriptions. Learn how to dispose of unwanted or unneeded prescription medications by visiting our Medication Safety page.
Syringe Exchange Program: Learn more about Multnomah County's (Oregon) syringe exchange and needle program.
Additional Resources for families and educators:
- Medicine Abuse Project by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids - A resource for parents, educators and health professionals.
- Lock Your Meds by the National Family Partnership - A resource for families.
Naloxone Saves Lives
Naloxone is used for the emergency treatment of known or suspected opioid overdose. Naloxone is injected or sprayed in the nose and can be given by anyone. It can quickly restore normal breathing for a person whose breathing has slowed down or stopped because of an opioid overdose. This includes overdose of heroin, morphine, oxycodone (e.g. OxyContin, Percocet), oxymorphone (e.g. Opana), methadone, hydrocodone (e.g. Vicodin), codeine and fentanyl. It is very important to call 911 any time someone has a drug overdose. After the drug wears off, the person could fall back into a coma. Make sure emergency medical services are on the way if you use naloxone.
Naloxone for Opioid Overdose 101 is a training that describes what opioids are, how they work, the signs of an opioid overdose, what naloxone is and how it works, when and how to use naloxone. Take the training to learn how you can help save a life. *This training was developed by partners in the state of Utah and contains some content relevant to Utah state laws. For more information about naloxone rescue and Oregon law please visit the Oregon Health Authority. For more information about naloxone rescue in Alaska please visit Project Hope.
You can help save the life of someone in need. Ask your doctor or pharmacist about naloxone if you believe you or someone you know may be at risk of an overdose.