What are poisons?
The Pharmaceutical Codex 1979 stated that any substance, which by its chemical action causes damage to structures, or disturbance of function when ingested, inhaled or absorbed, can act as a poison. Some poisons may have therapeutic benefits when used in recommended doses, but this same therapeutic agent could become a dangerous chemical and threat to life when consumed.
Poisoning is injury or death due to ingesting, inhaling, touching or injecting various drugs, chemicals, venoms or gases. Many substances, such as drugs and carbon monoxide, are poisonous only if ingested. Children are particularly sensitive to even small amounts of certain drugs and chemicals.
Poisoning affects both the young and old, male and female, though children below six years comprise almost half of the exposed. Reasons for poisoning could be; Unintentional: therapeutic error, environmental, bite and sting from insects, Intentional: suspected suicide, misuse, abuse and others
Most common substances implicated in poison exposures include cosmetics and personal care product, cleaning substances, analgesics, topical preparation, pesticides, antihistamine, vitamins, pesticides, plants and dietary supplements. Available data in Nigeria on poisoning is not comprehensive but selective on heavy metal poisoning. With recent events in our country, poisons can no longer be treated as a child’s thing but a public health issue.
Poisoning Response should be prompt, coordinated and simple. The primary tool for response is information. Most times those who come into first contact with the victim may not be trained health care professionals. Every time lost in the confused state jeopardizes the chance for survival.
The government has tried to control the use of poisons through enactment of new laws or adjustment of already existing laws. For example: Ban on the sale and distribution of hazardous insecticides like sniper; Restriction on the sale and distribution of codeine; and Cannabis use is also restricted because of its use as a Central Nervous System (CNS) stimulant and intoxication of young females by young adult males for rape or forced sex.
Enactment and implementation of laws on poisons use and poisoning are not enough to control poisoning. Given the above background of Poisoning and response in our country, Nigeria, the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria (PSN) is poised to up-scale the activities of her Medicine Information Center (MIC) to a National Drug & Poisons Information, Emergency Response and Research Centre.
This centre will operate as a National workplace (call centre) that offers Hope of survival to victims exposed to untoward effects of drugs, substances of abuse and poisons, through counseling, referral and when necessary, the mobilization of appropriate response team. Operation of the centre will include a call center for effective communication and mobilization of real time response; conduct training for professionals, support research and utilization of research findings.
Benefits include: Life expectancy is affected positively as many more lives can be saved in cases of promptly reported emergencies; Strong inter-professional collaboration; Government will have accurate data to work with; Medicines security will improve National security; and Nigeria’s healthcare services ratings by the international community will improve.
The PSN Emergency Response Research Centre will provoke and adopt an international protocol in the emergency response to poisoning and drug abuse. It will impact on the structure and content of response. The PSN will stop at nothing in leading the way to end substance abuse and poisoning in Nigeria. I call on all Nigerians to support this noble project.
Sam Ohuabunwa is the President, PSN
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