Purpose: There are more drug overdose deaths in the Untied States than motor vehicle fatalities. Yet the US vital statistics reporting system is of limited value because the data are delayed by four years. Poison centers report data within an hour of the event, but previous studies suggested a small proportion of poisoning deaths are reported to poison centers (PC). In an era of improved electronic surveillance capabilities, exposure calls to PCs may be an alternate indicator of trends in overdose mortality. Methods: We used PC call counts for methadone that were reported to the Researched Abuse, Diversion and Addiction-Related Surveillance (RADARS®) System in 2006 and 2007. US death certificate data were used to identify deaths due to methadone. Linear regression was used to quantify the relationship of deaths and poison center calls. Results: Compared to decedents, poison center callers tended to be younger, more often female, at home and less likely to require medical attention. A strong association was found with PC calls and methadone mortality (b = 0.88, se = 0.42, t = 9.5, df = 1, P<0.0001, R2 = 0.77). These findings were robust to large changes in a sensitivity analysis assessing the impact of underreporting of methadone overdose deaths. Conclusions: Our results suggest that calls to poison centers for methadone are correlated with poisoning mortality as identified on death certificates. Calls received by poison centers may be used for timely surveillance of mortality due to methadone. In the midst of the prescription opioid overdose epidemic, electronic surveillance tools that report in real-time are powerful public health tools. © 2012 Dasgupta et al.
Dasgupta, N., Davis, J., Funk, M. J., & Dart, R. (2012). Using poison center exposure calls to predict methadone poisoning deaths. PLoS ONE, 7(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0041181