Angel Bivens, RPh and Wendy Stephan, PhD return to the podcast today to discuss poison myths and misconceptions. Angel is a pharmacist and poison educator from Maryland. Wendy is an epidemiologist and poison educator from Florida. See their bios below for more information.
This is part 3 of 5 in a series about poison myths and misconceptions in honor of National Poison Prevention Awareness Month (March 2023). 🇺🇸 In this episode, we cover 5 topics:
- Myth or fact? Poisonings are always accidental.
- Do Poison Center staff stay in their own lane or are they actually crime-fighting ninjas?
- Misconceptions about pharmaceutical-grade, prescription fentanyl
- Misconceptions about opioid overdose and recovery
- Myths about herbal, natural, and organic remedies
☠️ America’s Poison Centers are there for you at no cost 24/7/365.
🗓 National Poison Prevention Week is March 19-25, 2023. The theme is, “We’re here for you.”
Listener discretion is advised. Some of the topics we cover in this series include children putting weird things into their mouths, poisonings, injuries, and death. These are sensitive topics. If you have small children or impressionable individuals listening with you today, listener discretion is advised.
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Wendy, Angel, and I discuss at least 18 poison-related myths and misconceptions over 5 episodes. This conversation was originally 2 hours long. Due to length, I broke the conversation up into bite-sized chunks.
List of 18 poison-related myths and misconceptions covered in this series
- Universal antidotes and poison neutralizers (Part 1 of 5)
- Antidotes listed on product labels (Part 1)
- Who staffs Poison Centers? (Part 2)
- Where Poison Center calls come from (Part 2)
- The age range of individuals exposed to poisons (Part 2)
- Labels. Will you get labeled a “frequent caller” or “bad parent” if you call a Poison Center often? (Part 2)
- Childproof containers. Are really childproof? (Part 2)
- We’ll talk about which age group poison prevention education helps most. (Part 2)
- Myth or fact? People don’t get poisoned by things that taste bad. (Part 2)
- Myth or fact? Poisonings are always accidental. (Part 3)
- Do Poison Center staff stay in their own lane or are they actually crime-fighting ninjas? (Part 3)
- Misconceptions about pharmaceutical-grade, prescription fentanyl (Part 3)
- Myths about opioid overdose and recovery (Part 3)
- Myths about herbal, natural, and organic remedies (Part 3)
- How movies and TV shows affect our perception about poisonings (Part 4)
- What’s really going on behind social media trends, like the Tide Pod Challenge. (Part 4)
- Which substances youth are abusing most right now? (Part 4)
- Resources [for pharmacists] (Part 5)
Highlights from our conversation
Angel and Wendy are storytellers! I LOVE listening to them talk! I also love poison prevention education. I have volunteered with my local chapter of Safe Kids Worldwide (Safe Kids Greater Toledo – Toledo, OH).
Interested in volunteering to educate the public about poison prevention? Reach out to your local poison center’s educator, and ask about volunteer opportunities for pharmacists. Or, get connected with Safe Kids Worldwide, and ask how you can help.
✅ Myth: Universal antidotes and poison neutralizers exist.
✅ Fact: The universal antidote is calling the Poison Help Line! 1-800-222-1222.
📌 Myth: Product labels list trustworthy antidotes.
📌 Fact: Listing the Poison Help Line on the product label is a better solution because antidote information on product labels may be incorrect.
👉 Myth: Poison Center staff are volunteers.
👉 Fact: Poison Center staff are healthcare professionals with formal training as Certified Specialists in Poison Information.
🎯 Myth: Calls only come from home settings.
🎯 Fact: Calls come from healthcare professionals, healthcare facilities, emergency departments, paramedics, first responders, school nurses, employers, health departments, and more.
➡️ Myth: Poison Control only fields calls about children under the age of 5.
- ➡️ Fact: Poison Control fields calls about people of all ages.
💭 Myths: If you call too often, you will be labeled a “frequent caller,” and “bad parents” will be reported to the police.
💭 Fact: Fear of bias prevents people in need from calling. Poison Center staff do not judge. They are HIPAA compliant, behave in a supportive and professional manner, and do not report people to the police. Poison Centers are call centers; they stay in their lane.
👶 Myth: Kids can’t open “childproof containers.”
👶 Fact: Childproof containers are child resistant. The intent is to slow the kids down. Use best practices for storage (up high, out of reach, and out of sight of children, etc).
👪 Myth: Poison prevention education is only for kids.
👪 Fact: Educating caregivers makes the greatest impact.
🍬 Myth: They won’t eat it if it tastes bad!
🍬 Fact: People, (especially children) will eat things that taste bad. Some kids even eat cat poop! Also, don’t assume people of any age know the difference between cannabis edibles and food (brownies, gummies, etc) by sight and/or taste. If you don’t want someone other than the intended user to eat something, store it appropriately and safely. And, watch closely what children and people with developmental disabilities put into their mouths.
❌ Myth: Poisonings are always accidental.
❌ Fact: Some poisonings are accidental. Others are self-harm.
🧪 Myth: Poison Center staff test products for individual callers and investigate poisonings.
🧪 Fact: Poison Center staff function as call center workers. They do not test products for individuals or investigate potential crimes.
💊 Myth: Illicit fentanyl is the same as pharmaceutical-grade, prescription fentanyl.
💊 Fact: Pharmaceutical-grade, prescription fentanyl has a legitimate medical purpose and is safe and effective when used appropriately. Illicit fentanyl is not subject to good manufacturing practices, so buyer beware!
✋🏼 Myth: Recovery from opioid use disorder is uncommon.
👍🏼 Fact: Recovery is possible and probable!
🪴 Myth: Herbal, natural and organic remedies are completely safe and non toxic.
🪴 Fact: “Herbal,” “natural,” and “organic” are not necessarily safe and/or non-toxic. Store all herbal, natural, and organic products safely. Dose, frequency, drug interactions, and more need to be considered. Disclose herbals and natural products to your healthcare providers (especially your pharmacist!).
🎬 Myth: Movies and TV shows portray accurate information about poisonings. Examples:
- If you drink poison, you will become unconscious immediately!
- Antidotes are easy to find and work in seconds!
- Poison Center staff will come to your home [like ninjas] to investigate your poisonings immediately!
- Poisonings always cause seizures, and foam will leak out of your mouth!
🎬 Fact: Movies and TV can distort the average viewer’s perception of poisonings. Timelines, especially, are distorted. This creates unrealistic expectations about poisonings. If the expectation is not met, the average person may assume that everything is ok. Know when to call 9-1-1. If you find someone unconscious, not breathing, or seizing, call 9-1-1, not a Poison Center.
📱Myth: NyQuil chicken, the Tide Pod Challenge, and other social media trends represent valid exposure risks.
📱Fact: Social media consumers value creativity and novelty; trends are not always reality-based. Poison Centers welcome calls from anyone who wants to know more about social media trends featuring exposure risks. Call 1-800-222-1222 with questions.
🚫 Myth: Youth abuse all drugs equally.
🚫 Fact: The most commonly abused substances are cannabis, nicotine, and alcohol. For more information, visit https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/index.htm (Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System).
Wendy’s bio, Angel’s bio, and links from this series
Dr. Wendy Stephan is the educator and epidemiologist for the Florida Poison Information Center in Miami. For the last 15 years, Wendy has promoted the use of poison control and worked to prevent poisonings of all kinds, including from medication, household chemicals, and environmental hazards. Wendy completed her PhD in Epidemiology and her Master of Public Health degree at the University of Miami and currently serves on the Board of Directors of America’s Poison Centers.
• Website(s): www.floridapoisoncontrol.org
- LinkedIn for Wendy: https://www.linkedin.com/in/wendy-stephan-phd-mph-315b70178/
- The Pharmacist’s Voice Podcast Episode 27 featuring Dr. Wendy Stephan (July 2020)
- Email: email@example.com
- Twitter: @floridapoison
- Instagram @floridapoisoncontrol
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/FloridasPCC/
- Poison Help Line (Poison Control) 1-800-222-1222
- firstname.lastname@example.org = Florida’s Poison Information Center educators or call 1-800-222-1222.
Angel Bivens is a pharmacist by training with experience in retail, hospital, home infusion, and mail order pharmacy, but her true passion is working at the Maryland Poison Center (MPC). She has been with the MPC for over 25 years, spending the first 8 years as a specialist in poison information managing poisoning and overdose cases from the public and healthcare professionals. She then spent the next 17 years in the role of public education coordinator, ensuring the more than 4 million Marylanders in the MPC service area know about their services and learn ways to keep their families safe from poison dangers in an around their home. Angel rose to her current role as assistant director, overseeing operations and public education in 2018. In this role she combines her love for educating the public with responsibilities that ensure there is always someone there to help with a poisoning or overdose 24/7/365.
Angel completed her BS in Pharmacy at Duquesne University (Pittsburgh PA) and her MBA at University of Baltimore (Baltimore MD). She also holds the designation of Certified Specialist in Poison Information (CSPI) after successfully completing the American Association of Poison Control Centers certification examination in 1990, 1998, 2005, 2012, and 2019.
Maryland Poison Center website: www.mdpoison.com
To find your local poison center: www.aapcc.org
Poison Prevention Press: http://bit.ly/PoisonPrevPress (One-page, plain language e-newsletter published every other month on varying topics; all current and previous issues available
Poison Prevention Press sign up: http://bit.ly/MPCSignUp)
eAntidote Blog: blog.mdpoison.com
YouTube: Maryland Poison Center
Resources with clinical information for pharmacists:
ToxTidbits: http://bit.ly/ToxTidbits (One-page clinical e-newsletter published monthly on various toxicologic topics; all current and previous issues available ToxTidbits sign up: http://bit.ly/TTBSignUp)
Resources mentioned in this episode (and previous episodes featuring Angel and Wendy)
- Poison Help Line 1-800-222-1222 (free resource)
- America’s Poison Centers https://poisoncenters.org/
- Safe Kids Worldwide
- Pharmacist’s Letter Natural Medicines Database
- https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/herbsataglance (Herbs)
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK501922/ (LactMed)
- https://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/index.htm (Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System)
- https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5711758/ (Fentanyl)
- National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH, formerly NCAM) https://www.nccih.nih.gov/
- Bonus link! https://ahsm.org/ (Association for Healthcare Social Media)
- NIDA National Institute on Drug Abuse https://nida.nih.gov/
- SAMHSA Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration https://www.samhsa.gov/
- Institute for Safe Medication Practices ISMP.org is a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of safe medication practices.
- FDA MedWatch adverse event reporting site: https://www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/medwatch/
- DEA Drug Take-Back events (spring and fall)
- Safe Storage: PROTECT Up and Away Campaign: www.upandaway.org
- FDA: Disposal of Unused Medicines Includes link to “flush list”: https://www.fda.gov/drugs/safe-disposal-medicines/disposal-unused-medicines-what-you-should-know
- FDA and EPA home medication disposal tips https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/where-and-how-dispose-unused-medicines
- USP-NF supplements
Thank you for listening to episode 205 of The Pharmacist’s Voice ® Podcast!