Injuries are the leading cause of death and disability for younger people in Washington and are largely preventable. During the summer months, there are more deaths and hospitalizations due to injury.
"Injuries kill more Washingtonians under the age of 45 than all diseases combined," said Jennifer Sabel, epidemiologist for the state Department of Health. "The good news is that injuries occur in highly predictable patterns with recognizable risk factors and are far from random. That means we can prevent injuries before they occur."
Poisoning was the leading cause of injury-related death for all ages in Washington in 2002 (the most current hospitalization and death data available) and is on the rise. Poisoning caused slightly more injury-related deaths than motor vehicle crashes and is highest among 30 – 64 year olds.
Poisons can include over-the-counter and prescription medication, alcohol and illicit drugs, other chemicals, and a variety of common household substances, such as bleach and ammonia. Poisoning deaths in Washington are mainly due to both illicit drug overdose and misuse of prescription drugs; alcohol, cocaine, opiates, and other narcotics were the most commonly listed substances in poisoning deaths.
"The data reinforces the serious risks involved in misusing alcohol and other drugs", said Ken Stark, director of the Division of Alcohol and Substance Abuse of the Department of Social and Health Services. "Families, friends and coworkers should become familiar with the warning signs for alcohol and other drug misuse. Intervening when someone needs help might save a life."
"The Department of Health is starting to address the misuse of prescription drugs," Sabel said. "Our Health Systems Quality Assurance division just received a federal grant to study the feasibility of a controlled substance monitoring program to reduce the potential for abuse of these drugs."
Precautions to avoid misusing medicines include making sure you have the right medicine and dosage when prescriptions are filled. If a refill looks different from what you normally get, ask your pharmacist before using it. Ask your doctor or pharmacist before making any changes in dosage and follow their advice if you miss a dose. Never share prescriptions with someone else.
Motor vehicle crashes had been the leading cause of death for the past two decades. The number of deaths due to motor vehicle crashes has been decreasing because of increased use of protective devices, such as seat belts and airbags, efforts to discourage drunk driving, more safety features in cars, and highway engineering improvements. Continuing these successful efforts would probably bring further progress.