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Pittsburgh Poison Center at UPMC to Offer Resource Help for Opioid, Other Addictions

The United States is faced with an unprecedented public health epidemic in the form of opioid overdoses. According to the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), nearly half a million persons in the United States have died from drug overdoses between 2000 to 2014. In 2015, there were 3,383 unintentional drug overdose deaths in Pennsylvania alone with more deaths projected in 2016.

The Pittsburgh Poison Center at UPMC has announced enhanced services and resources for individuals and families as well as health care providers caring for patients suffering from addiction to substances including prescription opioids, heroin, alcohol, benzodiazepines and other drugs.

The Pittsburgh Poison Center has collaborated with numerous agencies to develop programs to combat this deadly trend, including the Pennsylvania Department of Health, Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs, DEA, FBI, UPMC Emergency Medicine and Toxicology services, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC, Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC and the Allegheny County Department of Human Services.

"This initiative represents a completely novel use of poison center knowledge, capabilities and resources uniquely suited to addressing this epidemic. We hope to arm the community and health care providers with additional information to combat the scourge of overdoses and addiction, and the threat they pose to our public health," said Michael Lynch, M.D., medical director of the Pittsburgh Poison Center and UPMC emergency medicine physician.

Residents and health care providers of any specialty in the 44 counties in Pennsylvania served by the Pittsburgh Poison Center can call 1-800-222-1222, to obtain information and treatment guidance for acute drug toxicity or withdrawal. The new program includes:

  • Initial medical screening and recommendations to aid non-medical bystanders and health care providers, alike, in the evaluation and management of drug toxicity and withdrawal symptoms.
  • Resources and prescription guidance and templates to assist individuals in locating and obtaining naloxone from medical providers.
  • County-based contact information for Single County Authorities who can facilitate detoxification and rehabilitation access and treatment.
  • County-based lists of rehabilitation facilities available in the caller's region.
  • Information and take-home resources for individuals suffering from substance use disorders.
  • Directed follow-up in Allegheny County through partnership with the Department of Human Services Single County Authority to ensure ongoing assistance with locating available treatment beds as well as obtaining payment assistance.
  • Individual phone follow-up consultation by a poison center specialist to assess treatment access and provide ongoing support.

"Substance use disorders, including opioid use disorders, are viewed as chronic, relapsing medical illnesses that occur along a continuum of severity. Most of the challenges in helping people with these disorders include facilitating referral to the appropriate level of care, as well as engagement and retention in treatment," said Antoine Douaihy, M.D., medical director of Addiction Medicine Services at Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic of UPMC.

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For questions, contact the Pittsburgh Poison Center at 1-800-222-1222. The phone lines are staffed 24 hours per day throughout the year.



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