Accidental poisonings or overdoses can occur with common and even seemingly harmless substances. The treatment of these toxicological events is never easy. Time is a critical factor and the patients are frequently unable to participate in their own treatment due to an altered state or unconsciousness. When recreational or street drugs are involved, victims often cannot articulate what they took using terms the clinician can actually understand. This communication gap can lead to losing critical treatment time.
The Right Information Makes All the Difference
When it comes to treating toxicological events, having instant access to critical
information can save lives. Relied upon in 100 percent of U.S. poison centers, the
POISINDEX® System identifies ingredients for hundreds of thousands of commercial,
biological, and pharmaceutical products. The system links directly to management
documents providing data on clinical effects, range of toxicity, and treatment protocols
for exposure. POISINDEX also delivers concise, essential toxicology data on a single
screen to ensure the fastest access to critical answers.
“I usually say that toxicologists have two jobs – our day job, during which we
treat patients, and our night job, which involves consulting with emergency department
staff at local hospitals,” said Dr. Jeffrey Brent, M.D., PhD, clinical professor of medicine
at the University of Colorado Heath Sciences Center. “Access to reliable information is
one of the most critical tools we have on either job.”
Cheryl Montanio, supervisor, Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center in
Denver, agrees. “We handle an average of nearly 500 calls each day, 365 days each year.
It not only takes a special person with a great skill set to handle these calls – which are
frequently from people who, as you might imagine, are not at their best – we must also
have ready access to reliable and accurate information.”
Brent has used the Thomson MICROMEDEX® POISINDEX® System for many
years – and says his job would be much more difficult without this vital information tool.
It is a trusted, evidence-based resource that helps quickly identify, manage, and treat
New Information Enhances POISINDEX
POISINDEX now features more than 4,000 slang terms for street drugs, adding
another dimension to an already trusted database. Each term is linked to the symptom and
treatment information, which has always been available in POISINDEX. This allows
professionals to quickly diagnose and determine the proper treatment for a presentation of
symptoms. For example, clinicians can now use POISINDEX to treat a patient who takes
“Georgia Home Boy” or “chapopote,” even if they’re not sure to what those terms refer.
After quickly identifying “Georgia Home Boy” as Gamma Hydroxybutyric Acid
or GHB the “date rape drug” and “Chapopote” as heroin, the clinician can focus on the
important task of treatment. And the direct links POISINDEX effectively guide this
clinician to the actionable facts they need.
The POISINDEX slang drug terms resource was developed through a national
surveys of practitioners. All results were researched, verified, and organized into the
“Recently,” Montanio said, “one of our specialists in poison information got a
call to assist with someone who said he had been smoking ‘sherm.’ Our specialist used
POISINDEX and determined that ‘sherm’ is marijuana laced with PCP. With that
information, we were able to assist the caller.”
The issue of slang drug terms is already immense and can be overwhelming.
Many slang terms are regional in nature, so even a seasoned emergency department
physician from one part of the country may not be familiar with phrases used in another
area. By carefully sampling all areas of the country, MICROMEDEX compiles as many
regional slang variations as possible for inclusion in POISINDEX. For example,
POISINDEX lists more than 70 identified slang terms for amphetamines, and more than
130 common street names for crack cocaine. Each of these items can quickly be
researched from a desktop or laptop computer.
Quick identification can help patients in many ways. Not only can treatment get
underway sooner, the need for costly and often unpleasant testing is often eliminated.
“If I’m not able to identify a substance from a slang term, I may be forced to do a
lumbar puncture or spinal tap to determine exactly what a patient has taken. Now, a quick
check with POISINDEX allows me to move toward treatment more quickly and in many
cases avoid additional testing,” said Brent. “Most importantly, POISINDEX helps me
improve patient outcomes by moving quickly toward the appropriate therapy.”
In addition to the slang list, the POISINDEX System identifies ingredients for
thousands of commercial, pharmaceutical, and biological substances. Each identified
substance, including the slang terms, is linked to one or more management documents
providing information on clinical effects, range of toxicity, and treatment protocols.
Information Links Speed Treatment
To identifying the substance, POISINDEX links to vital information, including
detailed management and treatment protocols for handling exposures, as well as
information on clinical effects, treatment, and range of toxicity. Both Montanio and Brent
agree that ready access to information helps with diagnosis, even after a basic
identification is made.
“In the past, we were sometimes forced to turn to outside sources, sometimes just
an Internet search. We were often hesitant to act or make recommendations on
information from a source we were not familiar with,” explained Montanio.
Like so much slang in our culture, street drug names can vary from region to
region. Just as a child in the Midwest might refer to a classroom tool as a “chalkboard,” a
student from Boston speaks of a “blackboard.” Regional variations for street drugs can be
“We recently found that PCP is sometimes called ‘embalming fluid’ on the East
Coast. Since we cover a multi-state region, it’s important that we have access to
terminology from more than just Denver,” said Montanio. “It’s a tremendous asset to be
able to say ‘this is what we think this is’ and point a caller in a particular direction for
Although based in Denver, the Rocky Mountain Poison and Drug Center takes
calls from Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Hawaii, and Las Vegas. Just because a street drug
has a common name in one city, it may vary from state to state.