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NC Department of Health and Human Services
N.C. DPH: Chronic Disease and Injury Section
N.C. Public Health Home

Injury and Violence Prevention Branch

Unintentional Poisoning from Prescription Drugs (Overdose)

Poison Help

Anyone who suspects they or someone else may have been poisoned or has a question about a poison should call the NC Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222 or chat online at to talk with one of their nurses or pharmacists.

Be prepared to give the nurse or pharmacist the following information:

  • Patient's Age
  • Patient's Weight
  • Patient's Medical History
  • Type of Exposure
  • Time of Exposure
  • Symptoms
  • Product Information - have container available.
  • Telephone Number

A seriously underrecognized and misunderstood public health issue is unintentional prescription drug poisoning, which is commonly referred to as overdose. In 2011, 1,140 North Carolina residents died as a result of unintentional poisonings; approximately 80% of those deaths were related to prescription drugs--predominantely painkillers. Since 1999, the number of deaths (279) from unintentional poisonings has increased more than 300% in North Carolina.

Street drugs, like heroin and crack cocaine, were the overdose epidemics of the 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s. In this decade, a new and growing concern is the misuse and abuse of prescription drugs. Narcotic painkillers such as methadone, oxycodones, and hydrocodones are the cause of the majority of unintentional poisoning deaths in North Carolina.

See also: Poisoning

Unintentional Poisoning Prevention Tips for Children and Adults from the CDC

Unintentional poisonings are a prevention priority under North Carolina's Statewide Plan for Preventing Injuries and Violence. The unintentional poisoning goal team was formed under the direction of the plan. The team coordinates prevention efforts across the state.

Because of the complexity of the issue, multiple partners are involved in prevention. Review the overview of the roles of partners working to prevent overdose.

N.C. Partners in Preventing Deaths from Unintentional Poisonings

National Partners in Preventing Deaths from Unintentional Poisonings

Reports and Resources

Additional Information



Updated: February 24, 2020