Canada has new poison hotline

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Health Canada is trying to make it easier to access critical medical advice related to poisonings by creating a new toll-free number, 1-844-POISON-X or 1-844-764-7669.

This past week marked National Poison Prevention Week and the federal agency says over 1,500 people die every year due to unintentional poisoning from medication, cleaners, cannabis, and other household items. It says 8,000 people are hospitalized every year.

“This new easy-to-remember toll-free number will help save lives while also adding a layer of resilience to our health care system by reducing unnecessary visits to hospitals, clinics, and doctors’ offices,” reads a Health Canada news release.

There are currently nine different phone numbers to access five poison centres across Canada, and the agency says many Canadians do not know the phone number for their local poison centre or even that there is a service available.

When Canadians call the new number they will be re-routed to their local poison centre, regardless of where they are calling from.

“A single toll-free number to access the essential services of poison centres across Canada has been a long time coming and has been the vision of the Canadian Association of Poison Centres and Clinical Toxicology for over 20 years,” says Dr. Margaret Thompson, medical director for the Ontario and Manitoba Poison Centre and the president of the Canadian Association for Poison Centres and Clinical Toxicology.

Overdoses can fall into the category of accidental poisonings according to the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Carolyn Bennett.

“Accidental poisonings can happen to anyone at anytime – including from over-the-counter medicines, prescription drugs, illicit substances, alcohol, and cannabis. This new toll-free number will help to save lives.”

Ontario will soon make naloxone kits mandatory in high-risk workplaces, as the country struggles with an opioid epidemic.

Health and safety professionals may want to post this new number in workplaces where there is a potential for accidental poisonings.

63 percent of poison cases were managed remotely by poison centres, and according to Health Canada’s data, poison centres managed 215,589 cases in 2022.

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