The death rate from poisoning in the United States rose 25% between 1990 and 1995, and nearly 80% of such deaths are drug-related, according to a federal study published recently in Public Health Reports.
The study, which reviewed death certificates from around the country since 1979, found that poisoning killed 18,549 people in 1995, the last year studied. It was the third-leading cause of injury deaths, after motor-vehicle injuries and firearm injuries.
Of the 1995 poisonings, 77% were caused by drugs, 15% by gases and vapors and 8% by other ingested substances, including alcohol. The death certificates showed that 56% of these deaths were obviously unintentional while 32% were known suicides.
The rates varied considerably in different age groups. Among children younger than 15, the death rates were low, about 0.5 per 100,000 children. For those 15 to 24, the poisoning death rate was still lower than the rate of death resulting from traffic or gun injuries. The death rate reached its height among those 35 to 44 and then decreased again.
The death rate for poisoning in men was also about two times higher than for women.