AZ poison center offers help through hotline

By Raya Tahan

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Anyone who has wondered whether antibiotics can be taken with dairy products, whether 3-year-old aspirin is still safe and effective or whether alcohol irritates an ulcer can ask the Arizona Poison and Drug Center.

An 800 telephone line is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for calls received throughout the state, except for Maricopa County which has a separate poison and drug facility, said Jude McNally, assistant director of the Arizona Poison and Drug Center.

Administered through the College of Pharmacy, the center has been running since 1980 and receives about 200 calls daily, with many callers in an emergency situation, McNally said.

"I would hope that the students are aware of this as a resource," McNally said.

"About 20 percent of calls come from people who get in trouble with bites and stings from black widows, scorpions or snakes," he said.

Between 10 and 12 calls per day are from people trying to help someone who has attempted suicide. Those callers need information about the overdose of medicine or even household cleaners, McNally said.

Parents often contact the center when a child swallows cleaning agents or comes in contact with poisonous plants and calls also come from workplaces dealing with hazards such as paint fumes or toxic laboratory solutions.

All calls are taken by pharmacists with at least two years of additional training in toxicity or poison, McNally said.

"It is very beneficial to run the center through the Pharmacy College," McNally said. "By being associated with the university, we can call Ph.D.s on campus who specialize in botany or agriculture."

A training sight for pharmacy and medical students is also provided by the center. Students may observe the calls, but do not handle any.

In addition to telephone hotlines, the center also promotes prevention and community education. Stickers, brochures and flyers are distributed throughout the state, and employees give on-site lectures at various community meetings, McNally said.

The majority of support for the center comes from state funding, though charities also donate funds, said McNally.

In Tucson, the number is 626-6016. Outside Tucson, the center can be reached at (800) 362-0101.

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