“All things are poison and not without poison; only the dose makes a thing not a poison”
There is no standard definition of poisoning that is universally accepted and applied in clinical practice, in data collection, and in public health policy settings.
Human poisoning subsumes any toxin-related injury. The injury can be systemic or organ-specific (e.g., neurological injury or hepatotoxicity). The source of the toxin can be a synthetic chemical or a naturally occurring plant, animal, or mineral substance. Thus poisoning can include the toxic effects of a classic toxin (e.g., cyanide), an overdose of a prescription medication (e.g., an antidepressant), an overdose of an over-the-counter preparation (e.g., headache tablets), or a complementary treatment (such as an herbal medicine or dietary supplement).
Disagreement over the classification of certain poisoning events leads to discrepancies in the estimates of poison-related mortality and morbidity; prominent among these disagreements are:
The Committee’s Operational Definitions
To arrive at reasonable estimates of the magnitude of poisoning, the Committee adopted the definitions used by key federal health agencies and organizations that monitor poisoning in the population (see Chapter 3 for details).