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Intentional Poisonings in Clubs, Bars May Be on the Rise

Date Rape and Robbery Among Main Motives; Poisonings May Be Even Higher Than Reported
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How to Stay Safe

Rick Spiller, PhD, says the new data give us a better handle on the scope of the problem. He is the managing director of the Kentucky Regional Poison Center in Louisville.

Intentional poisoning doesn't just happen in bars, Spiller says. "It can occur in any public situation like a party or an open environment like the beach."

The best way to stay safe is to develop a buddy system. "People don't run up and inject you, they usually give it in a drink," he says. Tell your buddy if you start to feel strange, and let him or her get you out of the situation ASAP.

Some people may be reluctant to seek help because they were drinking alcohol and may have been taking illicit drugs when the intentional poisoning occurred.

When in doubt, go to the emergency room or call 911, Spiller says. "This is critical if there is prosecution."

As the medical director of the Florida Poison Information Center at the University of Miami, Jeffrey N. Bernstein, MD, practices very close to South Beach, which is home to many of Miami's swankiest clubs, lounges, and bars.  He has seen his fair share of intentional poisonings.

"They are very common in nightclubs but can occur anywhere," he says. "These substances are a lot easier to get ahold of or conceal than a gun."

The new numbers are likely just the tip of the iceberg as many intentional poisonings go unreported or even unrecognized. "Some people may not go to the emergency room, or maybe they didn't even realize that they had been intentionally poisoned," Bernstein tells WebMD.

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