Witches Weeds

May/June 2011  ISSN-1059-6518  Volume 24 Number 3

By Frank Hubbell, DO


While on a recent trip to a Caribbean island, I couldn’t help but notice the amount of highly toxic, hallucinogenic plants growing along the roadways. Most were in full bloom, bearing fruit, and seeds. A little on-line research quickly established exactly how common the problems are with these remarkably poisonous plants, and that severe illness and death were not unusual.

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Poisonous Pearls of Wisdom

The mention of poisons and accidental poisoning is both a little disconcerting and at the same time fascinating. We have all enjoyed a good thriller whose main character had to unravel what happened to the deceased only to find out that some sort of exotic, odorless, and tasteless toxin had been slipped into their holiday eggnog. The science of toxicology and the recognition and management of potential poisoning victims is complex and inexhaustible. At home in our local emergency departments, we have the luxury of poison control centers with their extensive toxin databases. In the wilderness, in distant lands, or on the high seas, we do not have easy access to this wealth of information, so we have to be prepared to deal with a potential accidental poisoning victim. Even though it is less of a problem in the extended care setting, there is still a risk of accidental poisoning, especially from foods.

July/August 2006    ISSN-1059-6518    Volume 19 Number 4

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