Drug abuse-related accidents leading to emergency department visits at two medical centers

Author(s): Chen IC, Hung DZ, Hsu CH, Wu ML, Deng JF, et al.


Background:Drug abuse is becoming more prevalent in Taiwan, as evidenced by increasing reports of drug trafficking and drug abuse-related criminal activity, and the wide use of more contemporary illicit drugs. Consequently, drug abuse-related accidents are also expected to occur with greater frequency. However, no study has yet specifically evaluated the prevalence, pattern, and outcomes of drug abuse-related accidents among patients visiting emergency departments (EDs) in Taiwan.

Methods:We conducted an ambidirectional study with patients who visited the EDs of Taipei Veterans General Hospital (TVGH) and China Medical University Hospital (CMUH) due to drug abuse-related accidents from January 2007 through September 2009. Information on the patients' baseline characteristics and clinical outcomes was collected and analyzed.

Results:During the study period, a total of 166 patients visited the EDs of one of the two study hospitals due to drug abuse-related accidents. This yielded a prevalence of drug abuse of 0.1% among all patients visiting the ED due to accident and/or trauma. Fifty-six out of the 166 patients visited the ED at TVGH, most patients being between 21 and 40 years old. Opioids (41.1%) were the drugs most commonly abused by the patients, followed by benzodiazepines (32.1%). More than two-thirds of the patients (n=38, 67.9%) required hospitalization, and three patients died (5.4%). In contrast, 110 patients with drug abuse-related accidents visited the ED at CMUH during the study period. Most of these subjects had abused benzodiazepines (69.1%), were between 21 and 40 years old, and were female. Fewer than one-fifth of the patients (n=19, 17.3%) required hospitalization, with no deaths reported. There were significant between-hospital differences in terms of patient gender, drugs of choice, injury mechanisms, method and time of the ED visit, triage levels, and need for hospitalization.

Conclusion:Although the prevalence of drug abuse-related accidents was low, and only three patient deaths were reported in this study, many patients presented to the EDs with severe effects and later required hospitalization. Better and timely management of such patients will help to minimize the adverse health impacts associated with drug abuse. Governmental agencies and all healthcare professionals should also work together to fight against the surging trend of drug abuse in Taiwan.

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