The trend towards illicit use of drugs is on the rise in England, accounting for more than 1 million visits and 400,000 admissions to the emergency department each year.
The findings are based on anonymous interviews with patients visiting the emergency department of a hospital in South West England. The doctor in charge of emergency care was also asked to assess the need for treatment with special reference to illegal drug abuse.
A total of 801 patients who visited the emergency department, were interviewed and over 1/ 3rd of them admitted to illicit drug use at some time during their lives. Alarmingly, 16% of the patients reported use of illegal drugs in the previous month. The number of people who had taken an illicit drug within 24 hours prior to admission approximated to a frequency of 1 in 10.
There was however an inconsistency regarding the issue, with the treating doctor relating the reason for admission/illness to either a direct or indirect episode of drug abuse in less than 7 % of the cases. Only twenty-three patients of those interviewed (3%) were admitted to the hospital. The most common reasons for admission included self-harm, skin infections, chest pain and deep vein thrombosis.
Illegal drug abuse that is voluntary during initial phases hinders with gene expression and brain activity in the long run, leading to changes in individual behaviour. It soon progresses to an addictive stage characterized by compulsive drug craving, seeking and use. The effects of drug abuse can be disastrous especially in individuals with concomitant cardiovascular disease, respiratory disease, hepatitis, AIDS/HIV, stroke and cancer.
The finding of the present study warn that illicit use of drugs could lead to an enormous pressure over the emergency department if appropriate measures are not taken immediately.