Acute health problems due to recreational drug use in patients presenting to an urban emergency department in Switzerland.

Liakoni, Evangelia; Dolder, Patrick C; Rentsch, Katharina; Liechti, Matthias E (2015). Acute health problems due to recreational drug use in patients presenting to an urban emergency department in Switzerland. Swiss medical weekly, 145(w14166), w14166. EMH Schweizerischer Ärzteverlag 10.4414/smw.2015.14166

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QUESTIONS UNDER STUDY To describe acute toxicity of recreational drugs including novel psychoactive substances. METHODS We included all cases presenting at the emergency department (ED) of the University Hospital of Basel, Switzerland, between October 2013 and September 2014 with acute toxicity due to self-reported recreational drug use or with symptoms/signs consistent with acute toxicity. Isolated ethanol intoxications were excluded. Intoxications were confirmed with immunoassays and liquid chromatography coupled with mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS), which also detected novel psychoactive substances. RESULTS Among the 47,767 attendances at the ED, 216 were directly related to acute toxicity of recreational drugs. The mean patient age was 31 years and 69% were male. Analytical drug confirmation was available in 180 cases. Most presentations were related to cocaine (36%), cannabis (31%), opioids (13%), 3,4-methylenedioxy-methamphetamine (MDMA, 9%), other amphetamines (7%), benzodiazepines (7%), and lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD, 5%). The substances most commonly detected analytically were cannabis (37%), cocaine (33%), opioids (29%), benzodiazepines (21%), and amphetamines including MDMA (13%). Notably, there were only two cases of novel psychoactive substances (2,5-dimethoxy-4-bromophenethylamine [2C-B] and pentylone). The most frequent symptoms were tachycardia (31%), anxiety (27%), nausea or vomiting (23%), and agitation (22%). Severe complications included myocardial infarction (2), psychosis (10), seizures (10), and 1 fatality. Most patients were discharged home (68%), 8% were admitted to intensive care and 9% were referred to psychiatric care. CONCLUSION Medical problems related to illicit drugs mostly concerned cocaine and cannabis and mainly involved sympathomimetic toxicity and/or psychiatric disorders. ED presentations associated with novel psychoactive substances appeared to be relatively rare.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of General Internal Medicine (DAIM) > Clinic of General Internal Medicine

UniBE Contributor:

Liakoni, Evangelia


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health




EMH Schweizerischer Ärzteverlag




Evangelia Liakoni

Date Deposited:

11 Oct 2017 14:29

Last Modified:

15 Oct 2017 02:14

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:





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