Prevalence of psychoactive drugs in injured patients presenting to an emergency department

Siobhan Isles, Paul McBride, Paul Gee, Dominic Fleischer, Diana Kappatos, Rishi Pandey, Ian Civil, Belinda Gabbe

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: The aim of the present study was to obtain an unbiased understanding of the prevalence of psychoactive drugs in trauma patients presenting to a large ED. Methods: Consecutive adult patients presenting to the ED with an injury resulting in a trauma call had an anonymised, additional blood test taken for detection of over 2000 drugs. Laboratory testing was to judicial standards. Drugs given by ambulance pre-hospital were detected but excluded from the analysis. Results: Over 6 months 276 (74.7%) of 371 patients were tested. Of the 276 patients tested, 158 (57.2%) had one or more psychoactive drug present. Recreational drugs were detected in 101 (36.6%) patients and medicinal drugs in 88 (31.8%) patients, with a combination of both detected in 31 (11.2%) patients. The most common drugs detected were cannabis (22.1%), antidepressants (18.4%), alcohol (15.5%), opioids (10.1%), benzodiazepine/z-drugs (9.4%) and methamphetamine (7.2%). The prevalence of psychoactive drugs differed by age group, sex and cause of injury. Conclusions: The prevalence of psychoactive drugs in injury presentations to an ED is high, and provides an opportunity to reduce harm. The present study demonstrates the feasibility of an approach which limits bias and obtains results that accurately reflect the drug prevalence in injured cohorts. Systematic testing of injured patients is an important contribution to the epidemiology of injury.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-33
Number of pages9
JournalEMA - Emergency Medicine Australasia
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2023


  • bias
  • injury
  • prevalence
  • psychoactive drug

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