Studies have found a high prevalence of both alcohol and other impairing psychoactive drugs in injured patient populations. The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of potentially impairing psychoactive substances in all patients admitted to a hospital emergency department with injuries from accidents, assault or deliberate self harm.
A total of 1272 patients over 18 years of age, admitted to the hospital within 12h of injury, were included. Presence of alcohol was determined by an enzymatic method and other drugs by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) or gas chromatography-mass spectrometry (GC-MS), both highly specific analytical methods for determining recent intake.
There were 510 (40%) women in the sample. Of the patients, 38% of the women and 48% of the men had a positive blood sample for psychoactive substances on admission. The most prevalent psychoactive substance was alcohol (27%) with an average concentration of 1.5 g/kg. A further 21% of patients tested showed use of medicinal drugs, and 9% showed use of illicit substances. Cannabis was the most prevalent illicit drug (6.2%). Diazepam (7.4%) and zopiclone (5.3%) were the most prevalent medicinal drugs. In road traffic accidents, 25% of the car drivers had positive findings, about half of them for alcohol.
Psychoactive substances were found in nearly half the patients admitted with injuries. The most common substance was alcohol. Alcohol was particularly related to violence, whereas medicinal drugs were most prevalent in accidents at home.