Drug report raises hospital monitoring issues

The impact of increasing amphetamine use challenged the existing organisation of health care services and demonstrated a clear need for the monitoring of emergency department presentations at Queensland’s hospitals.

Greg Fowler, a senior research officer Queensland Alcohol and Drug Research and Education Centre (QADREC) at the UQ School of Population Health said this was one of the clear messages in a report released last week.

He believes early warning systems monitoring changes in the patterns of drug use and drug related harm need to include data from emergency departments.

The report Exploring drug use: prevalence and patterns of drug use among emergency department patients resulted from a collaboration between QADREC and the Queensland Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) .

It details a study of 812 patients conducted over the 24 hours a day operation of the Gold Coast Hospital Emergency Department for 14 days in late 2002.

“It is the first time detailed data on the patterns of drug use, risk taking and criminal behaviours have been collected in an Australian emergency department,” Mr Fowler said.

The report found approximately 55 percent of those surveyed had used an illicit drug at least once in their lifetime, 28.4 percent had used in the past 12 month, 8.1 percent had used in the past 24 hours, and 3.6 percent had used in the previous six hours.

In the past 12 months before the study 9.8 percent of those surveyed reported using amphetamines, 8.5 percent had used ecstasy, 3.3 percent had used cocaine and approximately 1 percent had used heroin.

QADREC and the CMC will produce further publications from the study and hope to expand emergency department data collection to other Queensland regional centres next year.

A further collaborative research project on the illicit drug market for ecstasy is also underway.

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