A prospective observational study of emergency department presentations following novel psychoactive substance use

David E Henshall, Callum Wd Innes, Scott R Morrison, Blair Wilson, Ryan A Brown, Shannon M McAllister, Seamus L Culshaw, Elaina Reda

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Background and aims Novel psychoactive substances are compounds intended to mimic the effects of illicit drugs. They provide a unique challenge to healthcare, as complications of their use and their impact on services are relatively unknown. This study aims to determine nature of presentations, patient demographics and impact on healthcare. Methods Novel psychoactive substances users who presented to a large urban emergency department over 4 weeks were prospectively identified and followed for 1 year. Patients over 13 years old were eligible for inclusion. Information regarding patient demographics and presentations was collected. Results During the study period, 53 patients (39 male), mean age 32.6 ± 8.9 (±standard deviation), presented 148 times with complaints relating to novel psychoactive substances use. Study population characteristics included history of illicit drug use (83.0%), intravenous drug use (64.2%), psychiatric diagnosis or symptoms (56.6%), methadone prescription (52.8%) and having no fixed abode (37.7%). Injection was the most common method of use (72.3%), Burst the most commonly named agent (19.6%) and behavioural change the most common presenting complaint (31.1%). Patients collectively spent 10,620 h in hospital over 1 year. Conclusion This study highlights differences between the young population targeted by government campaigns regarding novel psychoactive substances use and the presenting population to hospital, and the associated burden on the National Health Service.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-44
Number of pages6
JournalScottish Medical Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2018

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Adult
  • Drug Overdose/epidemiology
  • Emergency Service, Hospital/statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Hospitals, Urban
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs/adverse effects
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Psychotropic Drugs/adverse effects
  • Substance-Related Disorders/epidemiology


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