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Drugs Slipped Into Drinks Sending Many to ER: Report
Date:11/10/2011

United States, SAMHSA analyzed data collected by its Drug Abuse Warning Network (DAWN) surveillance system.

The team focused on the year 2009, looking at events unfolding in the nation's ERs.

Among the findings:

  • Of the estimated 4.6 million drug-related visits to the ER in 2009, 14,720 were the result of intentional poisonings. The vast majority of patients (84 percent) were treated and released without hospital admission.
  • Roughly 60 percent of the cases involved drugs that were never identified, investigators noted, and 37 percent of cases involved a mix of alcohol and an unidentified drug. Nearly 20 percent of cases involved just unidentified drugs, while another 7 percent involved a mix of unidentified medications and identifiable illicit drugs.
  • Overall, more than two-thirds of visits were chalked up to a mix of more than one drug, while three in five cases involved a mix of alcohol and drugs.
  • Almost one-third of cases involved the use of illicit drugs, including pot, cocaine, Ecstasy and a range of stimulants. By contrast, about one-fifth of cases involved the use of prescription medications, such as pain relievers and anxiety/insomnia drugs.

The SAMHSA team noted that women accounted for 63 percent of victims.

Based on the findings, the report authors suggested that an effort needs to be made to raise public awareness of the problem, particularly with respect to the elevated risk present in public settings (such as bars and dance clubs) where alcohol and drugs are prevalent.

"This is an educational issue," said Delany. "People do stupid things to people. So this is really a prevention issue. We're never going to stop it 100 percent. But we can help by really reaching out to the community and to young adults to say 'Look, when you go into these situations it can be dangerous.' "

Dr. Michael Brodsky, a psychiatrist at the University of California, Los Angeles' David Geffen School of Med
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