Switzerland Medical professional briefing – ER acute recreational drug toxicity


During the study period, 503 of the 157,328 emergency department attendances were directly related to acute toxicity of substances used recreationally. The mean patient age was 33 years (range 16-74), 68% were male. Alcohol co-ingestion was reported in 54% of the cases, and use of more than one recreational drug in 37% of the cases. Most presentations were related to cocaine (29%), cannabis (26%), heroin (20%) and benzodiazepines/sedatives (18%). Urine drug screening immunoassay was available in 277 cases (55%). The most frequently detected substances were cannabis (29%), cocaine (22%), benzodiazepines (21%) and opioids excluding methadone (20%). There were only two intoxications with novel psychoactive substances (NPSs): One with methylone and one with 2,5-dimethoxy-4(n)-propylphenethylamine (2C-P). The majority of patients (58%) displayed impaired consciousness (Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) <15) upon presentation and/or pre-hospital; 21% were unconscious (GCS <8). Other frequent symptoms were agitation (36%), tachycardia (29%), and anxiety (24%). Severe complications included two fatalities, three acute myocardial infarctions, two intracranial haemorrhages, as well as psychosis and seizures in 71 and 26 cases, respectively.