Illicit drug use related attendances at accident and emergency services in Aberdeen: a prospective six month survey

Health Bull (Edinb). 2000 May;58(3):170-6.


Objective: To quantify and examine the nature of known illicit drug related attendances at the Accident and Emergency Department of Aberdeen Royal Hospital over a six month period.

Design: A structured questionnaire was completed by Accident and Emergency staff.

Setting: The Accident and Emergency Department of Aberdeen Royal Hospital.

Subjects: All patients presenting at the Accident and Emergency Department as a result of known illicit drug use between November 1996 to April 1997 inclusive.

Results: One hundred and fifty seven subjects presented at Accident and Emergency during the six month period. Peak attendance was between 18.00 and 21.00 hours. Twenty seven percent of patients chose to visit Accident and Emergency rather than their own general practitioner. Thirty seven percent had no involvement with any health care professional regarding their drug use. Heroin was used by 62% of cases of which the majority (94.9%) had injected and stimulants such as amphetamine and ecstasy were used by a large proportion of cases. Only 4.5% of subjects admitted to not using clean equipment yet 15% admitted to have loaned equipment (to someone else) and 22% of subjects had injecting related problems. Thirteen percent of subjects were considered unco-operative by staff. Fifty four percent of subjects required admission to a ward and ten patients (6%) died.

Conclusion: Heroin continues to be the main drug causing major health problems. Harm reduction messages are not adequately reaching/or being taken up by drug users given the high proportion with injecting related problems and those being prepared to lend needles. The receptive attitude amongst subjects highlighted the opportunity for patient education as well as giving contact addresses of relevant organisations.

MeSH terms

  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Services Research
  • Hospitals, Public / statistics & numerical data
  • Hospitals, Urban / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs*
  • Patient Admission
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Scotland / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / therapy
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Illicit Drugs