OBJECTIVE: To analyse the relative percentage of acute recreational drug toxicity emergency department (ED) presentations involving the main drug groups according to age and sex and investigate different patterns based on sex and age strata.
METHODS: We analysed all patients with acute recreational drug toxicity included by the Euro-DEN Plus dataset (22 EDs in 14 European countries) between October 2013 and December 2016 (39 months). Drugs were grouped as: opioids, cocaine, cannabis, amphetamines, gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), hallucinogens, new psychoactive substances (NPS), benzodiazepines and ketamine. Descriptive data by age and sex are presented and compared among age/sex categories and among drug families.
RESULTS: Of 17,371 patients were included during the 39-month period, 17,198 (99.0%) had taken at least one of the investigated drugs (median age: 31 years; 23.9% female; ethanol co-ingestion recorded in 41.5%, unknown in 31.2%; multiple drug use in 37.9%). Opioids (in 31.4% of patients) and amphetamines (23.3%) were the most frequently involved and hallucinogens (1.9%) and ketamine (1.7%) the least. Overall, female patients were younger than males, both in the whole cohort (median age 29 vs. 32 years; p < 0.001) and in all drug groups except benzodiazepines (median age 36 vs. 36 years; p = 0.83). The relative proportion of each drug group was different at every age strata and some patterns could be clearly described: cannabis, NPS and hallucinogens were the most common in patients <20 years; amphetamines, ketamine and cocaine in the 20- to 39-year group; GHB/GBL in the 30- to 39-year group; and opioids and benzodiazepines in patients ≥40 years. Ethanol and other drug co-ingestion was more frequent at middle-ages, and multidrug co-ingestion was more common in females than males.
CONCLUSION: Differences in the drugs involved in acute drug toxicity presentations according to age and sex may be relevant for developing drug-prevention and education programs for some particular subgroups of the population based on the increased risk of adverse events in specific sex and/or age strata.