West Australian amphetamine users who wind up in hospital emergency departments are most commonly diagnosed with mental disorders, a lengthy study by Perth universities has found.
A nine-year study by University of Western Australia and Curtin University of Technology found amphetamine-related presentations to emergency departments were “associated with a significant cluster of hospitalisations around that episode, most prominently for psychiatric diagnoses”.
UWA’s Professor Daniel Fatovich, who led the research, said mental health problems such as psychosis or depression were “by far and away” the main diagnoses for speed users requiring emergency medical treatment.
The study examined records of 138 West Australian patients who had 156 amphetamine-related presentations to emergency departments.
The average age was 28 years, 71 per cent were male, and more than half used amphetamines at least weekly.
Thirty-nine per cent required admission to hospital.
Prof Fatovich said a growing number of deaths had been associated with amphetamine use.
Four people, or 2.9 per cent of amphetamine users in the study, died within two years of the emergency department visit.
Amphetamine use in Australia spiked in the period from 2000 to 2005 amid a “heroin drought” – when there were 371 fatalities attributed to the drug – and there was evidence it was again on the rise, Prof Fatovich said.
“In the past three to six months, there seems to be more around,” he told AAP.
The good news about amphetamine users’ frequent contact with the health system was that there were many opportunities to provide advice or counselling on reducing or ceasing drug use, Prof Fatovich said.
Amphetamines are the most commonly used illicit drugs after cannabis and Australia has one of the world’s highest rates of usage.
The drug had a devastating impact on not just the user, but also their loved ones, Prof Fatovich said.
As first appeared in The Australian, 10 October 2012