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February 27, 2021

Drug/alcohol ‘binges’ lead to hospital

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Males and people under 30 are most likely to end up in hospital as a result of alcohol or drug abuse. (file pic)
Males and people under 30 are most likely to end up in hospital as a result of alcohol or drug abuse. (file pic)

Almost one-tenth of hospital admissions for poisoning relates to recreational drug and alcohol use.

And males and people under 30 are at greatest risk, says a University of Sydney study published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence.

‘Recreational poisonings are events arising from the use of alcohol, illicit or prescribed drugs for recreational purposes, or to induce psychoactive effects,’ says lead author Dr Kate Chitty.

‘They represent a significant and potentially lethal form of harm associated with drug use.’

The report is based on the records of 13,805 patients, aged 18-98, collected between January 1996 and December 2013 using data from the Hunter Area Toxicology Service.

The Hunter findings reflect general patterns of drug and alcohol use across the country, she added.

The study found 1209, or 8.8 per cent of the admissions, were recreational poisonings.

Non-recreational poisonings include deliberate attempts to self harm, accidentally taking too much medication or being bitten by a venomous animal.

Compared to them, recreational drug poisonings were three times more likely to occur between 3am and 6am than 9am to 5pm.

They were 40 to 60 per cent more likely to occur from Friday to Sunday compared to a Monday.

Males were 2.8 times more likely to present to hospital for recreational drug poisonings than females and those aged less than 30 were 1.6 times more likely to present than those older.

‘The finding that peak recreational poisoning admissions occurred on Fridays and Saturdays reflects a binge culture, associated with weekday restraint and weekend excess of alcohol and recreational drugs,’ Dr Chitty said.

‘That we see these patterns most commonly in young people highlights that these potentially life-threatening hospital admissions are not the result of years of drug abuse but are largely associated with binge behaviour considered normal by many of Australia’s youth.’

Half the poisonings involved one class of drug, and the rest two or more substances.


Stimulant 527

Alcohol 495

Opioids 334

Sedative 292

Hallucinogen 224

Cannabis 97

Non-narcotic 87

Ecstasy 64

Cocaine 21

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