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The Impact of Street Drugs on Trauma Care

Lucas, Charles E. MD, FACS

Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery: September 2005 - Volume 59 - Issue 3 - p S57-S60
doi: 10.1097/01.ta.0000176044.21200.b0
Session 1

The use of illicit drugs, specifically heroin and cocaine, complicates trauma patient management and consumes extensive hospital resources. This paper focuses on heroin- and cocaine-related injuries observed by physicians at Detroit Receiving Hospital, a large urban Level I trauma center. The pharmaceutical effects, mode of administration, and the manner in which these drugs affect diagnosis and treatment of injuries are documented and discussed. Specific drug-related complications associated with overdose, soft-tissue infections, bacterial endocarditis (therapy resistant), vascular thromboses, vascular aneurysms, vasoconstriction, stroke, cardiac arrhythmias, muscle ischemia, and solid-organ abscesses are also analyzed. Illicit drug use significantly complicates initial diagnosis and trauma management and is associated with severe adverse pathophysiologic effects. Currently, prevention efforts, such as interventions in trauma centers, should be considered as the most efficient and feasible way to prevent injury recidivism in this patient population. We also conclude that legislative change may be the answer in reducing or preventing the horrendous problems caused by illicit drugs.

From the Department of Surgery, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan.

Submitted for publication December 21, 2004

Accepted for publication December 21, 2004

This article was written for the proceedings from a conference entitled “Alcohol and Other Drug Problems Among Hospitalized Trauma Patients: Controlling Complications, Mortality, and Trauma Recidivism” in Washington, DC, May 28–30, 2003.

It does not reflect the official policy or opinions of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and does not constitute an endorsement of the individuals or their programs—by CDC, HHS, or the federal government—and none should be inferred.

Address for reprints: Charles E. Lucas, MD, FACS Wayne State University, Department of Surgery, 4201 St. Antoine–2V, Detroit, MI 48201; email:

© 2005 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.