n South African Journal of Surgery - Substance abuse and major trauma in Johannesburg : trauma

Volume 42, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0038-2361
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5151



&lt;I&gt;Introduction.&lt;/I&gt; The abuse of alcohol and drugs is a major public health problem and intoxication is one of the most important risk factors for violence and other causes of injury. The aim of the current study was to evaluate the prevalence of drug and alcohol use associated with injury in adult trauma patients in an inner city trauma unit in Johannesburg. &lt;br&gt;&lt;I&gt;Methods.&lt;/I&gt; A cohort of 105 adult trauma patients admitted to our university trauma unit and its allied medicolegal laboratory were studied in order to provide prospective data and enable us to correlate the prevalence and type of substance abuse with the demographics and injury patterns after major trauma. &lt;br&gt;&lt;I&gt;Results.&lt;/I&gt; Forty-five patients required resuscitation at the Johannesburg Hospital Trauma Unit (JHTU) and 60 patients were examined at the Johannesburg Medicolegal Laboratory (JMLL), giving a total of 105 patients. Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was positive in 59% of the patients. The average BAC in the trauma unit patients was 37 mmol/l (0.17 g/dl) , more than three times the legal limit for driving. <br>Of the patients 43.7% were positive for urinary cannabis; women were statistically significantly more likely to have taken cannabis than men (p = 0.039). There was no difference in rates of exposure to cannabis or alcohol in patients who were the victims of interpersonal violence compared with the victims of accidents (p = 0.17). Only 3 patients had taken other drugs of abuse; 2 had taken Mandrax (methaqualone) and 1 amphetamine. &lt;br&gt;&lt;I&gt;Conclusion.&lt;/I&gt; Alcohol and cannabis are commonly misused by trauma patients in Johannesburg; the degree of misuse of other drugs appears to be low. Intoxication is a significant risk factor for violence and accidents and the resultant injuries are a massive burden on our society. Doctors have a responsibility to highlight the association between substance misuse and trauma and should also attempt to persuade individual trauma patients to reduce future alcohol consumption.

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