Street drugs associated with acute poisoning: description and analysis of differences in women attended in a hospital emergency department

Gabriel Vallecillo Sánchez1,2, Jiwei Chen Quin3, Alejandra Losada Parente4, Sara Ochoa4, Alex Smithson Amat5, Sara Anaya1, Narcis Saubi Roca6, August Supervía Caparrós1, Rafael Perello Carbonell4

Affiliation of the authors

1Servicio de Urgencias. Hospital Parc Salut Mar, Barcelona, Spain. 2Unidad VIH, Hospital Parc Salut Mar, Barcelona, Spain. 3Unidad de Adicciones, Hospital Clínic, Barcelona, Spain. 4Servicio de Urgencias, Hospital Clínic, Barcelona, Spain. 5Servicio de Urgencias, Fundacio Esperit Sant, Barcelona, Spain. 6Servicio de Urgencias, Hospital Vall d’Hebron, Barcelona, Spain.



Vallecillo Sánchez G, Chen Quin J, Losada Parente A, Ochoa S, Smithson Amat A, Anaya S, et al. Street drugs associated with acute poisoning: description and analysis of differences in women attended in a hospital emergency department. Emergencias. 2024;36:104-8


Background. The prevalence of street drug abuse is difficult to establish in women because of stigma associated with the practice. The main objective of this study was to analyze possible differences between men and women in a sample of patients attended for emergencies due to acute poisonings. The secondary aim was to identify variables associated with severe poisonings defined arbitrarily as requiring intensive care for more than 12 hours after hospital admission.


Retrospective study in 2 hospital EDs. We included patients over the age of 18 years attended for street drug poisonings between July 1, 2020, and July 31, 2023. Epidemiologic, clinical, and laboratory variables were analyzed.


A total of 1032 patients were studied; 191 (18.5%) were women. The mean (SD) age was 35 years, and the prevalences of acute mental illness and HIV infection were high at 32.2% and 35.7%, respectively. Drug use was recreational in most cases (90.9%). Cocaine, alcohol, and methamphetamines were the substances most often used. Multivariate analysis showed that the factors associated with the seriousness of poisoning were age, with an odds ratio (OR) of 1.03 (95% CI, 1.01-1.05; P = .003); HIV (OR, 2.10; 95% CI, 1.29-3.41; P = .003); use of benzodiazepines (OR, 3.48; 95% CI, 2.14-5.66; P < .0001); and suicidal ideations (OR, 1.82; 95% CI, 1.25-3.79; P = .004).


Differences in poisoning characteristics in women were found, probably related to the younger ages of men in the sample and their higher frequency of alcohol consumption. Public health policies and campaigns to prevent drug abuse should take gender differences into consideration in order to adapt messages to the target populations.


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