Recreational drug use is an increasing public health issue in our society. The average purity of methamphetamine seized by police in WA has increased from 15% to 75% in just seven years. There is also a range of new synthetic drugs entering circulation, which are collectively termed novel psychoactive substances. These include many novel stimulants and hallucinogens, such as cathinones, NBOMe type drugs, and synthetic cannabinoid receptor antagonists.
The Western Australian Illicit Substance Evaluation (WISE) is a novel study, based in the Royal Perth Hospital emergency department (ED), where patients suspected of being under the influence of recreational drugs have a blood sample taken to identify the causative agent.
ChemCentre is analysing these samples, using liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry techniques. Prior to analysis, the sample is permanently de-identified to protect patient anonymity. We aim to identify what, if any, drugs are present, determine their concentration, and relate the toxicology findings to the clinical picture and complications. We will also compare the analytic result with what the patient believed they had taken.
This study will help identify or highlight the prevalence of drugs novel psychoactive substances in patients presenting to the ED. The study will also assist in identifying trends in drug use in patients presenting to the ED, which is vitally important from a public health perspective. If information of early interest to clinicians or the general public is identified, this would be released in the interest of public safety.