Purpose and value of monitoring non-fatal acute emergencies
A unique insight into acute health harms is provided by hospital emergency data, which widen the scope of monitoring health consequences of drug use, beyond other more established indicators. Emergency data can serve as an indicator of high-risk drug use trends, as a source to characterise some sub-populations of drug users, for detecting and monitoring new patterns of use or abuse of substances (such as new synthetic drugs), or new trends regarding traditional drugs, for example new epidemics in heroin use. Emergency data can also be used to assess the risk factors for some serious consequences of drug use (e.g. fatal overdoses) and monitor how prescribed drugs impact on emergency room attendance for drug problems. Data from emergency settings contribute to early warning systems, as they often capture signals earlier than other monitoring systems based on mortality or treatment data.
There is currently limited systematic data on acute drug toxicity in Europe, which represents a gap in our understanding of the public health implications of drug use.
An essential aspect of the work of the agency in this area is its collaboration with the European Drug Emergencies Network (Euro-DEN — Euro-DEN Plus) project. This project, which was EU-funded from 2013-15 and is now supported by the EMCDDA, involves the collection of data on emergency department presentations with acute drug toxicity from 32 sentinel centres in 22 countries. More centres are currently being recruited to increase the European value, representativeness and utility of this data source. The project aims to provide more detailed information on the nature and extent of harms associated with the use of drugs such as cannabis, cocaine, heroin and other opioids, amphetamines, prescription medicines and synthetic drugs. By creating the capacity to monitor the trends and characteristics of acute toxicity presentations at sentinel hospitals across Europe, the network contributes to the EMCDDA’s efforts to enhance its system for monitoring and understanding new and emerging trends in drug use and drug markets.