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Drug of Abuse Associated Risks

The 25 most common DOA appearing in hospital and emergency situations in 2017 – according to the EMCDDA - included cocaine, heroin, cannabis, amphetamine, MDMA, methamphetamine, synthetic cannabinoids, clorazepam, methadone, benzodiazepine, crack, diazepam, ketamine, LSD, morphine, and fentanyl.

In 2018, 91 deaths were assessed for 2017 and 2016 for derivatives of fentanyl, with 144 seizures of the drug in 2017 alone. New synthetic psychoactive substances are associated with an increasing number of deaths and acute intoxications in Europe. They are also currently one of the biggest challenges to law-enforcement and drug-policy administrators. New opioids – such as fentanyl derivatives - are of special interest in this area due to the remarkably high number of ODs and related deaths. An area of remarkable importance in this context is the early detection of such substances, which can save many lives. As such, an increasing number of law enforcement agencies and first-responder organizations have implemented the use of analyzer devices for drug and alcohol testing. 

The issue in these cases is the very rapid onset of the symptoms, the emergency responders often arriving too late to provide any relevant assistance. Minute quantities of fentanyl or its derivatives can rapidly induce respiratory depression. One issue of particular importance is that many people reported having thought they were buying heroin or cocaine, not realizing the potential lethal effects of the synthetic lacing in these situations. Drug screening analyzers are life savers in many such situations, as they can assist in the fast detection of the respective DOA.


Drug of Abuse users - what are they risking?


A less known potential effect of drug abuse maybe, is the localized HIV outbreaks. DOA users are at a much higher risk than the general population of contracting hepatitis C or HIV by sharing syringes. In 2017, approximately 1046 new HIV cases were reported in the EU.

As far as hepatitis C is concerned, out of every 100 patients infected, 75-80 will develop a chronic condition. This, in turn, leads in time to a higher number of fatalities and severe liver disease, including cancer.

However, overdose is the main cause of death for DOA users. In Europe, opioid users are 5-10 times more likely to die than their peers in the general population. In 2017, it is estimated that 8238 deaths were due to OD. Most fatal ODs are determined by opioids, mostly heroin and its metabolites. A lower rate can be attributed to cocaine, amphetamines, MDMA, and other stimulants. A very high percentage of these substances is detectable with the help of drug screening tests and specialized analyzers.