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Original article

Vol. 140 No. 4344 (2010)

Retrospective analysis of stimulant abuse cases reported to the Swiss Toxicological Information Centre during 1997–2009

  • M Bruggisser
  • M Bodmer
  • MF Wilks
  • H Kupferschmidt
  • M Liechti
Cite this as:
Swiss Med Wkly. 2010;140:w13115


STUDY AIM: To describe characteristics of stimulant abuse and toxicity.

METHOD: We conducted a retrospective analysis of cases of exposure to cocaine, amphetamines (amphetamine, methamphetamine, and 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine [MDMA]) and methylphenidate reported to the Swiss Toxicological Information Centre between 1997 and 2009.

RESULTS: There were 667 reports for cocaine, 147 for amphetamine, 41 for methamphetamine, 433 for MDMA, and 122 for methylphenidate. Detailed outcome data were available in 546 (39%) of all reported cases. Exposure to amphetamine or MDMA commonly resulted in mild to moderate toxicity, but severe toxicity was seen in approximately 15% of reported cocaine and MDMA exposures with a known medical outcome. Frequently observed clinical signs and symptoms included tachycardia, arterial hypertension, nausea, agitation, and panic. Amphetamine and MDMA exposures were seen in a younger population and were mainly reported at weekends, while cocaine users were older and exposures occurred proportionally more frequently on weekdays. Parenteral drug use and co-use of heroin was more frequent in cocaine users than in those using other stimulants.There has been an increase in reports of non-medical use of methylphenidate in recent years, indicating a need for further studies of abuse of prescription stimulants.

CONCLUSION: Stimulant abuse is associated with major toxicity in approximately 15% of reported cases with a known medical outcome. Amphetamine and MDMA users differed from cocaine users in terms of user characteristics, time of use and medical complications. Non-medical use of prescription stimulants such as methylphenidate needs attention.


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