Adolescent substance use continues to be a prevalent problem and is a cause of morbidity, mortality, and high rates of resource utilization. The variability in presentations of drug intoxication can make accurate identification of the ingested substance, and thus efficient treatment, challenging.
Our recent issue Substance Use in Adolescents: Recognition and Management in the Emergency Department provides a review of typical presenting signs, symptoms, and physical examination findings of commonly used drugs.
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Here are a few key points:
- Assess all intoxicated adolescents for injuries, as the patient may not be able to communicate these reliably.
- Adolescents can use illicit substances to self-harm, and drug use in self-harm attempts should be considered.
- Consult with a local Poison Control Center early to help target interventions. Local Poison Control Centers and toxicologists can aid in the identification of substances used and can help with management.
- Drug use and overdose can present with a variety of substance-specific signs and symptoms.