Asthma patients who take illicit drugs more likely to go to ICU
Asthma sufferers who use illicit substances are up to eight times more likely to end up in intensive care than other asthma sufferers who are admitted to hospital, a new study from The Alfred has revealed.
The alarming statistics were uncovered after doctors from The Alfred and Monash University analysed five years of medical records from patients admitted to hospital with an acute asthma attack.
They found asthmatic patients who had used illicit substances were four times more likely to need treatment in intensive care, and those who had used illicit substances and not taken their asthma preventer medication were eight times more likely to be admitted to the ICU.
Senior researcher Dr Eli Dabscheck, from The Alfred Allergy, Asthma and Clinical Immunology Service and Monash University Department of Medicine, said these results will have potentially life-saving implications for asthma sufferers.
“From these findings, we now know that if a patient suffering acute asthma reveals they have been using illicit substances, this should serve as a red flag for more intensive monitoring,” Dr Dabscheck said.
“Illicit drug use can lead to poor self-management of asthma and predispose to life threatening asthma attacks. Further studies are needed to identify the exact effects of the individual illicit substances, which included heroin and marijuana.”
Associate Professor Mark Hew, who heads The Alfred Allergy, Asthma and Clinical Immunology Service, said these findings were especially important because they identified modifiable risk factors in people with asthma.
“Doctors reviewing patients with asthma in the community usually check their smoking status,” Dr Hew said.
“Our study highlights the need to also ask patients whether they use illicit substances, and work with them to address these risky behaviours.”
The full paper is available on request.