Author Archives: churchc

Prevalence of sedating medication use among older drivers presenting in the emergency department

Rhode Island Medical Journal 2016 Jan 4;99(1):15-9.


Adults over the age of 65 are involved in more motor vehicle collisions per mile driven than those under 65.


This study aimed to determine the prevalence of sedating medication use among older drivers, and their recall of advice given by medical professionals about potential for these medications to cause driving impairment.


This was a cross-sectional study of older adults (age ≥ 65) who had driven in the last 30 days, presenting at an urban emergency department.


Of the 76 participants, 34 (44.7% [95%CI: 38.7, 50.7]) reported currently using sedating medications. No participants using sedating medications reported being advised by their prescriber about potential driving impairment caused by these medications.


Given that none of the participants on sedating medications reported previous advice regarding the potential for these medications to cause driving impairment, this at-risk group might benefit from more thorough instruction to limit driving when using sedating medication.

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An autopsy case of methanol induced intracranial hemorrhage

Int J Clin Exp Pathol. 2015; 8(10): 13643–13646.

The major component of car washer fluid is a methanol. Intracranial hemorrhage is a rare but lethal complication in methanol poisoning. We report a case of massive bilateral basal ganglia hematoma in a 32-year-old man with methanol poisoning. He drank car washer solution twice time (about 500 ml), and was admitted to a territorial hospital 10 hours post-ingestion for depressed mental status, lower blood pressure, and high anion gap metabolic acidosis. Computed tomographic (CT) scan showed lesions in both putamen and cerebral deep white matter. Twenty-one days after methanol exposure, he suddenly developed cardiorespiratory arrest. In autopsy, external examination revealed moderate cerebral edema, but no evidence of herniation. Coronal sections of the brain showed softening and about 34 g hematoma in the bilateral putamen and 3rd ventricles. The toxic effect of methanol on the visual system has been noted in the absence of neurologic manifestations; however, there have also been a report of concomitant brain in Korea.

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The effect of cannabis on regular cannabis consumers’ ability to ride a bicycle

International Journal of Legal Medicine Online 6 January 2016

To assess the effects of cannabis on the ability required to ride a bicycle, repetitive practical cycling tests and medical examinations were carried out before and after inhalative consumption of cannabis. A maximum of three joints with body weight-adapted THC content (300 μg THC per kg body weight) could be consumed by each test subject. Fourteen regular cannabis-consuming test subjects were studied (12 males, 2 females). In summary, only a few driving faults were observed even under the influence of very high THC concentrations. A defined THC concentration that leads to an inability to ride a bicycle cannot be presented. The test subjects showed only slight distinctive features that can be documented using a medical test routinely run for persons under suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

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The mental health of fire-fighters: an examination of the impact of repeated trauma exposure

Aust N Z J Psychiatry November 24, 2015; 

Objective: Emergency workers, such as fire-fighters, are routinely exposed to potentially traumatic events. While a number of studies have examined the occurrence of post-traumatic stress disorder, the role of multiple traumas on other mental health sequelae, such as depression and alcohol misuse, among emergency workers remains unclear. This study aimed to assess the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and alcohol misuse in a sample of current and retired fire-fighters and examine their relationship with cumulative trauma exposure.

Method: A cross-sectional survey was completed by current (n = 488) and retired (n  = 265) fire-fighters from Fire and Rescue New South Wales, Australia. Demographic and occupational information was collected, including the number of fatal incidents fire-fighters reported attending across years of service. Validated, self-report measures were used to determine probable caseness for post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and heavy drinking.

Results: Among current fire-fighters, rates of post-traumatic stress disorder and depression were 8% and 5%, respectively, while 4% reported consumption of more than 42 alcoholic drinks per week. Retired fire-fighters reported significantly greater levels of symptomatology, with the prevalence estimates of post-traumatic stress disorder at 18% (p = 0.001), depression at 18% (p  < 0.001) and heavy drinking at 7%. There was a significant positive linear relationship between the number of fatal incidents attended and rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and heavy drinking.

Conclusion: Fire-fighters suffer from high rates of mental disorders, with rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and heavy drinking continuing to rise in a linear manner with each additional trauma exposure. The level of psychiatric morbidity among retired fire-fighters appears to be particularly high. Our findings have important implications for the ongoing debates surrounding the detection of mental disorders in high-risk occupations and for policy considerations around the welfare of current and retired emergency workers.

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The pharmacology and toxicology of kratom: from traditional herb to drug of abuse

Int. J. Legal Med. 2015; 130(1): 127-138.

Mitragyna speciosa (Rubiaceae), commonly known as kratom, is a tropical tree with a long history of traditional use in parts of Africa and Southeast Asia. In recent years, kratom has gained popularity for use as a recreational drug across the globe. Relatively new to the illicit market and used in a manner different from its traditional applications, preparations of kratom are touted by many as a safe and legal psychoactive product that improves mood, relieves pain, and may provide benefits in opiate addiction. Available literature was reviewed for M. speciosa via PubMed, Google Scholar, CINAHL, and EBSCO to summarize its traditional uses, phytochemical composition, pharmacology and toxicology of proposed active constituents, and potential for misuse and abuse. Research has demonstrated that both stimulant and sedative dose-dependent effects do exist, but a growing concern for the drug’s effects and safety of use has resulted in national and international attention primarily due to an increase in hospital visits and deaths in several countries that are said to have been caused by extracts of the plant. The main active alkaloid substances in kratom, mitragynine and 7-hydroxymitragynine, present with a range of CNS stimulant and depressant effects mediated primarily through monoaminergic and opioid receptors. Recently, Palm Beach County, located in the southeastern corridor of Florida, has considered regulating kratom due to public safety concerns following the death of a young adult. At the local, state, and even federal levels, governments are now being confronted with the task of determining the safety and the possible regulation of kratom extracts. There are currently no standard analytical screening techniques for mitragynine and its metabolites following ingestion limiting its detection to more sophisticated techniques like liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry to determine kratom use. The growing concern of the abuse potential of kratom requires careful evaluation of its benefits and potential toxicities.

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A systematic review of adverse events arising from the use of synthetic cannabinoids and their associated treatment

Clin. Toxicol. (T and F) 2015; 54(1): 1-13.

Context: Synthetic cannabinoids (SCs) such as “Spice”, “K2”, etc. are widely available via the internet despite increasing legal restrictions. Currently, the prevalence of use is typically low in the general community (<1%) although it is higher among students and some niche groups subject to drug testing. Early evidence suggests that adverse outcomes associated with the use of SCs may be more prevalent and severe than those arising from cannabis consumption. Objectives: To identify systematically the scientific reports of adverse events associated with the consumption of SCs in the medical literature and poison centre data. Method: We searched online databases (Medline, PsycInfo, Embase, Google Scholar and Pubmed) and manually searched reference lists up to December 2014. To be eligible for inclusion, data had to be from hospital, emergency department, drug rehabilitation services or poison centre records of adverse events involving SCs and included both self-reported and/or analytically confirmed consumption. Results: From 256 reports, we identified 106 eligible studies including 37 conference abstracts on about 4000 cases involving at least 26 deaths. Major complications include cardiovascular events (myocardial infarction, ischemic stroke and emboli), acute kidney injury (AKI), generalized tonic-clonic seizures, psychiatric presentations (including first episode psychosis, paranoia, self-harm/suicide ideation) and hyperemesis. However, most presentations were not serious, typically involved young males with tachycardia (≈37–77%), agitation (≈16–41%) and nausea (≈13–94%) requiring only symptomatic care with a length of stay of less than 8 hours. Conclusions: SCs most frequently result in tachycardia, agitation and nausea. These symptoms typically resolve with symptomatic care, including intravenous fluids, benzodiazepines and anti-emetics, and may not require inpatient care. Severe adverse events (stroke, seizure, myocardial infarction, rhabdomyolysis, AKI, psychosis and hyperemesis) and associated deaths manifest less commonly. Precise estimates of their incidence are difficult to calculate due to the lack of widely available, rapid laboratory confirmation, the variety of SC compounds and the unknown number of exposed individuals. Long-term consequences of SCs use are currently unknown.

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Determination of safety margins for whole blood concentrations of alcohol and nineteen drugs in driving under the influence cases

Forensic Sci. Int. 2015; 259: 119-126;   doi:10.1016/j.forsciint.2015.12.009

Legislative limits for driving under the influence of 20 non-alcohol drugs were introduced in Norway in February 2012. Per se limits corresponding to blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) of 0.2 g/kg were established for 20 psychoactive drugs, and limits for graded sanctions corresponding to BACs of 0.5 and 1.2 g/kg were determined for 13 of these drugs. This new legislation made it possible for the courts to make sentences based on the analytical results, similar to the situation for alcohol. To ensure that the reported concentration is as least as high as the true concentration, with a 99% safety level, safety margins had to be calculated for each of the substances. Diazepam, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and alcohol were used as model substances to establish a new model for estimating the safety margins. The model was compared with a previous used model established several years ago, by a similar yet much simpler model, and they were found to be in agreement. The measurement uncertainties depend on the standard batch used, the work list and the measurements’ replicate. A Bayesian modelling approach was used to determine the parameters in the model, using a dataset of 4700 diazepam positive specimens and 5400 THC positive specimens. Different safety margins were considered for low and high concentration levels of diazepam (≤2 μM (0.6 mg/L) and >2 μM) and THC (≤0.01 μM (0.003 mg/L) and >0.01 μM). The safety margins were for diazepam 19.5% (≤2 μM) and 34% (>2 μM), for THC 19.5% (≤0.01 μM) and 24.9% (>0.01 μM). Concentration dependent safety margins for BAC were based on a dataset of 29 500 alcohol positive specimens, and were in the range 10.4% (0.1 g/kg) to 4.0% (4.0 g/kg) at a 99% safety level. A simplified approach was used to establish safety margins for the compounds amphetamine, MDMA, methamphetamine, alprazolam, phenazepam, flunitrazepam, clonazepam, nitrazepam, oxazepam, buprenorphine, GHB, methadone, ketamine, cocaine, morphine, zolpidem and zopiclone. The safety margins for these drugs were in the range 34–41%.

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