From the category archives:

Drug Abuse

A word to the wise on your 21st birthday.

It is a time honored tradition for young people to celebrate their newly acquired drinking status by going out with their friends and drinking far more than they or their livers can handle. I have lost count of how many unfortunate 21 year olds I have seen in the sorry aftermath of their revelry. But I do know that young people who are extremely drunk are not funny or cute, despite what the movies would have us believe. ER nurses are never pleased when they have to take care of the ridiculously drunk young adult, because invariably they also must deal with vomit, urine, and attitude problems. Usually the patient has some relatively boisterous “friends” in tow, probably the characters that a few hours prior to arrival were shouting, “Drink, Drink, Drink!” But by far the biggest problem with the 21st birthday tradition is that people can get very sick or hurt from heavy drinking, especially if they are not used to it, and their friends are egging them on. I have treated patients with broken limbs, head injuries, dehydration, and even a fraternity member with hypothermia from being stranded outside by his brothers.

I recently treated a 21 year old who was already completely intoxicated when his friends encouraged him to gulp down a drink known as “Adios, Motherf—er.” The drink was so successful that he went into an unconscious state, and his friends ended up calling 911 when they could not revive him. He required IV fluids, and observation for several hours. His friends may have paid for the drinks, but I doubt seriously they picked up the ER tab. If you are about to turn 21 and are looking forward to a wild night with your friends, here’s my recommendation–pick your most responsible friend, ask him/her to watch out for you, and slide you into bed when you’ve had enough. Your brain and liver will thank you, and so will I.


Methamphetamines (aka Meth)
Drugs can make people do some amazing, incomprehensible things, and sometimes you don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
One night, a phone call was directed to the ER by the hospital operator, who said, “I don’t know who else can help these people.”
Not good.
The call was from two men sitting in the hospital parking lot in a car, and they were clearly distraught. They spoke very quickly and and hysterically. They stated that they were infected by some kind of bugs, and didn’t want to infect anyone else by coming inside.
I certainly appreciated their desire to not make anyone else ill, but explained there was very little we could do over the phone. They both agreed to come in eventually, but made us agree to wear protective gowns and masks. We were only too happy to comply.
When they stepped in through the ambulance doors, I could not believe my eyes. They were both wrapped head to toe in aluminum foil. Apparently they had decided that the foil would protect themselves and us from the “bugs.”
As it turned out, these men had been smoking methamphetamines for days on end. They had become very paranoid, and began picking at their skin, as methamphetamine users tend to do. Each person made the other more paranoid until they both were convinced that they were seeing bugs underneath their skin crawling around, which only made them pick and scratch more. They both were covered with many sores all over their skin from all the scratching. I sincerely wish that anyone considering meth use could have seen the sorry state of these unfortunate men. If that didn’t stop them from using meth, I’m not sure what would.