Guidelines and treatment for illicit drug related presentations in emergency departments: A scoping review

Ruby Tszwai Au, Elizabeth Hotham, Vijayaprakash Suppiah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: This review aimed to identify current pharmacological and non-pharmacological treatment employed in emergency departments (EDs) for the management of patients presenting with illicit drug-related presentations (IDP) and compare current treatments with recommendations provided in guidelines. Method: The review consists of English peer-reviewed journal articles and grey literature published in electronic databases: Ovid MEDLINE, PubMed, Embase Classic+Embase, Ovid Emcare and APA PsycInfo between 2015 and 2022. Results: Twelve studies were identified from the search, with agitation and aggression being the most common presentations, and cannabis being the most prevalent illicit drug. Ventilatory support and restraints were the most reported non-pharmacological interventions while benzodiazepines and antipsychotics were the most commonly prescribed pharmacological agents. Non-coercive de-escalation strategies were recommended in all guidelines, with verbal de-escalation being the initial approach before other interventions, such as medications and restraints. However, de-escalation strategies were not reported in any studies. Conclusions: Pharmacological interventions for patients with IDP and related symptoms were in accordance with guidelines. Use of restraints was identified in included studies with notable lack of reporting of de-escalation strategies which may have been deemed insignificant and not reported. Future research could investigate the appropriateness of restrictive interventions as well as the employment of non-restrictive de-escalation strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)625-634
Number of pages10
JournalAustralasian Psychiatry
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished or Issued - Oct 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • clinical guidelines
  • emergency department
  • illicit drug-induced psychosis
  • pharmacological treatment
  • psychotic disorders

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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