Medical Complications of Substance Abuse

  • Douglas Maxwell


Despite the efforts of regulatory agencies, the number of individuals abusing drugs, and the costs to society, continue to rise. In addition to the social and psychiatric complications which have been described in other sections of this book, substance abuse carries the risk of a number of potentially life-threatening medical hazards.

This chapter outlines the various ways drug abusers may present in a medical setting, and describes some of the health problems seen in such individuals, with particular attention to serious infections. Although medical complications are related more often to the style of abuse than to specific properties of the actual substance abused, the clinical features of three distinct categories of drugs of abuse—opiates, cocaine and volatile substances—are also discussed.


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© Macmillan Publishers Limited 1990

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  • Douglas Maxwell

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