Rates and features of methamphetamine-related presentations to emergency departments: An integrative literature review

Rikki Jones1, Professor Kim  Usher1, Dr Cindy Woods1

1University of New England, Armidale, Australia

Background: Methamphetamine distribution and use has rapidly spread across Australia. As a result, the number of methamphetamine-related presentations to emergency departments (EDs) has also increased. In this context, it is timely to review the rate and features of methamphetamine-related presentations to facilitate the allocation of services, staff and resources to understand the impact of methamphetamine presentations on ED’s.

Aim: To present and review the available evidence related to the features and rates of methamphetamine-related presentations to EDs.

Method: A search was conducted of CINAHL, CINCH, EBSCO, ProQuest- health and medicine, and PubMed; databases using a combination of the search terms: “emergency department”; “methamphetamine-related”; “crystal meth or crystal methamphetamine”; “presentations”; “accident and emergency”; and, “drug-related”. Articles were measure against inclusion and exclusion criteria and subjected to quality appraisal.

Results: 27 articles were identified, 18 were excluded leaving 9 articles included in the final review. Methamphetamine accounted for less than 2.3% of all ED presentations. The majority of methamphetamine users presenting to EDs were Caucasian males, with a mean age 30-37. Methamphetamine-related presentations ED presentations were more likely to present with trauma, psychosis, and be placed on 24-hour psychiatric hold. Methamphetamine-related presentations were more likely to present with agitated, aggressive and homicidal behaviour and present to ED out of hours and accompanied by police compared with other ED presentations.

Conclusion: Several important themes were highlighted in this review that have an impact on ED services, resources and staff. Understanding the rate and patterns of methamphetamine-related presentations can help to provide evidence for health promotion and policy development in ED.


Rikki Jones is an experienced nurse who has worked in EDs, cheaters, and community health across rural and remote settings. She has worked in an educators role in a rural remote area before commencing in an academic position in the School of Health at UNE. She is currently enrolled in a MPhil by research at UNE and the focus of the study is ‘rates and patterns of methamphetamine-realted presentations to ED in QLD between 2010-2015’.