Thursday, January 06, 2005

Coma Photos as Deterent Down Under

Hospital and police officials in Australia have come up with a great idea that I hope will help convince users of designer drugs to change their ways before it's too late. From the Sunday Mail:

ILLICIT drug users who overdose are being given photographs of themselves taken while they are in a coma as a shock reminder of their brush with death.

Royal Adelaide Hospital is giving users the photos to emphasise the danger of taking drugs such as heroin and fantasy (GHB).

RAH research fellow Dr David Caldicott said doctors now frequently took photographs to show patients "how close they came to dying".

"Some people crunch (the image) up and and throw it out but I'm sure none of them forget what it looks like," he said.

"Some people cry and some people sit there and stare at it for a while.

"Some are out in the community talking to their mates saying 'You shouldn't be using (drugs)' and 'This happened to me and this is my picture'.

"It has quite a dramatic effect on them.

"There's nothing that can scare them as much as waking up out of a coma."

The digital images, which doctors delete after printing, also prove to users that they overdosed and did not simply fall asleep, he said.

"It's a tough message, but it's one this group needs to have given to them," Dr Caldicott said.

He said more doctors at the RAH now used the tactic and he had "photographed between 50 and 100 people" since 2000, before the practice became more common.

"I have never seen anyone else doing it (at other hospitals)," he said.

Doctors take photographs only if it appears certain the patient is going to wake from the coma.

Each year, the RAH treats up to 70 people who recover from a comatose state after overdosing.

Overdose patients are dangerously comatose and measure below eight in the Glasgow Coma Score - a 15-point scale for assessing eye, verbal and nerve responses.

All require treatment in an intensive care unit.

SA Ambulance officers transport about 1400 drug overdose cases annually. About 700 more are taken to Adelaide hospitals by other means.

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