Dr. Roxanne Dryden-Edwards is an adult, child, and adolescent psychiatrist. She is a former Chair of the Committee on Developmental Disabilities for the American Psychiatric Association, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, and Medical Director of the National Center for Children and Families in Bethesda, Maryland.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
The diagnosis is based on findings from your medical history, examination, and any lab tests performed.
In acute ingestions, the diagnosis is often obvious because you or your family can tell the doctor exactly what was taken.
The diagnosis of chronic drug abuse can be much more difficult because an abuser and his or her family often try to cover up or hide what is going on.
The emergency department workup of any possible toxic drug overdose consists of an initial evaluation. Doctors will assess how well you are breathing. The rest of the workup depends on you and your symptoms. The physician will ask about many of the signs and symptoms. Unless you are willing to admit that you are abusing benzodiazepines or family members are present to help with the history, it is easy for you to cover up drug abuse.
Monitoring and testing
In the emergency department, you will usually be placed on a monitor that
follows heart rate, blood pressure, and pulse oximetry. An IV line will be started. Oxygen is given if you are short of breath or have a reduced level of consciousness.
Urine drug screens are sometimes performed. These lab tests can detect many of the commonly abused drugs, including benzodiazepines (but may not be able to discover them all). The urine drug screens do not, however, reveal a specific level or amount of the drug taken. Urine is also usually tested for pregnancy in all females of childbearing age.
Blood samples, ECGs, and chest X-rays may be obtained if there is concern that you may have taken other dangerous drugs.