Skip to main content

Alcohol, drug misuse and suicide attempts: unrecognised causes of out of hospital cardiac arrests admitted to intensive care units



To assess the contribution of alcohol, drug abuse and suicide attempts to out of hospital cardiac arrests (OHCA) who are admitted to our intensive care unit (ICU).


Retrospective review of all OHCA admitted to the ICU over a 2-year period.


There were 26 OHCA. Six patients survived, all of whom had a cardiac aetiology for their arrest. Ten patients arrested due to external factors (drug misuse n = 4, alcohol excess n = 1, suicide attempts n = 4 and accidental choking n = 1). All of the patients who arrested secondary to external factors were young (37.2 ± 13.58 years), 90% were male and all died in hospital. All of the cases of drug misuse involved cocaine.


Alcohol, drug misuse and suicide attempts contribute significantly to the number of OHCA which are admitted to ICU. Moreover, cocaine usage has contributed to a number of OHCA in our study.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. 1.

    Eisenberg MS, Cummins RO, Larsen MP (1991) Numerators, denominators and survival rates: reporting survival from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest. Am J Emerg Med 9:544–546. doi:10.1016/0735-6757(91)90108-V

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  2. 2.

    Kuilman M, Bleeker JK, Hartman JA et al (1999) Long-term survival out-of-hospital cardiac arrest: an 8-year follow-up. Resuscitation 41:25–31. doi:10.1016/S0300-9572(99)00016-7

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  3. 3.

    Kuisma M, Alaspää A (1997) Out-of-hospital cardiac arrests of non-cardiac origin; Epidemiology and outcome. Eur Heart J 18(7):1122–1128

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. 4.

    Bottiger BW, Grabner C, Bauer H et al (1999) Long term outcome after out-of-hospital cardiac arrest with physician staffed emergency medical services: the Utstein style applied to a midsized urban/suburban area. Heart 82:674–679

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  5. 5.

    Hallstrom AP, Cobb LA, Swain M et al (1985) Predictors of hospital mortality after out-of-hospital cardiopulmonary resuscitation. Crit Care Med 13:927–929. doi:10.1097/00003246-198511000-00019

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  6. 6.

    Rewers M, Tilgreen RE, Crawford ME et al (2000) One-year survival after out-of-hospital cardiac arrest in Copenhagen according to the ‘Utstein style’. Resuscitation 47:137–146. doi:10.1016/S0300-9572(00)00211-2

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. 7.

    Health Research Board National Documentation Centre. accessed on 24 April 2008

  8. 8.

    Cummins RO, Chamberlain DA, Abramson NS, Allen M, Baskett PJ, Becker L et al (1991) Recommended guidelines for uniform reporting of data from out-of-hospital cardiac arrest: the Utstein Style. A statement for health professionals from a task force of the American Heart Association, the European Resuscitation Council, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada, and the Australian Resuscitation Council. Circulation 84:960–975

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. 9.

    Pell JP, Sirel JM, Marsden AK, Ford I, Walker NL, Cobbe SM (2003) Presentation, management and outcome of out of hospital cardiopulmonary arrest: comparison by underlying aetiology. Heart 89:839–842. doi:10.1136/heart.89.8.839

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. 10.

    Kuisma M, Suominen P, Korpela R (1995) Paediatric out of hospital cardiac arrests-epidemiology and outcome. Resuscitation 30:141–150. doi:10.1016/0300-9572(95)00888-Z

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. 11.

    Becker LB, Ostrander MP, Barrett J, Kondos GT (1991) Outcome of CPR in a large metropolitan area—where are the survivors? Ann Emerg Med 20:355–361. doi:10.1016/S0196-0644(05)81654-3

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. 12.

    Kuisma M, Maatta T (1996) Out-of-hospital cardiac arrests in Helsinki—Utstein style reporting. Heart 76:18–23. doi:10.1136/hrt.76.1.18

    PubMed  Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. 13.

    Silfvast T (1991) Causes of death in unsuccessful prehospital resuscitation. J Intern Med 229:331–335

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. 14.

    Preston KL, Epstein DH, Cone EJ et al (2002) Urinary elimination of cocaine metabolites in chronic cocaine users during cessation. J Anal Toxicol 26:393

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. 15.

    Cone EJ, Weddington WW Jr (1989) Prolonged occurrence of cocaine in human saliva and urine after chronic use. J Anal Toxicol 13:65

    PubMed  CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to A. M. McLaughlin.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

McLaughlin, A.M., Hardt, J., McKay, A.P. et al. Alcohol, drug misuse and suicide attempts: unrecognised causes of out of hospital cardiac arrests admitted to intensive care units. Ir J Med Sci 178, 29 (2009).

Download citation


  • Out of hospital cardiac arrest
  • Drug misuse
  • Suicide attempt
  • Intensive care unit
  • Cocaine
  • Alcohol