Can medical students identify recreational drugs by name?

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Recreational drug toxicity is a common reason for presentation to the Emergency Department. Knowledge of recreational drug names is important to allow targeted assessment of patients presenting with recreational drug toxicity.


To assess final year medical student knowledge of proper and street names for recreational drugs.


Questionnaire survey of final year medical students attending a revision lecture.


There were two questionnaires used in this study. The first contained either proper names of recreational drugs or names sounding similar to recreational drugs or licensed pharmaceutical products; students were asked to identify which of these were recreational drugs. The second contained street names of recreational drugs and the students were asked to identify which recreational drug the street name referred to.


One hundred and thirty-five students completed the questionnaire 1. The mean total score (±SD) of correct answers was 7.15 ± 2.26 (range 2–13) out of a maximum of 15. One hundred and fifteen students completed questionnaire 2. The mean total score (±SD) of correctly identified street names was 11.0 ± 2.6 (range 0–17) out of a maximum of 24. No individual student was able to correctly identify all the street names for the recreational drugs listed in the survey.


We have shown that final year medical students have variable knowledge of both the proper and street names of recreational drugs. There is a need for improved education of medical students in the names of recreational drugs and the sources of information available to assist them in identifying what drugs an individual has taken.

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