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Healthy People 2010 - With Annotations

Chapter 26

Adverse Consequences of Substance Use and Abuse

26-5. (Developmental) Reduce alcohol-related hospital emergency department visits.

Potential data source:
National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS), CDC, NCHS.

Alcohol consumption is associated with a wide range of events that can result in ED visits -- among them, traffic crashes, violence, and alcohol poisoning. In 1996, alcohol-related hospital ED visits (2.2 million) accounted for 2.4 percent of all ED visits.67 Visits related to both alcohol and drugs accounted for an additional 0.4 percent. However, these figures, based on a national probability survey of hospital EDs, are probably underestimates since information on alcohol involvement often is missing from ED medical records.(67)

An analysis of 1995 data from the same survey found that alcohol-related visits are 1.6 times as likely as other ED visits to be injury related; in 20 percent of alcohol-related visits, the principal diagnosis is alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence.(68) Other studies, based on smaller samples and different measures of alcohol involvement, suggest a large proportion of young persons and trauma victims are intoxicated when they visit the ED.(69, 70, 71)

Screening for alcohol problems in the ED offers an opportunity for early intervention and appropriate referral of patients and may reduce subsequent illness, injury, and death.(72) Policy measures that reduce specific alcohol-related problems(11) -- for example, traffic crashes or violence -- also may help reduce alcohol-related ED visits.

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Last modified: 15-Mar-2000.