Psychoactive substance (drugs and alcohol) use by Emergency Department patients before injury

Pleunie P. M. Rood*, Juanita A. Haagsma, Suzanne M. Boersma, Andrea Tancica, Esther M. M. Van Lieshout, Terrence Mulligan, Dike Van De Mheen, Ed F. Van Beeck, Peter Patka

*Corresponding author for this work

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Objective The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence and risk factors of alcohol, medication and illicit drug use before accidents in Emergency Department (ED)-treated trauma victims with internationally recommended methods to minimize registration bias. Patients and methods The study design was cross-sectional and was carried out at Erasmus Medical Centre in Rotterdam. Alcohol, psychoactive medication and illicit drug use were assessed in an interview by an independent researcher on the basis of the standardized WHO questionnaire. During 84 shifts, covering 4 weeks 24/7, data on a comprehensive population of ED-treated injury patients were collected prospectively. Results A total of 475 patients were included (response rate 87%). The prevalence of alcohol intoxication (defined as >= 3 U alcohol) before trauma was 19%. Alcohol-intoxicated trauma patients were significantly more often men [odds ratio (OR) 2.88, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.54-5.40], of Dutch descent (native) (OR 2.26, 95% CI 1.24-4.13), unemployed or students (OR 1.77, 95% CI 1.03-3.04), and alcohol intoxication decreased with age (OR 0.98, 95% CI 0.96-0.99). Psychoactive medication was used by 7% of ED trauma patients; increasing age (OR 1.05, 95% CI 1.03-1.07) and living alone (OR 2.4, 95% CI 1.04-5.52) were risk factors. Illicit drugs were used by 4% of trauma patients. Overall, 27% of patients were under the influence of at least one psychoactive substance. Conclusion Over a quarter of trauma patients visiting the ED had used alcohol, psychoactive medication and/or illicit drugs before their accident. By far, the majority of intoxications before trauma were because of alcohol (19%). We found higher prevalence rates of alcohol intoxication and lower prevalence rates for illicit drug use than others. Because of our comprehensive approach and high response rates, registration bias was minimized.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)147-154
JournalEuropean Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016


  • prevalence
  • intoxication
  • alcohol
  • Emergency Department
  • trauma

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