Alcohol, tobacco, and drug use among emergency department patients. Academic Article uri icon


  • The prevalence of alcohol, tobacco, and other drug (ATOD) use among emergency department (ED) patients is high and many of these patients have unrecognized and unmet substance use treatment needs. Identification of patients in the ED with problem substance use is not routine at this time.We examined screening data, including standardized measures of ATOD use (HSI, AUDIT-C, DAST-10), from 14,866 ED patients in six hospitals across the United States. We expected younger age, male gender, higher triage acuity, and other substance use severity (ATOD) to be associated both with use versus abstinence and with severity of each substance use type. We used negative binomial hurdle models to examine the association between covariates and (1) substance use versus abstinence (logistic submodel) and with (2) severity among those who used substances (count submodel).Rates of use and problem use in our sample were similar to or higher than other ED samples. Younger patients and males were more likely to use ATOD, but the association of age and gender with severity varied across substances. Triage level was a poor predictor of substance use severity. Alcohol, tobacco, and drug use were significantly associated with using other substances and severity of other substance use.Better understanding of the demographic correlates of ATOD use and severity and the patterns of comorbidity among classes of substance can inform the design of optimal screening and brief intervention procedures addressing ATOD use among ED patients. Tobacco may be an especially useful predictor.Copyright © 2014. Published by Elsevier Ireland Ltd.

publication date

  • May 2014