1. This study found that unhealthy alcohol use was relatively common in the general emergency department patient population at Highland Hospital, Oakland, California.
2. Furthermore, those with unhealthy alcohol use also had higher rates of unstable housing, illicit drug use, prescription drug misuse.
Evidence Rating Level: 2 (Good)
Unhealthy alcohol use (UAU) is common in the United States and has cost the American health system billions of dollars in emergency department (ED) visits and hospitalizations every year. Previous research has suggested that interventions for UAU in the ED can be effective for reducing alcohol use in these patients. There is great interest in further developing these interventions. However, there is a paucity in research regarding the social context and factors influencing ED patients and AUA.
This study was a cross sectional study of ED patients at Highland Hospital, a safety-net ED located in Oakland, California, that is classified as a Level 1 Trauma Center. All patients who spoke English or Spanish and were willing to participate were included (n=2357). Patients were excluded if they were unresponsive or unstable. In the survey, patients were asked questions about alcohol habits and various social context questions, for example whether they were homeless or had unstable housing.
Results showed that amongst 758 patients who completed the survey, 296 patients (39%) screened positive for UAU. Compared to patients without UAU, patients with UAU were more likely to be homeless and have unstable housing. Patients with UAU also reported higher levels of stress, higher rates of illicit drug use, and prescription drug misuse. However, this study was limited as it focused on one safety-net ED located in an area with high rates of homelessness, which may not be generalizable to the larger population. Nonetheless, this study was significant in suggesting that UAU is common in the general ED population and may be associated with other social factors.
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