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Alcohol-related ER visits up 60 percent over 8 years, study shows

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Bethesda, MD — Alcohol-related emergency rooms visits surged by more than 60 percent over a recent eight-year period – with women and 45- to 64-year-olds experiencing the largest increases – according to a study from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Researchers looked at data from 945 hospitals in 33 states and the District of Columbia. They found that, between 2006 and 2014, the number of visits jumped to nearly 5 million from around 3.1 million – an increase of approximately 61 percent.

“During the study period, the number of people in the United States who drank alcohol and the total amount of alcohol consumed each year remained about the same,” Aaron White, lead researcher and senior scientific advisor to NIAAA Director George F. Koob, said in a Jan. 12 press release. “We suspect the increase in [ER] visits is related to an increase in the intensity of alcohol use among a subset of drinkers.”

Women had a larger annual percentage increase than men in numbers of ER visits (5.3 vs. 4.0), as well as a higher annual rate of increased visits related to chronic misuse of alcohol (6.9 percent to 4.5 percent).

“This trend is concerning given that females appear to be more susceptible to some of the detrimental health effects of alcohol,” White said.

Among age groups, researchers found the steepest rise in ER visits for both men and women – including visits related to chronic alcohol misuse – occurred among people between the ages of 45 and 64.

“These findings highlight the growing burden of acute and chronic alcohol misuse on public health and underscore the opportunity for health care providers to conduct evidence-based interventions, ranging from brief interventions to referral to treatment, during alcohol-related [ER] visits,” the release states.

The study was published Jan. 2 in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

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