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Study of ER visits finds link between alcohol-related injuries and early death


Photo: NilsBV/iStockphoto

Piscataway, NJ — A recent study of hospital ER patients found that those who were under the influence of alcohol when they were injured had a fivefold increased risk of dying within the next year.

“Injuries associated with alcohol use disorders are a public health problem in their own right, but now we know that they’re also associated with a substantially increased risk of death,” said lead study author Sidra Goldman-Mellor, from the Department of Public Health at the University of California, Merced.

Goldman-Mellor and her colleagues looked at roughly 10 million ER visits that took place in California between 2009 and 2012. Of those, more than 262,000 involved a nonfatal injury and either an alcohol use disorder diagnosis or intoxication at the time of the injury.

After a one-year follow-up, more than 13,000 of the patients who came to the ER with a nonfatal injury and either were intoxicated while injured or had an alcohol use disorder had died. Compared with the rest of California’s population and matched with the same demographics, the patients were five times more likely to have died within 12 months.

“Most people who struggle with alcohol misuse don’t get the help they need.” Goldman-Mellor said. “Hopefully, studies like ours can be used to increase resources for getting all such patients connected with comprehensive care, both for their substance use and general health.”

If you or someone you know is struggling with alcohol or other substances, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has a helpline at (800) 662-HELP (4357).

The study was published online in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

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