Study Finds Widespread Drug Problems Among ER Patients

A University of Tennessee study reveals extensive alcohol and other drug problems among emergency-room patients, but most go undiagnosed.
The study, led by Dr. Ian Rockett, included 1,502 adults seeking emergency care at seven hospitals throughout Tennessee from June 1996 to January 1997. Patients were interviewed and underwent saliva and urine screenings. The research team found that 27 percent of the patients needed addiction treatment. However, a diagnosis of a drug-related problem was recorded in the charts of only 1.1 percent of the patients.On a larger scale, the researchers determined that 22 million patients, or one in every four entering emergency rooms in Tennessee, are dependent on drugs.

“I think people who work in emergency rooms are well aware that many patients have drug problems,” said Rockett, who is now with West Virginia University. “But I don’t think they are truly aware of the extent of it.”

source:Rockett, I., Putnam, S., Jia, H., & Smith, G. (2003) Assessing substance abuse treatment need:
A statewide hospital emergency department study. Annals of Emergency Medicine, 41(6): 818-826.

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