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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Brown: Prevalence of Risky Substance Use by Injured Emergency Department Patients

Risky substance use is common among injured emergency department patients, according to a new study by researchers at Brown and Northeastern.

The emergency department is an opportune setting for identifying patients with substance use problems; emergency department patients have higher rates of alcohol and drug use than the general population, with injured patients in particular reporting increased rates of alcohol misuse. However, the assessment of substance use among emergency department patients has been plagued by heterogeneous measurement.

The purpose of this study, led by Ms. Valerie Strezsak, doctoral candidate in the department of epidemiology, was to describe the prevalence of substance use among injured emergency department patients, and assess the feasibility to using the Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST), developed by the World Health Organization, as a tool in this setting. Injured emergency department patients from a Level I trauma center and an academic community hospital completed the ASSIST on a tablet computer during their visit. Overall, 51 percent of participants reported moderate- or high-risk use of at least one substance, indicating the need for a treatment intervention. High-risk use was reported by 10 percent of patients at the trauma center and 9 percent at the community hospital. Tobacco use was reported most commonly among the high-, moderate-, and low-risk groups, followed by alcohol and cannabis.

The results of this study, published in Western Journal of Emergency Medicine, suggest risky substance use among injured emergency department patients is higher than previous estimates, and that the ASSIST tool is a feasible way of assessing the prevalence of risky substance use in this setting.