Alcohol and injuries: A review of international emergency room studies since 1995
This paper provides a review of emergency room (ER) studies on alcohol and injury, using representative probability samples of adult injury patients, and focuses on the scope and burden of the problem as measured by estimated blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of the ER visit, self-report drinking prior to injury, violence-related injury and alcohol use disorders. A computerized search of the English-language literature on MEDLINE, PsychINFO and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) Alcohol and Alcohol Problems Science Database (ETOH) was conducted for articles published between 1995 and 2005, using the following key descriptors: (1) emergency room/emergency department/accident and emergency, (2) alcohol/drinking and (3) injuries (intentional and unintentional). Findings support prior reviews, with injured patients more likely to be positive for BAC and report drinking prior to injury than non-injured, and with the magnitude of the association substantially increased for violence-related injuries compared to non-violence-related injuries. Indicators of alcohol use disorders did not show a strong association with injury. Findings were not homogeneous across studies, however, and contextual variables, including study-level detrimental drinking pattern, explained some of the variation. This review represents a broader range of ER studies than that reported previously, across both developed and developing countries, and has added to our knowledge base in relation to the influence of contextual variables on the alcohol-injury relationship. Future research on alcohol and injury should focus on obtaining representative samples of ER patients, with special attention to both acute and chronic alcohol use, and to organisational and socio-cultural variables that may influence findings across studies. In-depth patient interviews may also be useful for a better understanding of drinking in the injury event and associated circumstances.
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