Alcohol related ER visits on the rise especially among women, finds study
By Dr. Ananya Mandal, MD
January 11, 2018
According to a recent study, there is a steady rise in the number of individuals visiting the emergency rooms due to complications and problems associated with alcohol consumption over the last few years. The results of the new study appeared in the latest issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.
The study shows that while most Americans drink moderately and safely, there has been a steady rise in the emergency room visits which were 61 percent more in 2014 compared to 2006. The reason for this rise over the past decade is unclear say researchers. Aaron M. White, neuroscientist working at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and co-author on the study said that this trend was alarming. He added that there has been an increase of a mere 2 percent in the per capita alcohol consumption over this period of time. In all there has been an 8 percent rise in the number of emergency room visits for this as well as other reasons. The steep rise in the alcohol related ER visits that was 3 million in 2006 and 5 million in 2014 thus remains unexplained.
White explains that the reason that best suits this picture is the possibility that there is a rise in risky consumption of alcohol among a significant population. This could be the reason why there is little rise in per capita consumption of alcohol but such high numbers of emergencies. There is in addition no increase in incidences of binge drinking nationwide he said. For this study the team of researchers looked at information from 30 million visits to the emergency departments annually in the hospitals. It covered 945 hospitals from 33 states and Washington, D.C.
The study found that long term or chronic alcohol consumption had risen by 75.7 percent in the study period. Thus there is also a rise in the number of chronic ailments related to alcohol consumption. Episodes of accidents and other health problems associated with binge drinking and drinking in a short span of time has also risen by 51.5 percent.
The study also revealed that more and more women are visiting the ERs for alcohol related problems such as drunk driving, binge drinking, withdrawal symptoms and also results of chronic and long term alcohol use such as cirrhosis of liver, pancreatitis etc. The number of men attending ERs for these reasons were higher but the gender gap is slowly closing says White.
Studies have shown that excessive drinking raises healthcare costs in more ways than one. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC, there are 88,129 deaths yearly in the United States that has been a result of excessive drinking between 2006 and 2010. According to White, these numbers are 10 percent of all the deaths seen among adults in the working age range. However some statistics have shown an increasing awareness regarding alcohol consumption and its association with cancers and other health problems among the youth. This could be used to the advantage of the healthcare system by mass campaigns and messages to the public feel experts.