Persons with alcohol use disorders or those who enter the emergency room while inebriated have a higher risk of dying the following year than the general population.
People who visit the ER due to alcoholism usually have poorer overall health.
According to new research that examined more than 10 million California ER visits, people who go to the emergency room for treatment for an injury while intoxicated or suffering from an alcohol use disorder are five times more likely to pass away in the following year than people in the general population.
“In comparison to the reference population, 5 out of every 100 wounded patients who were inebriated or had an alcohol use disorder who presented to the emergency department passed away during the following year. That’s a significant difference, claims the study’s primary author, assistant professor Sidra Goldman-Mellor of the University of California, Merced’s department of public health. On December 12, the results were released in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.
According to Sarah Andrews, MD, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, “these findings are particularly concerning because we know that alcohol misuse has increased in the past few years, especially since the pandemic.” The current study did not include Dr. Andrews, a specialist in alcoholism.
Alcohol-related deaths increased by 25% in the first year of the pandemic.
An estimated 14.5 million Americans aged 12 and older have AUD, according to the 2019 U.S. National Survey on Drug Use and Health.
Alcohol-related mortality has been rising annually by roughly 2.2 percent since about 2000. However, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism reports that the number of patients with AUD increased by 25.5% between 2019 and 2020 (the first year of the pandemic), totaling over 99,000. (NIAAA).
Alcohol use disorder (AUD), sometimes known as alcoholism, is regarded as a medical problem. Even when their conduct severely impacts their relationships, career, and health, people with AUD cannot quit drinking heavily or frequently, according to the NIAAA.
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AUD is categorized as a neurological disorder and can range in severity from mild to severe. People are susceptible to relapsing because alcohol abuse causes long-lasting alterations in the brain that keep the illness alive.
The risk of numerous different types of injuries increases with alcohol use.
One of the reasons why Dr. Goldman-Mellor and her team did this study was the rise in drinking problems and the possible health problems that could come from it.
Injury is actually one of the most urgent risks of problematic drinking behavior, despite the fact that the average individual may not immediately notice the connection between alcohol consumption and getting wounded. If you stop to think about it, drunkenness makes things like vehicle accidents, falls, fights, and even self-harm more likely.
However, she claims that little is understood about what happens to those with alcohol use disorders after they have suffered a serious accident. The likelihood that they would die was the most crucial consequence that we needed to look into.
Five of the 100 injured ER patients who were drunk or had an alcohol use disorder died within a year.
The researchers used data from more than 10 million emergency department visits by Californians aged 10 and older between 2009 and 2012, totaling more than 10 million visits. Within that cohort, they located 262,222 individuals who either had an alcohol use disorder diagnosis or were under the influence when they suffered a nonfatal accident.
About 77 percent of these injuries were classified as unintentional. Another 13% of cases were brought on by physical violence, 8% by self-harm, and 2% by unidentified causes.
13,175 patients (or 5%) died within a year after their hospital admission, giving a death rate of roughly 5,205 per 100,000. After accounting for factors such as age, gender, race, and ethnicity, all of which are significant predictors of mortality risk, calculations showed that the figure is more than five times the death rate for the remainder of the California population.
“We were taken aback by the substantial increase in mortality that these injured patients with known alcohol use disorders were experiencing.” Although alcohol-related health problems are a public health issue, we now know that those who receive medical attention for them have a significantly increased risk of passing away within the following year.
Just one drink a day could hasten the aging of your brain.
Alcohol abuse and chronic illnesses likely contributed to the higher death rate.
Investigators were unable to look into what happened to the patients after they were released from the hospital, but they believe that many of them were already seriously ill when they first arrived at the ER and that their health continued to deteriorate after that.
According to Goldman-Mellor, “Many of these patients definitely must have had some form of chronic disease or long-standing health issues that no doubt contributed to their deaths, and it’s possible that their alcohol abuse contributed again.”
She says that doctors and nurses should know that these patients are more likely to die and take that into account when setting them up with long-term care, like follow-up on their other health problems or treatment for drug abuse.
Less than 1 in 10 alcohol abusers receive treatment.
According to Goldman-Mellor, “the majority of people who battle with alcohol misuse don’t obtain the care they need.” The NIAAA says that less than 10% of people with an alcohol use disorder in the past year get any kind of help.
“Most of the time, no one outside of the person’s close circle is aware that they are abusing alcohol.” They could refrain from discussing it with their physician or anyone else. The individual may not even be aware that their alcohol use is an issue, according to her.
Alcohol abuse must be recognized and discussed in the emergency room.
Although the emergency room can be highly busy and even chaotic at times, it is possible to handle alcohol abuse there, according to Andrews. “Since this is a problem, I do believe there should be a greater effort made to locate these people and attempt to provide assistance.” “I believe there is a duty to assist because, in many circumstances, that ER visit may be the last medical professional they see for the next few months or more,” the doctor says.
According to Andrews, over the past ten years, many (but not all) ERs have hired trained specialists who can carry out a quick intervention and assist people in finding care after they leave.
She advises healthcare professionals to inquire about alcohol usage at every ER visit and bring it up if necessary. “Patients might not be prepared to seek therapy at that time, but we can at least open the dialogue and inform them of the options that are available and how to use them when they are ready.”
According to Goldman-Mellor, emergency rooms can help connect patients with routine primary care for chronic diseases like heart disease, diabetes, and liver disease. “We hope that research like ours will enhance funding for comprehensive care for all of these individuals, including both treatment for substance use disorders and general healthcare,” she adds.
The dangers of heavy drinking for your health
According to the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, adult men should restrict their alcohol consumption to two drinks or less per day, while women should limit their intake to one drink per day. What does “one drink” actually mean? A typical American beverage has 1.2 tablespoons or 6 ounces of pure alcohol in it. In a 12-ounce beer with a 5-percent alcohol level, a 5-ounce glass of wine with 12-percent alcohol content, or a mixed drink with 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor, that much alcohol is normally present (such as vodka, tequila, or whiskey).
Heavy drinking and binge drinking are both considered excessive drinking in terms of health. Heavy drinking is described as consuming eight or more drinks per week for women and 15 or more drinks per week for men. Binge drinking is when you consume more than four (for women) or five (for men) drinks at one time. Alcohol abuse does not always imply excessive drinking.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the majority of people who drink excessively are not alcoholics or are addicted to alcohol (CDC).
But the FDA warns that drinking too much alcohol over time can cause health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease, liver disease, digestive problems, some types of cancer, dementia, and a weaker immune system.