Newswise — While moderate drinking – up to one drink per day for women, two for men – can be part of a healthy lifestyle, excessive and chronic drinking can contribute to injury and disease. Each year, U.S. patients utilize emergency department (ED) services more than 130 million times, averaging nearly four visits per every 10 people. Alcohol-related injury and disease are commonly the cause of these visits. This study examined trends in ED visits that involved heavy and chronic drinking by age and gender between 2006 to 2014.

Researchers accessed data from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample (NEDS), a U.S. database representing 945 hospitals in 33 states and Washington, D.C. They assessed changes in the prevalence and rates of ED visits involving persons 12 years of age and older.

Drinking contributed to an increasing number of ED visits in the U.S. between 2006 to 2014, especially among females (5.3% vs 4.0% in males). The number of alcohol-related ED visits increased 61.6%, from 3,080,214 to 4,976,136, and the total cost of such visits increased 272% from $4.1 billion to $15.3 billion. Given the greater burden of alcohol-related ED use and its associated costs – particularly within the age group of 45–54 years for both males and females – the authors called for a greater use of evidence-based interventions for patients who are in emergency situations.

Journal Link: Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research