Rampant Alcohol Abuse making Emergency Departments Work Round the Clock

In an article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) there has been an alarming increase in emergency departments (ED) visits associated with the use and/or abuse of alcohol.

Statistically, the departments have seen a 175% increase in patients aged between 25 and 29.

The research, which was referenced in the article, has brought to light that alcohol-related cases outweigh any other use of the ED.

“These increases are consistent with data showing increasing average weekly alcohol consumption in Ontario and higher rates of binge drinking across Canada during the study period, particularly in women,” says co-author Dr. Daniel Myran, a physician and public health resident at the University of Ottawa, Ontario.

The research was carried out on around 750000 ED visits spread over 13 years. Out of the 750000 visits, about 500000 pertained to alcohol use.

A more interesting fact was that out of the half a million population of Ontario that was studied 32% were women under the age of 30.

The study provided a lot of information which will enable the concerned authorities to take preventive measures. Some of the findings showed that

  •   More than 17% of the women who frequented the ED were under the legal drinking age in Ontario. i.e. 19 yrs.
  •   The 17% is a significant value as compared to men as only 9% of the total men were under the 19-year-old mark.
  •   Between 2003 and 2016 alcohol-related visits increased 240% in women (aged 25-29) and 145% in men (aged 25-29).
  •   The ages of 90% of the women who frequented the ED were between 15 and 24. On the other hand, the modal age of the male patients was between 45-54.

Aside from the statistical analysis of the patient ages, the financial background of the patients exhibited a pattern as well.

Localities falling under the lower income slab seemed more plagued with alcohol abuse than their higher-income bracket counterparts. This has provided the authorities with a direction as to which areas require the most attention.

“Since 2007, the rates of emergency department visits due to alcohol by women under legal drinking age has surpassed that of underage men. We need a better understanding of youth- and gender-specific risk factors for alcohol harms to curb these increases.”, says Dr. Daniel.

Dr. Daniel Myren, the lead author of this study, also serves as a family physician and is currently training at The Ottawa Hospital and Bruyère Research Institute in public health.

Before this study, independent studies have shown a 47% increase in alcohol-related ED visits in the US during 2006-2014 and more than 50% increase in England during 2002-2014.

The recent findings have further cemented the findings from the previous studies and have indicated that while the low-income groups have struggled with meeting their expenses their alcohol usage is off the charts and might be causing them financial distress both in the purchase of alcohol and the related health expenses afterward as shown by the records of the emergency departments.

The Canadian authorities have policies in place which have kept a check on the consumption of alcohol in low-income regions. These include prohibiting the sale of low-cost alcohol in various regions.

“There may be an increasing need for support and services for people, especially young people, with high-risk alcohol consumption, particularly in light of recent changes to how alcohol is sold in Ontario, including making alcohol cheaper and easier to purchase,” says Dr. Myran.

The Bruyère Research Institute has been doing wonders with their Big Data Research Program and the aforementioned research was part of their co-funded projects.

The other funds’ provider of the study was ICES, which is backed by the Ontario State Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

Dr. Sheryl Spithoff, an addiction medicine physician at Women’s College Hospital, Toronto, was available for comment. She said: “The federal and provincial governments should employ a public health approach to maximize benefits and minimize harms.

Spithoff added: “Alcohol should be available for sale only within licensed and strictly monitored facilities with limited hours. Taxes and price minimums should be used to reduce alcohol-related harms. The increase in tax revenues could be used to fund essential provincial programs.”

Adeena Tariq

Emma’s professional life has been mostly in hospital management, while studying international business in college. Of course, she now covers topics for us in health.

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