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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU Study Finds ER Visits Offer Opportunities to Treat Substance Use

Women of reproductive age who had substance use disorders were twice as likely to show up with injuries at Massachusetts emergency rooms, suggesting the need for screening and referrals for substance use as part of emergency department treatment protocols, according to a new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers.

Those findings, published in the journal Academic Emergency Medicine, were an offshoot of a primary study examining outcomes for Massachusetts women, ages 15 to 49, who were identified in hospital and other databases as having a substance use disorder (SUD), the diagnostic category that covers both significant substance abuse and dependence on alcohol and other drugs.

In the second study, the researchers sought to compare patterns of injury requiring ED visits among women with and without substance use disorders. They found that almost two-thirds of SUD-positive women had some type of injury, compared to 44.8 percent of SUD-negative women.

The numbers and proportions of motor vehicle incidents and falls were significantly higher in SUD-positive women, with the greatest differences in rates of self-inflicted injuries.

Injury rates were lowest for alcohol disorders only, and highest for alcohol and drug disorders combined. Among 33,600 women identified as using opioids, 6.3 percent presented to the ED with overdoses. Multiple overdose visits were common.

“Substance use disorder is a very important contributor to injury among women of childbearing age,” the researchers said. The strength of that association “suggests the importance of targeted screening for drug and alcohol use disorders when injured women present to the ED.”

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