A recent study by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) indicates that alcohol-related visits to emergency rooms in the U.S. increased by almost 50 percent from 2006 to 2014.
The research by the NIAAA, which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), found that ER visits related to alcohol in that nine-year period significantly increased, particularly among middle-age and older female drinkers.
“In just nine years, the number of people transported to the (ERs) annually for medical emergencies caused or exacerbated by alcohol increased from about 3 million to 5 million,” NIAAA Director George F. Koob said in a press release. “These findings are indicative of the detrimental effects that acute and chronic alcohol misuse have on public health, and the significant burden they place on our health care system.”
As part of the study, researchers examined trends in ER visits from the Nationwide Emergency Department Sample (NEDS), the largest ER database in the U.S., and looked at visits related to acute alcohol consumption and intoxication.
“During the study period, the number of people in the United States who drank alcohol and the total amount of alcohol consumed each year remained about the same,” Aaron White, the study's head researcher and scientific adviser to the NIAAA director, said in the release. “We suspect the increase in ... visits is related to an increase in the intensity of alcohol use among a subset of drinkers.”
While more men than women made alcohol-related visits to ERs during the study period, the rate of the visits increased more among females, the release said, with the increase in the rate of chronic alcohol misuse-related visits being more for women.
“Recent studies suggest that the drinking habits of females and males are becoming more similar in the United States,” White said in the release. “The larger increase in the rate of visits among females compared to males provides further evidence of narrowing gender gaps in alcohol use and related harms. This trend is concerning given that females appear to be more susceptible to some of the detrimental health effects of alcohol.”