Medication prescribing for alcohol use disorders during alcohol-related encounters in a Colorado regional healthcare system

Leela Chockalingam, Ellen L. Burnham, Sarah E. Jolley*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Rationale: Investigations show that medications for alcohol use disorders (MAUD) reduce heavy drinking and relapses. However, only 1.6% of individuals with alcohol use disorders (AUD) receive MAUD across care settings. The epidemiology of MAUD prescribing in the acute care setting is incompletely described. We hypothesized that MAUD would be under prescribed in inpatient acute care hospital settings compared to the outpatient, emergency department (ED), and inpatient substance use treatment settings. Methods: We evaluated electronic health record (EHR) data from adult patients with an International Classification of Diseases, 10th revision (ICD-10) alcohol-related diagnosis in the University of Colorado Health (UCHealth) system between January 1, 2016 and 31 December, 2019. Data from patients with an ICD-10 diagnosis code for opioid use disorder and those receiving MAUD prior to their first alcohol-related episode were excluded. The primary outcome was prescribing of MAUD, defined by prescription of naltrexone, acamprosate, and/or disulfiram. We performed bivariate and multivariate analyses to identify independent predictors of MAUD prescribing at UCHealth. Results: We identified 48,421 unique patients with 136,205 alcohol-related encounters at UCHealth. Encounters occurred in the ED (42%), inpatient acute care (17%), inpatient substance use treatment (18%), or outpatient primary care (12%) settings. Only 2270 (5%) patients received MAUD across all settings. Female sex and addiction medicine consults positively predicted MAUD prescribing. In contrast, encounters outside inpatient substance use treatment, Hispanic ethnicity, and black or non-white race were negative predictors of MAUD prescribing. Compared to inpatient substance use treatment, inpatient acute care hospitalizations for AUD was associated with a 93% reduced odds of receiving MAUD. Conclusions: AUD-related ED and inpatient acute care hospital encounters in our healthcare system were common. Nevertheless, prescriptions for MAUD were infrequent in this population, particularly in inpatient settings. Our findings suggest that the initiation of MAUD for patients with alcohol-related diagnoses in acute care settings deserves additional evaluation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1094-1102
Number of pages9
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • addiction medicine
  • health disparities
  • health services
  • naltrexone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Toxicology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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