Outcomes for older trauma patients in the emergency department screening positive for alcohol, cocaine, or marijuana use

Patrick M. Lank*, Marie L. Crandall

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Background: Substance use among older adults is an increasing concern, with the prevalence of substance use in older populations expected to double in the next decade. Drug and alcohol use is associated with trauma risk and outcomes, but little is known about the specific risk for older trauma patients. Objectives: To evaluate the association between drug and alcohol use and trauma outcomes among adults aged 55 years and older. Methods: This retrospective observational study included older adults from the Illinois Trauma Registry between 1999 and 2009. Exclusion criteria were age younger than 55 years or absent date of birth, ethanol level, or urine drug screen (UDS). Alcohol intoxication was defined as ethanol level greater than 80 mg/dL. UDS was used to screen cocaine and marijuana use. Analyses, for both the alcohol and the marijuana/cocaine groups, compared outcomes for patients with negative vs. positive screens. Results: 21 320 patients were included in the alcohol analysis and 17 077 in the drug analysis. Compared to non-intoxicated patients, alcohol-intoxicated patients had significantly (p<0.001) lower in-hospital mortality, decreased ICU admission, decreased intubation rate, and shorter hospital length of stay. Patients screening positive for cocaine or marijuana had significantly longer lengths of stay with increased ICU admission compared with those who screened negative. Conclusion: Among older trauma patients, this study shows significant associations with multiple trauma outcomes, including one between elevated ethanol concentrations and improved outcomes. Future research into the causes of these findings could inform the care of older trauma patients and aid in prevention of injuries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-124
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Drug and Alcohol Abuse
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2014


  • Alcohol screening
  • Geriatrics
  • Older trauma patients
  • Substance abuse
  • Substance abuse in older patients
  • Trauma
  • Urine drug screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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