Characterising the number and type of presentations to a tertiary emergency department by young people affected by drugs and alcohol

Yusuf Nagree, Yusuf Nagree, Ben Darwent

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the frequency and type of emergency department (ED) presentations involving drugs and/or alcohol (DA) among young people. Methods: A retrospective chart review was conducted of patients aged 14-25 years who presented to the ED at a tertiary hospital between 7 October and 25 November 2013. Data were collected on standardised data sheets, including whether DA was a factor in the patient's presentation. Results: In all, 713 ED presentations of patients aged 14-25 years were included in this review (mean age 20 years). Of these, 94 (13%) presentations involved DA (median blood alcohol level 0.12% range 0.01-0.39%) among patients aged 14-17 years, 13 (8%) presentations involved DA. Patient presentations involving DA were more likely to occur overnight and at weekends, had higher Australasian Triage Scale scores and had longer ED lengths of stay. These patients were also more likely to present with aggression, because of an assault, or with mental health disorders. Conclusion: DA are involved in a substantial number of presentations of young people to the ED and are associated with an increased risk of assault and aggression. Public health strategies should target the links between DA use and mental health in young people. What is known about the topic already?: It is known that the use of alcohol and drugs in young people is an ongoing public health concern. Research suggests this cohort of the population is more likely to present to an ED with an injury than the comparative age group not intoxicated by drugs or alcohol, and is more likely to be reviewed after hours. Alcohol is the predominant drug that had been used by young people at the time of the present study. What does this paper add?: This paper reviews the number and types of presentations to a tertiary ED. In so doing, many more areas were researched (rather than simply link to injury) and, as a result, it was found that young people present to the ED with an increased risk of mental health issues and an increased risk of aggression. The study also found that young people intoxicated with DA most commonly presented for different reasons than the same sober cohort. What are the implications for practitioners?: We know that young people intoxicated with DA represent a different public health issue than the sample group, and, as a result, public health initiatives must concentrate on the confounding factors of the presenting complaint, notably education surrounding the risk of mental health disturbance and increased aggression rates. Furthermore, the study should benefit practitioners, showing that more mental health services should be available after hours for this cohort presenting with issues related to DA.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)637-641
Number of pages5
JournalAustralian Health Review
Issue number4
Early online date19 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020


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