Emergency department presentation of opioid use disorder and alcohol use disorder

Imam Xierali, Philip Day, Kurt C. Kleinschmidt, Chance Strenth, F. David Schneider, Neelima J Kale

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Mixing alcohol and opioid prescription medications can have serious health consequences. This study examines demographic and geographic differences in opioid use disorders (OUD) and alcohol use disorders (AUD) in emergency department (ED) presentations in the state of Texas. Using all diagnosis codes, the study examined discharge records for ED visits related to AUD and OUD in Texas for 2017. The study classified visits into three mutually exclusive groups (AUD-only, OUD-only, and AUD/OUD) and reported the number of visits, fatalities, total charges, proportions, and rates per 100,000 population by patient demographic characteristics. Chi square statistics assessed the association between patient characteristics and ED visit type, and the study used analysis of variance to compare ED visit rates by patient demographics. The study also fitted a multinomial logistic regression w to predict ED visit type by patient demographic and geographic characteristics. There were 221,363 OUD and AUD ED visits from Texans in 2017. Among them, 3863 had both AUD and OUD. There were 2443 fatalities related to AUD-only ED visits, whereas this rate was 292 for OUD-only ED visits. The majority of these patients had Medicare and Medicaid. AUD-only ED visits were more prevalent (680.7 vs 112.5 per 100,000 population) and resulted in higher overall charges than OUD-only ED visits ($6.1 billion vs $1 billion in total charges). However, AUD/OUD ED visits resulted in higher total charges on average than either OUD-only or AUD-only ED visits. Compared to patients with outpatient discharge, patients with inpatient admissions were more likely to belong to the OUD-only visit group (OR = 1.20, 95% CI: 1.17–1.23) or the AUD/OUD visit group (OR = 2.44, 95% CI: 2.28–2.61) than to the AUD-only visit group. Compared to urban patients, rural patients were less likely to belong to OUD-related visit groups than the AUD-only visit group. In conclusions, AUD was more prevalent than OUD among ED visits and resulted in a higher number of fatalities and higher medical charges. Current health policy regarding substance use that is heavily tilted toward curbing the opioid crisis remains woefully tolerant to AUDs. While efforts to curb opioid misuse should continue, future efforts should raise awareness among ED providers of the disease burden of and social harms caused by alcoholism and alcohol addiction.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108343
JournalJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Alcohol use disorder
  • Emergency department visit
  • Fatality
  • Opioid use disorder
  • Texas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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