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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Patient Characteristics and Patterns of Intoxication: One-Time and Repeated Use of Emergency Ambulance Services

The aim of this study was to investigate the utilization of ambulance services that resulted from alcohol and drug intoxication over a period of 1 year in a metropolitan area, with an emphasis on characteristic differences between patients with one-time versus repeated use.

All ambulance-service report forms filed in 2010 were systematically screened for utilizations in which alcohol intoxication or intoxication resulting from consumption of illicit or legal drugs other than alcohol was the chief complaint (N = 2,341 patients; 65% male).

Repeat users differed from persons with one-time use in their characteristics and patterns of intoxication. On average, patients with repeated ambulance use were almost 8 years older and had a different pattern of ambulance use over the course of the week with no clear peak on any specific day. The mean number of ambulance services in patients with repeated use was 2.8 (SD = 1.517) in the 1-year study period. Repeat users were less likely to be injured than patients with one-time ambulance-service use and more often showed aggression or uncooperative behavior toward paramedics. All cases of death associated with intoxication involved patients with one-time ambulance use. 
The ambulance-service users' generally slight impairment of consciousness and the high proportion of intoxicated patients without any injuries raise the question of how many of these patients could be adequately cared for in a sobering center. Sobering centers might relieve hospital emergency departments of patients not requiring acute emergency care and, in addition, could provide intervention services to prevent relapses.

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