Emergency Department Visits for Adverse Drug Reactions Involving Alcohol: United States, 2005 to 2011

I. Jen P. Castle, Chuanhui Dong, Sarah P. Haughwout, Aaron M. White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background: Alcohol consumption may interfere with absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion of medications and increase risk of adverse drug reactions (ADR). Studies report increasing prescription medication use over time, with many U.S. drinkers using alcohol-interactive medication. This study identified trends in incidence of U.S. emergency department (ED) visits for ADR with alcohol involvement (ADR-A), compared characteristics and disposition between ADR-A visits and ADR visits without alcohol involvement (ADR-NA), and examined frequency of implicated medications in such visits for 2005 to 2011. Methods: ADR visits were identified through the Drug Abuse Warning Network, a national surveillance system monitoring drug-related ED visits. Analysis accounted for sampling design effects and sampling weights. Estimates are presented for totals (ages 12+), age group, and/or sex. Trends were assessed by joinpoint log-linear regression. Differences between ADR-A and ADR-NA visits were compared using two-tailed Rao–Scott chi-square tests. Results: From 2005 to 2011, incidence of ADR-A visits increased for males and females ages 21 to 34 and females ages 55+. An average of 25,303 ADR-A visits ages 12+ occurred annually. Compared with ADR-NA visits, ADR-A visits were more likely to involve males, patients ages 21 to 54, and 2+ implicated drugs. Alcohol involvement increased odds of more serious outcomes from ADR visits. Central nervous system (CNS) agents were the most common medications in ADR-A visits (59.1%), with nearly half being analgesics (mainly opioid). About 13.8% of ADR-A visits involved psychotherapeutic agents, including antidepressants. Besides CNS and psychotherapeutic agents, ADR-A visits involved a higher percentage of genitourinary-tract agents (mainly for impotence) than ADR-NA visits. Sex and age variations were observed with certain implicated medications. Conclusions: ED visits for alcohol–drug interactions can be prevented by avoiding alcohol when taking alcohol-interactive medications. Our results underscore the need for healthcare professionals to routinely ask patients about alcohol consumption and warn of ADR risks before prescribing and dispensing alcohol-interactive medications.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1913-1925
Number of pages13
JournalAlcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


  • Adverse Drug Reactions
  • Age Differences
  • Alcohol
  • Emergency Department Visits
  • Sex Differences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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