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Multiple hospital presentations by adolescents who use alcohol or other drugs

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To investigate ‘all cause’ and the subset of ‘alcohol or other drug’ (AOD) related hospital emergency department (ED) presentations over 12 months by adolescents with a previously identified AOD ED presentation. Design and setting

A retrospective review of medical records in four metropolitan hospitals in Perth, Australia. Participants

One hundred and fifty-two adolescents (13–19 years) identified during a previous 4-week study. The median age was 17.5 (interquartile range (IQR) 16–19); 61 (40%) were female. Method

Medical records were reviewed for the 6 months either side of a previously identified index AOD presentation. Hospital events in this period were collapsed as ‘all cause’ morbidity with a subclassification of AOD related. Findings

Over half (n=87, 57%) had no additional hospital events and 10 (7%) had only ‘follow-up’ treatment for their index event. The drug identified for both these groups was primarily alcohol or alcohol plus other drugs compared with mainly heroin or prescription drugs for those with multiple presentations. There were 55 (36%) adolescents who had 236 presentations, including 39 with 147 AOD presentations: six polydrug users accounted for 47% of multiple presentations. Polydrug users had more ‘all cause’ and AOD presentations (Mann–Whitney U=168.5, P < 0.001) than single drug users, as did ‘heroin users’ compared with other AOD users (U=177.5, P < 0.001). There were no significant gender differences in the total number of ‘all cause’ or AOD presentations. Conclusions

Alcohol users were the largest group at index presentation, but accounted for few of the presentations over 12 months. Polydrug users typically had multiple presentations and may benefit from additional non-medical hospital support. A more labour-intensive and structured approach might help the small number of polydrug users who accounted for a large proportion of repeat presentations over the 12-month period.

Keywords: Adolescent; alcohol; heroin; hospital admission; poly-drug

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Science, QE II Medical Centre, Nedlands, Western Australia , 2: Adolescent Services, Princess Margaret Hospital For Children, Subiaco, Western Australia 3: Emergency Medicine, Fremantle Hospital, Fremantle, Western Australia

Publication date: October 1, 2002

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