A Single Drink Doubles the Odds of Ending Up in the Emergency Room: Study

Having even one drink doubles a person’s risk of ending up in the emergency room, according to an international study. A person who consumes three drinks in six hours is about 4.6 times as likely to end up in the ER compared with someone who hasn’t had any drinks.

A person who had 10 drinks in six hours was 10 times as likely to go to the ER, compared with someone who didn’t drink. The study included 13,000 people from 18 countries who were inebriated and went to the emergency room for an injury, according to The Washington Post.

Drinking increased the risk of injury in women more than in men, the study found. Increased drinking was more likely to lead to violence than to either traffic accidents or falls. The researchers found just one drink almost quadruples a person’s odds of getting into a fight and ending up in the hospital. The risk of injury from violence increases more quickly as the volume of alcohol consumed rises.

The findings appear in the journal Addiction.

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    Mark Nason

    November 14, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    This study has some useful data. However, concluding that even one drink doubles the risk for ending up in the ER is not an appropriate conclusion. In this study, the researchers used the people’s report of their own drinking the same time period during the week before the injury as the control. As the authors point out when discussing limitations on page 8 of the journal article, this study did not address “…the context of drinking in the injury event compared to the previous week.” Laboratory studies typically fail to find significant impairment until around a BAC of 0.04% (see, for example, Moskowitz, et al., 2000, page iii.), which few people would get close to after a single drink. Thus, it is likely that those who had injuries after they had a single drink were involved in riskier activities than they were the week before when they did not drink. It is important to not overstate risks; doing so can reduce the credibility of prevention efforts.

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