Methamphetamine use in trauma patients: a population-based study

J Am Coll Surg. 1999 Nov;189(5):442-9. doi: 10.1016/s1072-7515(99)00188-x.


Background: There are indications that methamphetamine production and illicit use are increasing. We investigated the epidemiology of methamphetamine use in trauma patients in an area of heavy methamphetamine prevalence.

Study design: This was a retrospective population-based review. We reviewed toxicology and alcohol test results in trauma patients admitted to the University of California, Davis, between 1989 and 1994 to the only trauma center serving a population of 1.1 million.

Results: Positive methamphetamine rates nearly doubled between 1989 (7.4%) and 1994 (13.4%), compared with a minimal increase in cocaine rates (5.8% to 6.2%) and a decrease in blood alcohol rates (43% to 35%). Methamphetamine-positive patients were most likely to be Caucasian or Hispanic; cocaine-positive patients were most likely to be African American. Methamphetamine-positive patients were most commonly injured in motor vehicle collisions or motorcycle collisions; cocaine-positive patients were most commonly injured by assaults, gunshot wounds, or stab wounds. Cocaine positivity and alcohol positivity predicted a decreased need for emergency surgery and cocaine positivity predicted a decreased need for admission to the ICU.

Conclusions: Methamphetamine use in trauma patients increased markedly in our region between 1989 and 1994, alcohol rates decreased, and cocaine rates remained unchanged. Methamphetamine-positive patients had mechanisms of injury similar to those of alcohol-positive patients, so injury prevention strategies for methamphetamine should be patterned after strategies designed for alcohol.

MeSH terms

  • Alcoholic Intoxication / diagnosis
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / epidemiology
  • Alcoholic Intoxication / ethnology
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / complications*
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Amphetamine-Related Disorders / ethnology
  • California / epidemiology
  • Central Nervous System Stimulants* / urine
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / complications
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / diagnosis
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Cocaine-Related Disorders / ethnology
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data
  • Ethanol / blood
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Methamphetamine* / urine
  • Multiple Trauma / complications*
  • Multiple Trauma / ethnology
  • Prevalence
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Substance Abuse Detection


  • Central Nervous System Stimulants
  • Ethanol
  • Methamphetamine