Background: Although reports have documented alcohol and other drug use by trauma patients, no studies of long-term trends have been published. We assessed substance use trends in a large cohort of patients admitted to a regional Level I adult trauma center between July 1984 and June 2000.
Methods: Positive toxicology results, collected via retrospective database review, were analyzed for patients admitted directly to the center. Data were abstracted from a clinical toxicology database for 53,338 patients. Results were analyzed for alcohol, cocaine, and opiates relative to sex, age (< 40/> or = 40 years), and injury type (nonviolence/violence). Positive toxicology test result trends were assessed for the 3 years at the beginning and end of the period (chi2). Testing biases were assessed for sex, race, and injury type.
Results: The patient profile was as follows: men, 72%; age < 40 years, 69%; nonviolence victims, 77%. Alcohol-positive results decreased 37%, but cocaine-positive and opiate-positive results increased 212% and 543%, respectively (all p < 0.001). Cocaine-positive/opiate-positive results increased 152%/640% for nonviolence and 226%/258% for violence victims, respectively (all p < 0.001). In fiscal year 2000, cocaine-positive and opiate-positive results were highest among violence victims (27.4% for both drugs). Cocaine-positive and opiate-positive results among nonviolence victims were 9.4% and 17.6%, respectively. Patients who were minorities or victims of violence were not tested more frequently than other patients.
Conclusion: Epidemic increases in cocaine and opiate use were documented in all groups of trauma patients, with the greatest increases being in violence victims. Alcohol use decreased for all groups.