Objectives: To study the risk of non-fatal injury at low levels and moderate levels of alcohol consumption as well as the differences in risk across modes of injury and differences among alcoholics.
Methods: Data are from patients aged 18 years and older collected in 2001-02 by the WHO collaborative study on alcohol and injuries from 10 emergency departments around the world (n = 4320). We used a case-crossover method to compare the use of alcohol during the 6 hours prior to the injury with the use of alcohol during same day of the week in the previous week.
Findings: The risk of injury increased with consumption of a single drink (odds ratio (OR) = 3.3; 95% confidence interval = 1.9-5.7), and there was a 10-fold increase for participants who had consumed six or more drinks during the previous 6 hours. Participants who had sustained intentional injuries were at a higher risk than participants who had sustained unintentional injuries. Patients who had no symptoms of alcohol dependence had a higher OR.
Conclusion: Since low levels of drinking were associated with an increased risk of sustaining a non-fatal injury, and patients who are not dependent on alcohol may be at higher risk of becoming injured, comprehensive strategies for reducing harm should be implemented for all drinkers seen in emergency departments.