Background: The long-term psychosocial development of adolescents admitted to in-patient treatment with alcohol intoxication (AIA) is largely unknown.
Methods: We invited all 1603 AIAs and 641 age- and sex-matched controls, who had been hospitalized in one of five pediatric departments between 2000 and 2007, to participate in a telephone interview. 277 cases of AIA and 116 controls (mean age 24.2 years (SD 2.2); 46% female) could be studied 5-13 years (mean 8.3, SD 2.3) after the event. The control group consisted of subjects who were admitted due to conditions other than alcohol intoxication. Blood alcohol concentration on admission was systematically measured in the AIA but, owing to the retrospective study design, not in the control group. Subtle alcohol intoxication could therefore not be entirely ruled out in the control group. Long-term outcome measures included current DSM-5 alcohol use disorders (AUD), drinking patterns, illicit substance use, regular smoking, general life satisfaction, use of mental health treatment, and delinquency.
Results: AIA had a significantly elevated risk to engage in problematic habitual alcohol use, to exhibit delinquent behaviors, and to use illicit substances in young adulthood compared to the control group. Severe AUD also occurred considerably more often in the AIA than the control group.
Conclusions: In the majority of AIAs, further development until their mid-twenties appears to be unremarkable. However, their risk to develop severe AUD and other problematic outcomes is significantly increased. This finding calls for a diagnostic instrument distinguishing between high- and low-risk AIAs already in the emergency room.
Keywords: Adolescence; Alcohol; Alcohol intoxication; Alcohol use disorder; Hospital admission.
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