Prevalence of indications of alcohol and drug use among patients treated for injurious falls by Emergency Medical Services

medRxiv [Preprint]. 2024 Jun 3:2024.06.03.24308063. doi: 10.1101/2024.06.03.24308063.


Objective: To describe the distribution of alcohol and drug involvement in injurious falls by location and subtype of fall.

Methods: Using the 2019 National Emergency Medical Services Information System (NEMSIS) dataset we identified 1,854,909 patients injured from falls requiring an Emergency Medical Services (EMS) response and determined the fall location (e.g. indoors or on street/sidewalk) and the EMS clinician's notation of alcohol or drug involvement. We analyzed substance involvement by fall subtype, location of fall and patient demographics.

Results: Overall, for 7.4% of injurious falls there was a notation of substance use: 6.5% for alcohol alone, 0.6% for drugs and 0.3% for alcohol and drugs. 21.2% of falls that occurred on a street or sidewalk had a notation of substance use; alcohol use alone for 18.5% of falls, drugs alone for 1.7% of falls and alcohol and drugs for 0.9% of falls. Substance use prevalence was highest, at 30.3%, in the age group 21 to 64 years, for falls occurring on streets and sidewalks, without syncope or heat illness as contributing factors; alcohol use alone for 26.3%, drugs alone for 2.6%, and alcohol and drugs for 1.4%. Reported substance use involvement was more frequent for men compared to women for each location type.

Conclusions: Overall, 1-in-5 injurious falls on streets and sidewalks and requiring EMS attention involved substance use, and these numbers likely underestimate the true burden. As cities seek to expand nightlife districts, design strategies to protect pedestrians from falls should be enacted.

Publication types

  • Preprint