Friday, September 18, 2020

Researchers Warn of Post-Lockdown Influx of Alcohol-Related Emergencies Among Youth

Hospitals and emergency services should be prepared for a possible influx of adolescents and young adults with alcohol-related emergencies as their localities open up after COVID-19 lockdowns, suggests a study in the Journal of Adolescent Health. The study found that the proportion of alcohol-related emergency department (ED) visits to two Italian hospitals jumped for this population in the weeks following the end of this spring’s lockdown compared with the same time frame in 2019.

Veronica Grigoletto, M.D., of the University of Trieste and colleagues analyzed data on ED visits of patients aged 13 to 24 years that occurred during the following periods:

  • The last three weeks of lockdown, April 10, 2020, to May 3, 2020
  • The first three weeks after reopening, May 4, 2020, to May 27, 2020
  • April 10, 2019, to May 3, 2019
  • May 4, 2019, to May 27, 2019

When the researchers compared the number of ED visits by adolescents and young adults for the three weeks after reopening with that of the same time frame for 2019, they found that although the total number of ED visits in this age group was lower in 2020, a greater proportion of those visits were related to alcohol intoxication. From May 4 to May 27, 2019, 506 adolescents and young adults visited the ED, and 15 of those patients (2.96%) came because of alcohol abuse. In the three weeks after reopening in 2020, 221 patients in that age group visited the ED, and 25 of those patients (11.31%) came because of alcohol abuse.

“Considering that the reference population did not change and that other emergency facilities are not available in the area, these numbers seem to reflect an actual change in the relative impact of severe alcohol intoxication on ED arrivals,” the researchers wrote. They added that transitioning after lockdown “demands rapid adjustment and appropriate reintegration strategies, requiring mental skills that not everyone is able to implement.”

“Excesses belong to the typical pattern of behavior of adolescents and young adults, but to this extent, they may even result in life-threatening events,” they wrote. To that end, they suggested that both pediatric and adult services be prepared for a possible upswing in post-lockdown emergencies related to alcohol abuse.

For related information, see the Psychiatric News article “Pandemic Creates Challenges, New Opportunities for Treating Patients With Substance Use Disorder.”

(Image: iStock/MJFelt)


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