Drug Abuse and Smoking Triple Amount of ER Visits

A new research study has shown that smoking and abusing drugs ends up leading to three times the normal visits to the emergency room every year. The study showed that smokers are four times as likely than non-smokers to frequent the emergency room. This is part of a study from Jessica Castner, a University of Buffalo emergency room utilization researcher.

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The research was looking at if people were replacing their normal doctors visits with visits to the emergency room. The research ended up finding that Americans who had chronic health problems used both their primary care physician and emergency room services almost equally within a year. The medical visits by people with chronic diseases has increased over the past few years, both to their normal doctor and to the emergency room. The biggest finding of the study was that people who abuse drugs and people who smoke, end up going to the emergency room more than any other groups, which obviously is costing a lot in terms of health care services provided.

The study is showing that while some people visit the emergency room for next to nothing in terms of medical issues, the majority of people are simply sicker than before, and that means they are using medical services more than before. So while at first glance it appeared that people were replacing their regular doctor with an emergency room visit, it ended up that people are visiting both, and this is especially true for people with chronic health conditions such as diabetes or heart failure. Castner’s research ended up getting her the 2015 Junior Doctoral Award in Health Systems and Informatics Research from the Midwest Nursing Research Society.

The findings of the study were published in Nursing Research easlier this year, which is an Eastern Nursing Research Society publication. The emergency room department could end up seeing more patients as more people become enrolled in Obamacare, which then will put more financial pressure on the overall healthcare system, insurance companies, and the patients. For this study, data was analyzed from the Department of Health from 2009, which included 56,000 people between the ages of 18 and 64 years. The people who were analyzed in the study used Medicaid to cover their medical expenses. These people were then divided up into four categories, such as healthy, at risk for chronic disease, diagnosed with chronic disease, and diagnosed with system failure.


When the results of the study were looked at, those people who had the chronic diseases were not the only group who wound up visiting the emergency room the most. Psychiatric illness as well as substance abuse ended up tripling the likelihood of someone making a visit to the emergency room more than three times a year. The people who are making more than three trips to the emergency room a year are called “frequent ER users” and smokers also were three times as likely to visit the emergency room than the non-smokers.

More research is going to be conducted on reanalyzing the use of the emergency room and then looking into specific diseases that land people in the emergency room the most. Researchers are hoping this study will help patients in terms of trying to prevent visits by taking better care of themselves. Since a lot of the people visiting the emergency room are drug abusers, the hope is also that more outreach can be done to help people with substance abuse issues. If there is more community outreach in helping people with substance abuse issues, then it can help lower the health care burden this group has on society as a whole, considering most of the substance abusers end up not having jobs or not having health insurance to cover their medical expenses.

The people who are mentally ill also need to be reached out to so that they don’t end up in the emergency room due to trying to harm themselves or someone else, so there is a lot of hope that this study can provide help to the groups at the highest risk of coming into the emergency room. If doctors can also provide treatment options or programs to these types of patients, it could also help decrease the odds of them being repeat emergency room visitors. The goal of this research started out as seeing if people were replacing their doctor for the emergency room, and it turned out that the researchers found more people are just chronically sicker than before, and this is going to lead to an overburden on the healthcare system.


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Jeanne Rose
Jeanne Rose lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, and has been a freelance writer since 2010. She took Allied Health in vocational school where she earned her CNA/PCA, and worked in a hospital for 3 years. Jeanne enjoys writing about science, health, politics, business, and other topics as well.

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