JOURNAL ARTICLE

Substance misuse, anxiety and depression and urgency of presentation to a public emergency department in Australia

Stuart A Kinner, Rosa Alati, Kerrianne Watt, Jake M Najman, Greg Fowler, David Green
Emergency Medicine Australasia: EMA 2005, 17 (4): 363-70
16091099

OBJECTIVES: To establish the prevalence and comorbidity of substance-related problems and anxiety and depression, among ED presentations, and to compare the prevalence of these conditions among more and less urgent presentations.

DESIGN AND SETTING: Cross-sectional survey of ED presentations over a 14 day period (24 h/day) at the Gold Coast Hospital Emergency Department in south-east Queensland, Australia, in October 2002.

MEASURES: Usual level of alcohol consumption (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test), acute alcohol and illicit drug use (during 24 h prior to interview), symptoms of anxiety and depression (Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale) and triage category (Australasian Triage Scale).

RESULTS: Thirty-one per cent of the sample reported usually consuming alcohol at a hazardous or harmful level. Twenty per cent of participants reported clinically significant levels of anxiety and/or depression, which were in turn significantly associated with hazardous and harmful levels of alcohol use. Hazardous/harmful alcohol consumption was over-represented among less urgent ED presentations, whereas anxiety and depression were more prevalent among more urgent ED presentations.

CONCLUSIONS: Emergency departments in Australia are appropriate settings for the detection of both substance use and mental health problems in the wider community. The prevalence of these problems in ED settings is high and there is a need for the development of systematic screening and referral processes. The evidence of a link between urgency of presentation and these problems needs to be further explored.

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