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Racial variations in the incidence of severe alcohol withdrawal.

UNLABELLED: The use of race as a risk assessment tool and pharmacologic target has garnered recent attention and debate. It is currently unclear if a relationship between race and the development of severe alcohol withdrawal exists. We explored this potential relationship using several study groups.

METHODS: A simultaneous prospective enrollment of patients and retrospective chart review of severe alcohol withdrawal in two separate settings was performed comparing both the incidence of withdrawal and alcoholism based on race. These two study groups were then compared to an "at risk" group of alcoholics and the general ED population to determine differences in the distribution of race.

RESULTS: Individuals of white race in both study groups were at increased odds [OR 1.93 (CI 1.11-3.39) and 2.19 (CI 1.41-3.40)] of having severe alcohol withdrawal when compared to non-White "at risk" alcoholics. Blacks in both study groups however, appear to have lower odds [OR 0.23 (CI 0.11-0.47) and 0.11 (CI 0.05-0.23)] of having severe alcohol withdrawal when compared to non-Black "at risk" alcoholics.

CONCLUSIONS: Despite the controversial use of race in medical research and targeting therapies, there appears to be a difference in the odds of severe alcohol withdrawal based on race. The reasons for this finding are currently unclear.

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