Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Most teens who come to the ER have used drugs. A new study, reported in Yahoo! Health, finds that some 40% of teenagers treated for injuries an a hospital emergency room had traces of alcohol or illegal drugs in their blood. Based on this high rate of substance abuse, the researchers recommend that all young people treated for traumatic injuries be given drug tests. According to the news story

The team at the University of Michigan Health System studied 443 patients aged 14 to 17 who were admitted to the University of Michigan's hospital for treatment of a severe injury between 1999 and 2003.

They found nearly 40 percent tested positive for something they should not have been using -- 29 percent of them for opiates such as opium or heroin, 11.2 percent for alcohol, and 20 percent for marijuana.

"The two major preventable health issues facing adolescents are injuries that result in death or disability, and lifestyle choices that have long-term, adverse health consequences," said Dr. Peter Ehrlich, who led the study.

"To help alter this risk-taking behavior, it is essential that drug testing and brief substance abuse intervention programs be included in the treatment of all injured adolescents," Ehrlich said in a statement.

Speaking as a healthcare marketing consultant, I can say that as a public policy idea, this recommendation is not going to be implemented any time soon. Hospital executives, already saddled with a lot of unreimbursed care, are not going to administer another test. Still, the study is valuable in pointing out the number one danger facing our teens: drug and alcohol use. If you haven't educated your teen about this issue, buying him a "tracking" cell phone (reviewed in an earlier post) won't help.


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    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 7:18 PM  

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