Methamphetamine-related emergency department utilization and cost

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45 Scopus citations


Objective: To quantify the frequency, cost, and characteristics associated with emergency department (ED) visits that are related to methamphetamine use. Methods: This was a prospective observational study. The authors performed a training program for ED clinicians on the acute and chronic effects of methamphetamine and the signs of methamphetamine abuse. A standardized two question survey was administered to clinicians concerning the relationship between the ED visit and the patient's methamphetamine use. The survey was embedded in the patient tracking system and was required for all ED patients before disposition. Survey results were merged with administrative data on demographics, diagnosis, disposition, and charges. Univariate analyses were used to determine patient characteristics associated with methamphetamine-related ED visits. Results: The authors examined 15,038 ED visits over a 20-week period from February 2006 to June 2006. There were a total of 353 methamphetamine- related visits, for an average of 17.65 visits per week (2.4% of all visits). Hospital charges for methamphetamine-related ED visits averaged $133,181 per week, for an estimated total of $6.9 M in annual charges. Methamphetamine-related ED patients were more likely to be male (odds ratio [OR] 1.6, 95% confidence interval [CI] = 1.30 to 2.01), white (OR 1.8, 95% CI = 1.38 to 2.29), and uninsured (OR 3.2, 95% CI = 2.21 to 4.69). The top four medical conditions associated with methamphetamine-related visits were mental health (18.7%), trauma (18.4%), skin infections (11.1%), and dental diagnoses (9.6%). Conclusions: Methamphetamine abuse accounts for a modest but substantial proportion of ED utilization and hospital cost. Methamphetamine-related ED visits are most commonly related to mental illness, trauma, skin, and dental-related problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)23-31
Number of pages9
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2008


  • Amphetamine
  • Cost
  • Cost analysis utilization
  • Emergency medicine
  • Methamphetamine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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