Methamphetamine-related psychiatric visits to an urban academic emergency department: An observational study

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Background: Methamphetamine, a stimulant of abuse, is associated with a significant number of Emergency Department (ED) visits. Methamphetamine use may produce psychiatric symptoms including acute psychosis, depression, and anxiety disorders. Study Objectives: To characterize psychiatric emergencies either directly or indirectly attributable to methamphetamine use in an urban academic ED. Methods: We analyzed a database of patients determined to have an ED visit that was either methamphetamine related or non-methamphetamine related. We retrospectively reviewed the records of the subset of ED visits from this database with psychiatric diagnoses. We compared the characteristics of patients with methamphetamine-related psychiatric visits (MRPVs) and non-methamphetamine-related psychiatric visits (non-MRPVs). Results: We identified 130 patients with MRPVs. This represented 7.6% (130 of 1709) of all psychiatric visits. Patients with MRPV, compared to non-MRPV patients, were younger (34.4 years vs. 39.1 years, respectively, p = 0.0005), more likely to be uninsured (55% vs. 37%, respectively, p = 0.001), and less likely to have a past history of depression (10% vs. 19%, respectively, p = 0.011). Many characteristics between the two groups (MRPV vs. non-MRPV) were similar: likelihood of patient being placed on a psychiatric hold; hospital charges; previous histories of psychiatric visits; and history of anxiety, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia. Conclusions: Methamphetamine may be related to a significant proportion (7.6%) of psychiatric ED visits. Furthermore, patients with methamphetamine-associated psychiatric visits are younger, have lower rates of depression, are more likely to be uninsured, and are less likely to have a substance abuse-related chief complaint than patients with non-methamphetamine- associated ED psychiatric visits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)136-142
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jul 2013


  • Emergency department
  • Methamphetamine
  • Psychiatric
  • Substance abuse

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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