Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Meth Epidemic Drains Resources, Pushes Up Costs at Public EDs

Magazine article Clinical Psychiatry News

Meth Epidemic Drains Resources, Pushes Up Costs at Public EDs

Article excerpt

Asurvey from the National Association of Counties paints a bleak picture of the toll that methamphetamine abuse is taking on the nation's emergency departments, at least in public and regional hospitals.

The survey of 200 emergency department officials in 39 states found that 73% of emergency departments saw increases in ED visits involving methamphetamine in the last five years, including 94% of hospitals in counties with a population ranging from 50,000 to 100,000. In Nebraska alone, 94% of EDs reported that up to 10% of their visits involve methamphetamine abuse.

Methamphetamine was also the top illicit drug seen in presentations of emergency department patients, according to 47% of respondents. Marijuana came in a distant second, at 16%, followed closely by cocaine at 15%. On the issue of what EDs recommended for these patients upon discharge, 58% of respondents said they referred them to private treatment programs, 53% referred to hospital treatment programs, and 39% said they referred to county treatment programs. Four percent said they made no referrals.

The survey also asked about the insurance status of methamphetamine abusers. Overall, 83% of respondents reported that during the last 3 years, patients presenting to the ED with meth-related conditions were often uninsured, and 81% said if they had insurance, they were often underinsured. As a result, the survey said, 56% of hospitals report that costs have increased at their facilities because of meth abuse.

A second survey released the same day involved substance abuse treatment facilities. Researchers interviewed 200 behavioral health directors in 26 states and the District of Columbia and found that 69% of respondents said the need for treatment programs has been increasing due to methamphetamine, including 90% of respondents in Texas and 86% of respondents in Maryland. …

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