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Trauma Doctors Bring Attention to Crash Victims' Drinking

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"It drives home a point that ACEP endorses," Nedza tells WebMD. "We have been trying to make ER physicians more aware of the opportunities to intervene with binge drinkers. One of the things we want physicians to tell binge drinkers is they don't have to be legally intoxicated to be at risk for a serious auto accident. Even low levels of alcohol intake can impact your cognitive and motor skills."

"The Sommers study developed some surprising data," she continues. "In other studies, the majority of binge drinkers have denied that their drinking to excess is a problem. It is remarkable that Sommers and her group got as many as 60% to admit the connection between their injuries and their alcohol use. This high rate of success may be related to the fact that these persons were approached during that teachable moment."

"Their study shows that such a moment is the perfect opportunity -- if physicians would recognize and seize it -- to intervene and say, 'Hey, this is a problem for you,'" continues Nedza, who practices at Christ Hospital Medical Center in Chicago. "Just a couple-minute investment of time could help a person gain the self-recognition necessary to make the decision to get treatment."

The Sommers study is a preliminary investigation, part of a larger-scale, experimental trial funded by the CDC, that is looking at ways to decrease repeated alcohol-related injuries.

Vital Information:

  • A new study shows that 60% of patients admitted to the hospital because of a drinking-related motor vehicle crash realize that alcohol was partially or totally responsible.
  • Researchers say that this is a teachable moment for physicians to counsel patients on their drinking habits.
  • In people under the age of 34, unintentional injury is the No. 1 cause of deaths, mostly due to motor vehicle crashes.
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