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Acad Emerg Med. 2005 Apr;12(4):329-37.

Characteristics of cocaine users presenting to an emergency department chest pain observation unit.

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Division of Health Services Research, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, 5800 West 10th Street, Suite 605, Little Rock, AR 72204, USA.



This report examines the sociodemographic and substance use characteristics, co-occurring psychological status, substance abuse consequences, and prior experiences with substance abuse treatment among patients with cocaine-associated chest pain presenting to an emergency department chest pain observation unit.


This was a consecutive cohort of patients in the emergency department chest pain observation unit aged 18-60 years with low to moderate risk for acute coronary syndrome and recent cocaine use. Responses on standardized and validated instruments were used to examine demographic and clinical characteristics of the sample and to compare patients who met Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV) criteria for past three-month substance abuse or substance dependence with patients who did not.


Of 145 eligible patients identified between June 1, 2002, and February 29, 2004, 86% met criteria for a lifetime DSM-IV substance use disorder and 50% met past three-month criteria. Approximately one half of the total sample reported substantial symptoms of depression. Substance use frequency and consequences, depression, and psychological distress were significantly more severe among those with past three-month substance use diagnoses; however, most sociodemographic characteristics were not associated with substance use diagnoses. Interest in treatment services and treatment history was also significantly associated with the presence of a substance use disorder diagnosis.


Findings regarding diversity in alcohol and drug involvement, current level of psychological functioning, depressive symptomatology, and interest in treatment services provide useful information for designing emergency department-based interventions for this population.

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