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J Trauma. 2007 Sep;63(3):531-7.

The scourge of methamphetamine: impact on a level I trauma center.

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Division of Trauma, Scripps Mercy Hospital, San Diego, California, USA.



Methamphetamine (METH) use is associated with high-risk behavior and serious injury. The aim of this study was to assess the impact of METH use in trauma patients on a Level I trauma center to guide prevention efforts.


A retrospective registry-based review of 4,932 consecutive trauma patients who underwent toxicology screening at our center during a 3-year period (2003-2005). This sample represented 76% of all trauma patients seen during this interval.


From the first half of 2003 to the second half of 2005, overall use of METH increased 70% (p < 0.001), surpassing marijuana as the most common illicit drug used by the trauma population. Other illicit drug use did not significantly change during this interval. METH-positive patients were more likely to have a violent mechanism of injury (47.3% vs. 26.3%, p < 0.001), with 33% more assaults (p < 0.01), 96% more gunshot wounds (p < 0.001), and 158% more stab wounds (p < 0.001). They were more likely to have attempted suicide (4.8% vs. 2.6%, p < 0.01), to have had an altercation with law enforcement (1.8% vs. 0.3%, p < 0.001), or been the victim of domestic violence (4.4% vs. 2.1%, p < 0.001). METH users had a higher mean Injury Severity Score (11.2 vs. 10.0, p < 0.01), were 62% more likely to receive mechanical ventilation (p < 0.001), and 53% more likely to undergo an operation (p < 0.001). They were more prone to leave against medical advice (4.9% vs. 2.1%, p < 0.001) and 113% more likely to die from their injuries (6.4% vs. 3.0%, p < 0.001). The average cost of care per METH user was 9% higher than that for nonusers, and METH users were more likely to be unfunded than nonusers (47.6% vs. 23.1%, p < 0.001). The annual uncompensated cost of care of METH users increased 70% during the study period to $1,477,108 in 2005.


METH use in trauma patients increased significantly and was associated with adverse outcomes and a significant financial burden on our trauma center. Evidence-based prevention efforts must be a priority for trauma centers to help stop the scourge of METH.

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