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West J Emerg Med. 2017 Apr;18(3):345-348. doi: 10.5811/westjem.2017.1.32180. Epub 2017 Mar 13.

Cross-Sectional Study of Risky Substance Use by Injured Emergency Department Patients.

Author information

Brown University, Department of Epidemiology, Providence, Rhode Island.
Injury Prevention Center at Rhode Island Hospital, Providence, Rhode Island.
Brown University, Department of Emergency Medicine, Providence, Rhode Island.
Northeastern University, Department of Applied Psychology, Boston, Massachusetts.



Survey data regarding the prevalence of risky substance use in the emergency department (ED) is not consistent. The objective of this study was to identify the prevalence of risky substance use among injured ED patients based on the Alcohol, Smoking and Substance Involvement Screening Test (ASSIST v3.0). A secondary objective was to report on the feasibility of administering the ASSIST to this population, based on the time to conduct screening.


This cross-sectional study used screening data from a randomized controlled trial. Injured ED patients completed the ASSIST on a tablet computer, and an ASSIST score was computed that indicated the need for a brief or intensive treatment intervention (risky use) for alcohol and other substances. For a subsample, data on time to complete each step of screening was recorded.


Between July 2010 and March 2013, 5,695 patients completed the ASSIST. Most (92%) reported lifetime use of at least one substance and 51% reported current risky use of at least one substance. Mean time to complete the ASSIST was 5.4 minutes and screening was considered feasible even when paused for clinical care to proceed.


Estimates of risky substance use based on the ASSIST in our large sample of injured ED patients were higher than previously reported in other studies of ED patients, possibly due to the current focus on an injured population. In addition, it was feasible to administer the ASSIST to patients in the course of their clinical care.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Conflict of interest statement

Conflicts of Interest: By the WestJEM article submission agreement, all authors are required to disclose all affiliations, funding sources and financial or management relationships that could be perceived as potential sources of bias. Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health under award number R01AA017895. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

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