Drug and Alcohol Use in Trauma Patients Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Merry Zhai, Kristy Bono, Wei Wei Zhang, Stephanie Bonne, Emily Gordon, Erin Zerbo, Harrisson Quijote, Nina Glass

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Since the implementation of national stay-at-home orders during the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been rising concerns regarding prolonged social isolation that many individuals face. Given the link between increased stress and alcohol and drug use, our study investigated admission trends and patterns of alcohol and drug use in trauma patients. Methods: This was a single center, retrospective cohort study comparing trauma patients admitted before the pandemic and during the first wave. We compared patient demographics, injury characteristics, and outcomes of substance screen negative, positive, and unscreened patients admitted. Patients screened positive if they had a positive urine drug screen (UDS) and/or a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) ≥10 mg/dL. Results: There were 3906 trauma admissions in the year prior to and 3469 patients in the first year of the pandemic. No significant demographic differences were presented across time periods. Rates of UDS and BAC screening remained consistent. Equivalent rates of alcohol and drug positivity occurred (34% versus 33%, 17% versus 18%, P = 0.49). The total prevalence of alcohol use disorders (4% versus 5%, P < 0.001) and psychiatric disorders (6% versus 7%, P = 0.02) increased during the pandemic. Conclusions: The prevalence of diagnosed alcohol use and psychiatric disorders in trauma patients increased during the COVID-19 pandemic while rates of acute alcohol and drug screen positivity remained the same. These observations suggest a possible link between pandemic stressors and exacerbation of alcohol use and psychiatric conditions in trauma patients. During a changing pandemic landscape, it remains pertinent to increased screening for these conditions regardless of substance screen positivity upon admission.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)999-1004
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Mar 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Surgery


  • Alcohol abuse
  • COVID-19
  • Psychiatric disorder
  • Substance use disorder
  • Traumatic injuries


Dive into the research topics of 'Drug and Alcohol Use in Trauma Patients Before and During the COVID-19 Pandemic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this