Prevention for College Students Who Suffer Alcohol-Induced Blackouts Could Deter High-Cost Emergency Department Visits
Fifty percent of college students who drink report alcohol-induced blackouts, and alcohol abusers in general put a heavy burden on the medical care system. Using data drawn from a randomized, controlled alcohol intervention trial at five university sites, our study quantified the costs of visits to emergency departments by college students who experienced blackouts from drinking alcohol. Of 954 students in the study, 52 percent of males and 50 percent of females at the outset of the study had experienced an alcohol-induced blackout in the past year.
Of 404 emergency department visits among the study participants over a two-year observation period, about one in eight were associated with blackout drinking. Injuries ranged from broken bones to head and brain injuries requiring computed tomography. We calculate that on a large university campus having more than 40,000 students, blackout-associated emergency department visit costs would range from $469,000 to $546,000 per year. Conclude that blackouts are a strong predictor of emergency department visits for college drinkers and that prevention efforts aimed at students with a history of blackouts might reduce injuries and emergency department costs.