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Alcohol levels in the emergency department: a worrying trend
  1. P Allely1,
  2. W Graham2,
  3. M McDonnell2,
  4. R Spedding1
  1. 1Emergency Department, Belfast City Hospital, Belfast City Hospital HSS Trust, Belfast, UK
  2. 2Clinical Biochemistry Department, Belfast Link Laboratories, Belfast City Hospital HSS Trust
  1. Correspondence to:
 MrPeter Allely
 Emergency Department, Belfast City Hospital, 51 Lisburn Road, Belfast BT9 7AB, UK; peter_allely{at}


Background: Recent tabloid media articles have highlighted the trend of increasing alcohol intoxication among the young, particularly females. We compared all the alcohol levels sent from the emergency department of Belfast City Hospital over two 12-month periods, 4 years apart, to see if there were any changes in the pattern of levels or numbers of tests sent.

Methods: Patient details and alcohol levels for the periods 1 September 1999 to 31 August 2000 and 1 September 2003 to 31 August 2004 were obtained from our laboratories and entered into a database.

Results: The number of patients with blood alcohol levels >80 mg/100 ml rose from 526 to 1124, a rise of 113%. The number of patients with levels >480 mg/100 ml rose from five to 29, a rise of 480%. There were more intoxicated males in every age bracket in both study periods apart from under the age of 16, in which females were in the majority. The absolute number of intoxicated females almost doubled from 203 to 401. The proportion of females in both study periods, however, was similar—38.6% and 35.7%, respectively.

Conclusion: These results show a trend towards more intoxicated people presenting to the emergency department of Belfast City Hospital. Males continue to account for the majority of intoxicated patients.

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  • Funding: None.