Substance abuse in adolescent trauma

John M. Loiselle, M. Douglas Baker, John M. Templeton, Gary Schwartz, Henry Drott

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Study objective: To determine if there is a significant prevalence of drug or alcohol use among adolescents evaluated for significant acute trauma. Design: A prospective, age-matched controlled study over a 20-month period. Setting: Urban pediatric emergency department in a Level I pediatric trauma center. Participants: Patients between 13 and 19 years of age requiring admission to the trauma service following evaluation in a pediatric ED and an age-matched control group of asthmatic patients. Results: A total of 134 patients (mean age, 14.8 years) were admitted for trauma-related injuries, and 22 of 65 (34%) were positive for alcohol or drugs of abuse. The mean age of patients with a positive toxicology screen was 15.4 years. Most commonly detected drugs were alcohol (eight), benzodiazepines (eight), cocaine (five), and cannabinoids (four). The number of positive screens in the trauma group (22 of 65) was significantly higher than controls (one of 49) (P < .001). This remained statistically significant even when those trauma patients not screened were assumed to have a negative toxicology screen (22 of 134 versus one of 49) (P < .01). There was also a significantly higher number of positive toxicology screens among adolescents with an intentional versus unintentional mechanism of injury (21 of 71 versus one of 63) (P < .001). Conclusion: A significant number of adolescents admitted to the hospital for trauma-related injuries have a toxicology screen positive for alcohol or drugs of abuse. A toxicology screen should be a standard laboratory test in adolescents involved in significant trauma, especially if the mechanism was intentional.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1530-1534
Number of pages5
JournalAnnals of emergency medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1993
Externally publishedYes


  • substance abuse, adolescent
  • trauma, adolescent

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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