Emergency Department visits due to intoxications in a Dutch university hospital: Occurrence, characteristics and health care costs.

25 februari 2020



Intoxications with alcohol and drugs are common in the Emergency Department. This study aimed to describe the occurrence and characteristics of intoxications (alcohol, Drugs of Abuse (DOA), pharmaceutical and chemical) presented to the Emergency Department and the health care costs of these intoxications.


This was a retrospective medical record study of all patients (≥ 16 years) who presented to the Emergency Department of an inner-city academic hospital in the Netherlands due to single or multiple intoxication(s) as the primary or secondary reason in the year 2016. An intoxication was reported as present if the attending physician described the intoxication in the patient’s medical record.


A total of 783 patients were included, accounting for 3.2% of the adult Emergency Department population (age ≥ 16 year). In 30% more than one substance was used. Intoxications with alcohol, Drugs of Abuse and pharmaceuticals was reported in respectively 62%, 29% and 21% of the intoxicated patients. The mean costs per patient presenting with an intoxication to the Emergency Department was € 1,490. The mean costs per patient were highest for pharmaceutical intoxications (€ 2,980), followed by Drugs of Abuse (€ 1,140) and alcohol (€ 1,070).


Intoxications among patients aged 16 years and older are frequently seen at the Emergency Department and are frequently caused by multiple substances. Alcohol is the most common intoxication. Substantial healthcare costs are involved. Therefore, this study suggests that further research into hazardous alcohol consumption and DOA abuse is warranted.


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