Publication/Presentation Date



PURPOSE: We performed an emergency department (ED)-based substance use screening, motivational interview-based intervention, and treatment referral program with the goal of determining sex-specific outcomes. Specifically, in this quality improvement project, we aimed to determine whether there was a difference among sexes in the type of substances used; the frequency of positive screening results for substance use disorder; agreeing to an intervention; the type of follow-up evaluation, participation, and referral; and attempts to change substance use after intervention.

METHODS: We prospectively studied a convenience sample of patients at 3 hospitals in Northeastern Pennsylvania from May 2017 through February 2018. Inclusion criteria for participation in this study were age ≥18 years; ability to answer survey questions; willingness and ability (not being too ill) to participate in intervention(s); and when screened, admitting to use of alcohol, tobacco, potentially addictive prescription drugs, or street drugs. Practitioners in the ED screened patients. For those with unhealthy substance use, a brief motivational interview was performed. Participants were each given referrals and information in accordance with the particular substance used and their assessed readiness to change. Individuals who completed the intervention were contacted by telephone for follow-up. Self-reported outcomes and the frequency of successful warm hand-off referrals were assessed.

FINDINGS: Of the 2209 individuals screened, 976 (44.2%) were male. Overall, 547 patients screened positive for at least 1 of the unhealthy substances for a prevalence of 24.8% (95% confidence interval, 22.9%-26.6%). In this population, a greater proportion of men screened positive than women (30.5% vs 20.2%, P = 0.01). Although the finding was not statistically significant, men (106 [35.6%]) were more likely than women (81 [32.5%]) to agree to an ED intervention. At telephone follow-up, men were more likely to report participating in a treatment or support program than women (32.9% vs 18.2%, P = 0.035). Frequencies of warm hand-off referrals were 11 of 106 (10.4%) for men and 2 of 81 (2.5%) for women.

IMPLICATIONS: Our small study found that unhealthy substance use rates were greater overall in men than women. Overall participation differences between men and women who agreed to take part in substance intervention and accepted a referral for follow-up treatment were not statistically significant. At telephone follow-up, more men reported participating in a treatment program than women. Direct referral (warm hand-off) rates to treatment programs were small in both sexes but greater in men than women.





First Page


Last Page





Emergency Medicine | Medicine and Health Sciences



Peer Reviewed for front end display



Department of Emergency Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine Faculty, Department of Emergency Medicine Residents, Department of Medicine, Fellows and Residents

Document Type