Certain Beer Brands Fuel ER Injuries

Malt liquor involved with majority of alcohol related injuries

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Alcohol is involved in many accidents and injuries that send people to the emergency room (ER). In a recent study, researchers wanted to see what specific types of alcoholic beverages people were drinking before they found themselves in the ER.

For this study, the researchers interviewed ER patients who had been injured while drinking. They found that the vast majority of patients had consumed beer and/or malt liquor prior to injury.

"Read alcohol labels to help moderate drinking."

Led by David Jernigan, PhD, director of The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, a team of researchers looked into what types of alcohol were involved with injuries that landed people in the emergency department.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), alcohol use has been responsible for roughly 80,000 deaths in the US per year. CDC also has found that alcohol use is linked to the three leading causes of death for people ages 1 to 40: accidental injury, suicide and homicide.

The emergency department in question was a Level 1 trauma center located in an urban area in East Baltimore.

The researchers interviewed a small sample of 105 injured patients on Friday and Saturday nights from 2010 to 2011 about what type of alcohol they had been drinking during the six hours prior to getting hurt.

In order to get legal consent for the patient interviews, the researchers had to wait until around 4 am for the patients to sober up.

Overall, the patients were asked about 331 different brands of alcohol, which were condensed into four categories of alcohol: spirits, beer/malt liquor, wine and ready-to-drink.

Ready-to-drink referred to alcoholic energy drinks and flavored malt drinks.

The researchers noted that 74.4 percent of the neighborhood was African American and 69 percent of the patients were also African American.

Results of the study showed no significant differences across age, education level or race on amount of alcohol consumed in the time before getting injured.

The majority (69 percent) of patients were men. Many of the patients reported drinking a combination of alcohol categories.

Among men, 95 percent said they had consumed some beer/malt liquor and 81 percent had consumed some spirits. Ready-to-drink beverages and wine were the most popular among women, at rates of 66 percent and 52 percent, respectively.

The researchers looked at national drinking data to compare drinking proportions of certain types of alcohol in the general population to proportions among the ER patients. 

According to the national data, 82.2 percent of all alcohol purchased in the US was beer, 2.4 percent of which was malt liquor. Among the ER patients in this study, 68.8 percent drank beer, of which 46 percent was malt liquor.

Among the general population, 6.1 percent of alcohol purchases were spirits, compared to 22.6 percent among ER patients.

The proportion of ready-to-drink beverages was 1.8 percent for the general population and 7.8 percent for ER patients. 

Wine consumption was much lower among ER patients, at 0.8 percent, compared to 9.8 percent among the general population. 

Ranking first, Budweiser beer made up 15 percent of all the beer consumed by patients. However, Budweiser only makes up 9.1 percent of beer consumption in the general population.

In second place, Steel Reserve, a malt liquor, made up 14.7 percent of beer consumed by patients. Steel Reserve is only purchased by less than 1 percent of the general population. 

Third, fourth and fifth were three more beers: Colt 45, Bud Ice and Bud Light. While Colt 45 and Bud Ice were consumed by 13.5 percent and 12.8 percent of the ER patients, they were only purchased by 0.4 and 0.7 percent of the general population.

Barton’s Vodka came in sixth place, making up 25.8 percent of all vodka consumed by patients, compared to 19.8 percent among the general population. 

The study authors recommended further research on types of alcohol involved with injuries in larger groups, and in other parts of the country.

“Patients that end up in the ER for alcohol intoxication are usually not your social drinkers. The ER intoxicated patients usually look for the cheapest beverages with the highest alcohol content, and many of the brand names in this study fit those parameters,” Chris Galloway, MD, who is Board Certified in Emergency Medicine, told dailyRx News.

“The study team having to wait until all hours of the morning for the patients to sober up is also evidence of how potent the drinks are and how much they have drank,” said Dr. Galloway, who was not involved in this study.

This study was published in August in Substance Use & Misuse.

The National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the Centers for Disease control and Prevention and the Johns Hopkins Center for Injury Research and Policy provided funding for this project. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
August 19, 2013
Last Updated:
August 30, 2013