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How Do People Who Frequently Attend Emergency Departments for Alcohol-Related Reasons Use, View, and Experience Specialist Addiction Services?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-9
Number of pages9
JournalSubstance Use and Misuse
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 May 2017


King's Authors


BACKGROUND: People who frequently attend emergency departments (EDs) for alcohol-related reasons, cost health systems greatly. Although specialist addiction services may be more appropriate for their needs, drinkers often experience barriers accessing specialist alcohol-related support.

OBJECTIVES: This study explores how people who frequently attend EDs for alcohol-related reasons use, view, and experience specialist addiction services.

METHODS: We conducted semi-structured interviews with 30 individuals recruited from six EDs across London, United Kingdom. Data relating to participants' socio-demographic characteristics and service use were systematically coded using qualitative software, and analyzed following the Framework.

RESULTS: ED usage over the last 12 months was high, whereas current use of specialist addiction services was low. We found little evidence that structural barriers were preventing participants from attending specialist services; rather, participants seemed not to require help with their alcohol use. When asked what support they desired for their drinking, only 11/30 participants identified alcohol-specific treatment. More commonly, they wanted help relating to mental health problems; social contact; paid or voluntary work; housing-related issues; or gym access. Women were more likely to be receiving, and to have support from a specialist addiction service. Conclusions/Importance: People who frequently attended EDs for alcohol-related reasons expressed low levels of interest in, and motivation for, alcohol-specific treatment but desired broader psychosocial support. Case management and assertive outreach appear to be valuable models of service delivery for this population (particularly for men). However, further qualitative and quantitative research is now needed to verify these findings in different countries, regions, and health care systems.

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