Background. Alcohol is often a factor in illness and injury among college-aged individuals. Ambulance services responding to 9-1-1 calls in college towns regularly encounter patients who have consumed alcohol to the point of intoxication and subsequently suffered an injury or experienced an illness necessitating prehospital emergency care. Objectives. The first objective was to review ambulance calls in a Midwestern college town in order to identify patterns or trends related to alcohol consumption. Another objective was to determine to what extent, if any, underage drinking was a factor in these calls. A final objective was to determine whether there were types of illness or injuries related to 9-1-1 calls that were involved with alcohol consumption among college-aged students.
Methods. This was a retrospective study using secondary data of four years of ambulance calls that occurred in a specific geographic region of a college town. All patient care reports (PCRs) included alcohol consumption as a pertinent factor in the call. Data were de-identified and in some cases aggregated to ensure confidentiality. Descriptive statistics were used to identify prevalence and incidence of injury and illness and patient demographics.
Results. Of the ambulance calls for service in the geographic area, 44.4% to 45.8% identified as “downtown” had alcohol consumption as a reported factor in the PCR. The number of calls for service that involved patients below the legal drinking age (21 years) was small but increased between 2004 and 2007. Calls involving male patients made up the majority of calls with alcohol as a factor. The majority of alcohol-related calls for service were for traumatic injuries, sexual assaults and rapes, poisonings or drug ingestions, and altered levels of consciousness.
Conclusion. Alcohol consumption was a comorbid factor in illness and injury that necessitated prehospital emergency medical care in one Midwestern college town. Further research is needed to determine whether these results can be generalized beyond this one geographic location or if causality can be determined between alcohol consumption and injuries or illnesses that lead to emergency medical services calls.