Urgent need for improved treatment of alcohol withdrawal: B.C. study

VANCOUVER – The B.C. Centre on Substance Use says there’s an urgent need to improve the treatment of severe alcohol withdrawal because too many patients are being admitted to hospital when they could be managed with outpatient services.

The centre’s medical director, Dr. Evan Wood, is the lead author of a study that found a simple screening questionnaire can properly assess patients’ symptoms in an emergency department or doctor’s office before recommending treatment.

The study published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association reviewed 530 studies involving more than 71,000 patients.

Wood says St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver is the only hospital in Canada that uses the questionnaire, which improves patient care and saves costs to the health-care system.

He says it’s time doctors were trained to use the assessment tool, which could allow patients to be prescribed one of several drugs that work to reduce cravings and binge drinking, an increasing problem around the world.

Research by the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research and the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction says alcohol use costs Canadians an annual $14.6 billion in health care, lost production, criminal justice and other direct costs.

British Columbia has the highest rate of hospitalizations in the country caused by alcohol.

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