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Research Summary

Prevalence and Impact of Methamphetamine Use Among Trauma Patients

Patients using methamphetamine can experience adverse physical and medical consequences resulting in emergency department use and hospitalization. To assess the prevalence and impact of methamphetamine use among trauma patients, researchers surveyed the records of 4932 (76%) patients who were seen in a Level I trauma center in San Diego between 2003–2005 and who underwent a urine toxicology screening during their visit.

  • The rate of methamphetamine use (defined as a positive urine screen), but not other illicit drug use, increased from 2003 to 2005 (from 9% to 15%).
  • In analyses adjusted for other drug use, age, sex, and injury severity, patients with (versus without) a methamphetamine-positive urine screen were more likely to have

    • been injured in a violent way (e.g., gunshot wound, stab wound) (odds ratio [OR], 2.0);
    • attempted suicide (OR, 1.7);
    • been a victim of domestic violence (OR, 2.5);
    • required more medical care (e.g., one or more operations [OR, 1.5], mechanical ventilation [OR, 1.6]);
    • died from their injuries (OR, 2.3).


This study documents the change in the epidemiology of methamphetamine use in southern California over a recent 3-year period. In regions where methamphetamine use is common (e.g., West, Midwest of the U.S.), emergency departments and trauma centers can expect to see a consistent flow of patients using the drug. Identification via urine toxicology screening plus access to addiction treatment services may help change the trajectory of methamphetamine use in these high-prevalence areas.

David A. Fiellin, MD


Swanson SM, Sise CB, Sise MJ, et al.  The scourge of methamphetamine: impact on a Level I trauma centerJ Trauma. 2007;63(3):531–537.