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Sobering centers, emergency medical services, and emergency departments: A review of the literature

Published:November 17, 2020DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ajem.2020.11.031

      Abstract

      Background

      Acute alcohol intoxication accounts for a large proportion of potentially unnecessary emergency department visits and expenditure. Sobering centers are a cheaper alternative treatment option for alcohol intoxication and can provide an opportunity to treat the psychosocial aspects of alcohol use disorder.

      Objective of the review

      The objective of this review is to analyze the existing literature regarding the use of sobering centers, EMS and their role in transporting to sobering centers, and the appropriate triage of the intoxicated patient.

      Discussion

      Excessive alcohol consumption accounts for an estimated $24.6 billion in healthcare costs and patients are often referred to the emergency department for expensive care. Current literature suggests sobering centers are an alternative to acute hospitalization and are safe, relatively inexpensive, and may facilitate more aggressive connection to resources such as longitudinal rehabilitation programs for the acutely intoxicated patient. EMS plays a pivotal role in triage and transportation of intoxicated individuals, but demonstration of outcomes in lacking.

      Conclusions

      Sobering centers are a cost effective alternative to emergency department visits for acute alcohol intoxication and further research is required to identify safe, effective protocols for EMS to triage patients to appropriate treatment destinations.
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        Date: 2020
        Date accessed: December 10, 2020