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Open Access Publications from the University of California

United States Emergency Department Screening for Drug Use Among Assault-Injured Individuals: A Systematic Review


Introduction: The clinical model of screening, providing a brief psychosocial and/or pharmacological intervention, and directly referring patients to treatment (SBIRT) is a compelling model to address drug use among assault-injured individuals in the busy emergency department (ED) setting. Our objective in this study was to examine the current literature and determine ED-based strategies that have been reported that screen, directly refer to drug mis-use/addiction specialized treatment services, or initiate addiction treatment among individuals injured by non-partner assault in the United States.


Methods: We conducted a systematic review of ED-based studies using the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses Protocol. OVID, MEDLINE, OVID Embase, OVID AMED, Web of Science-Core Collection, Cochrane CENTRAL, and CINAHL were systematically searched using keywords and Medical Subject Heading terms. Studies were excluded if they only involved intimate partner assault-injury, tobacco, or alcohol use. We categorized ED-based strategies as screening, direct referral, or treatment initiation.

Results: Of the 2,076 non-duplicated studies identified, we included 26 full-text articles in the final analysis. Fourteen studies were cross-sectional, 11 were cohort, and one was case-control in design. The most common drug use screening instrument used was the National Institute on Drug Abuse Quick Screen Question. Cannabis was the most common drug detected upon screening.

Conclusion: Drug use, while highly prevalent, is a modifiable risk factor for non-partner assault-injury. The paucity of scientific studies is evidence for the need to intentionally address this area that remains a major challenge for the public’s health. Future research is needed to evaluate ED-based interventions for drug use in this population.

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