Burden of Substance Abuse-Related Admissions to the Medical ICU

Donald Westerhausen, Anthony J. Perkins, Joshua Conley, Babar A. Khan, Mark Farber

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Background: Admissions to the ICU related to alcohol, prescription drugs, and illicit drugs are shown to be widespread and costly. In 1993, a study revealed 28% of ICU admissions at Johns Hopkins Hospital were related to substance abuse and accrued 39% of costs. Since then, health-care expenditures have increased, and substance abuse treatment admissions have risen. We conducted a study to provide updated data on ICU utilization and costs related to licit and illicit abuse at a large county hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana. Methods: All admissions to the medical ICU at Eskenazi Hospital from March to October 2017 were reviewed. Demographics, reason for admission, relation to substance abuse and specific substance, ICU and hospital length of stay, Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II (APACHE II) scores, mortality, insurance status, and hospital charges were collected based on chart review. Results: A total of 611 admissions generated $74,587,280.35 in charges. A total of 25.7% of admissions related to substance abuse accounted for 23.1% of total charges. Illicit drugs were 13% of total admissions, generating 11% of charges. Alcohol-related admissions were 9.5% of total admissions, generating 7.6% of charges. Prescription drugs were 2.9% of admissions, generating 4.2% of charges. Of the substance abuse admissions, patients were generally men and 40 to 64 years of age, with longer ICU stay, higher APACHE II scores, and higher mortality. Conclusions: Substance abuse admissions make up almost a one-quarter of resources used by our ICU. Patients tend to be younger and sicker with a higher risk of death. Identifying and accurately describing the landscape of this current health crisis will help us take appropriate action in the future.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)61-66
Number of pages6
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2020


  • alcohol
  • cocaine
  • critical care
  • drug abuse
  • marijuana

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

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    Westerhausen, D., Perkins, A. J., Conley, J., Khan, B. A., & Farber, M. (2020). Burden of Substance Abuse-Related Admissions to the Medical ICU. CHEST, 157(1), 61-66. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chest.2019.08.2180