Sex-based differences in timely emergency department evaluations for patients with drug poisoning

R. Lopez, M. Snair, S. Arrigain, J. D. Schold, F. Hustey, L. E. Walker, M. P. Phelan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Unintentional poisoning was the leading cause of injury-related death in the United States in 2017. Prescribed and illicit drugs are the most common cause of poisoning, and timely management in the emergency department (ED) is important. Our aim was to identify any disparities in wait times associated with sex for drug poisoning–related ED visits. Study design: We examined ED visits using data from the 2009–2017 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NHAMCS). Methods: Drug poisoning–related visits were identified using the International Classification of Diseases, Ninth or Tenth Revision, Clinical Modification codes. Delayed assessment was defined as wait times exceeding the recommended triage time. Weighted logistic regression was used. Results: The average age was 36 years (standard error = 1.1), 54% female, 87% White and 29% had delayed assessment. Most common drugs were psychotropics (45%) and opioids (32%). Adjusting for race, payment source, urgency, multiple drug types and NSAIDs, females who had poisoning by substances other than opioids had 2.1 times higher likelihood of having a delayed assessment compared with males (odds ratio [95% confidence interval]: 2.1 [1.03–4.2]), although there was no difference between sexes among visits with opioid poisoning (P = 0.27). Neither race (P = 0.23) nor payment source (P = 0.22) were associated with delayed assessment, and the sex association was consistent across these groups. Conclusions: Females with non-opioid drug poisoning were more likely to have delayed assessment than men. None of the other demographic factors demonstrated a correlation. Identifying more populations vulnerable to delays in the ED can help guide the development of interventions and policies to expedite care and attenuate existing disparities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)57-64
Number of pages8
JournalPublic Health
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Disparity
  • Drug poisoning
  • Emergency department
  • Wait time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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