Alcohol still responsible for most ambulance call-outs

Posted on: Monday, 15 August 2011

New research by Eastern Health’s Turning Point Alcohol & Drug Centre has revealed alcohol remains the most common cause of ambulance call-outs in metropolitan Melbourne, with worrying new trends for pharmaceutical drugs.

Despite a 10 per cent decrease from 2008-09 when there were 6924 alcohol-related attendances, Victorian ambulances answered 6204 incidents in which patients were acutely affected by alcohol in 2009-10.

The figures are contained in a new report, Trends in alcohol and drug related ambulance attendances in Melbourne: 2009-10, which will be launched at Turning Point today.

The study is a collaborative project between Turning Point Alcohol & Drug Centre’s Population Health Research Program and Ambulance Victoria, and is funded by the Victorian Department of Health.  

Turning Point researcher Dr Belinda Lloyd said when compared to the previous year’s data, patients in the latest alcohol-related figures were more likely to be female – and they were younger.

She said the City of Melbourne retained its position as the local government area with the highest proportion of alcohol-related attendances in the metropolitan region.

“Over 40 per cent of attendances occurred on Saturday and Sunday,” Dr Lloyd said.

“Similar to previous years, the peak time for alcohol-related attendances in 2009-10 was between 10pm and 2am.”

Dr Lloyd said it was common for alcohol to be involved in other drug-related attendances, especially cocaine and ecstasy.

She said ambulance attendances due to pharmaceutical drugs were also of particular concern.

In 2009-10 there were 3220 ambulance call-outs due to benzodiazepines, a drug commonly prescribed for sleeping and anxiety issues.

Painkillers also made up a significant number of attendances. There were 521 due to opioid analgesics, with other analgesics, including paracetamol, aspirin and ibuprofen, accounting for 1456 attendances.

There were 1192 attendances due to anti-depressants and 970 call-outs for anti-psychotic drugs.

The Turning Point research found overall increases of more than 10 per cent in ambulance attendances due to crystal methamphetamine, opioid analgesics and cocaine. However, there were decreases of more than 10 per cent in attendances due to ecstasy, inhalants, anti-convulsants and alcohol.

For the full report, click here.