The association of race and ethnicity with rates of drug and alcohol testing among US trauma patients

Alexander A. Kon, Robert K Pretzlaff, James P. Marcin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


Background: Racial and ethnic minority patients often receive differential medical care compared to Caucasians. The aim of this study was to evaluate the association of race and ethnicity with rates of alcohol and drug testing among adult US trauma patients. Methods: Data for 79,246 adults admitted to 58 institutions participating in the US National Trauma Data Bank were evaluated using multivariable, hierarchical, mixed-effects analyses to determine the odds of receiving alcohol and drug testing among different racial/ethnic groups. The primary outcome variable was whether an alcohol or drug test was performed. The secondary outcome variable was the results of those tests. Participants were stratified by injury severity using the Injury Severity Score. Additional case-mix variables included: gender, age, Glasgow Coma Scale, day and time of arrival, and payment source. Results: Black and Hispanic males in all injury severity groups were tested for alcohol more frequently than Caucasian males (odds ratio for Black men 1.31, 95% confidence interval 1.16-1.47; and for Hispanic men 1.45, 95% confidence interval 1.19-1.77, in the moderate injury group). Hispanic males in the moderate injury group were also tested for drugs more frequently then Caucasian males (odds ratio 1.33, 95% confidence interval 1.09-1.63). Conclusion: Racial and ethnic minority trauma patients in the US are tested for alcohol and drugs at higher rates after adjusting for potential confounders. Because having a positive alcohol or drug test can adversely affect a patient's medical care, differential testing that is racially or ethnically biased may place minority patients at risk of receiving disparate care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-167
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Policy
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 2004


  • Alcohol testing
  • Drug testing
  • Ethics
  • Ethnicity
  • Race

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Health Policy


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