In the United States, heatwaves and heat episodes occurring this summer have led to an increase in the number of hospitalizations linked to drug use and alcohol consumption. This is the conclusion of a new study carried out by American researchers from Columbia University.
A link between high temperatures and excess alcohol and drugs
According to the European Copernicus Observatory, the summer of 2023 was the hottest globally on record, with a global average temperature of 16.77°C. Heat waves, drought, heatwaves… The mercury has indeed risen in many regions of the world, sometimes reaching temperatures that are difficult to breathe. And according to researchers at Columbia Public Health, these increases in temperatures, caused by climate change, could have a hitherto little-mentioned effect: an increase in hospital visits linked to alcohol and drug consumption.
To arrive at this observation, the researchers reviewed cases of hospitalization linked to alcohol or drug use (cannabis, cocaine, opioids, sedatives) in New York State over a period of twenty years (1995-2014). “Our work highlights how hospital visits for alcohol and substance use disorders are currently affected by high temperatures and could be further affected by rising temperatures resulting from climate change“, write the researchers.
Temptation to go out and dehydration encourage excesses
Published in the journal Communications Medicine, their study compiled data from 671,625 hospital visits for alcohol-related disorders and 721,469 hospital visits for drug-related disorders. It also includes a comprehensive record of daily temperatures and humidity as well as a statistical model comparing high temperature days to neighboring lower temperature days.
According to the observations of the authors of the work, several reasons could explain a possible increase in hospitalizations in the event of high temperatures. Among them, the temptation to go out in pleasant weather conditions and at the same time an increased desire to consume more substances, or even greater sweating and dehydration.
Targeted prevention of these risks linked to high temperatures
For disorders related to other drugs (cannabis, cocaine, opioids, sedatives), higher temperatures also led to more hospital visits, but only up to a limit of 18.8°C, note l ‘study. “This could be explained by the fact that above a certain temperature, people are not more inclined to go out“, suggest the authors of the study.
The latter insist on the need to carry out awareness campaigns on the risks linked to increasing temperatures on the consumption of psychoactive substances. “Public health interventions that broadly target alcohol and substance use disorders in hot weather – should be a public health priority“, underlines in a press release the main author of the study Marianthi-Anna Kioumourtzoglou, associate professor of environmental health sciences at Columbia Public Health.