Despite high prevalence of polysubstance use, recent data on concurrent alcohol use in patients with specific substance use disorders (SUDs) are lacking.
To examine associations between specific SUDs and alcohol consumption levels.
Using electronic health record data, we conducted a cross-sectional study of 2,720,231 primary care adults screened for alcohol use between 2014 and 2017 at Kaiser Permanente Northern California. Alcohol consumption levels were categorized as no reported use, low-risk use, and unhealthy use (exceeding daily, weekly, or both recommended drinking limits). Using multinomial logistic regression, and adjusting for sociodemographic and health characteristics, we examined the odds of reporting each alcohol consumption level in patients with a prior-year SUD diagnosis (alcohol, cannabis, cocaine, inhalant, opioid, sedative/anxiolytic, stimulant, other drug, nicotine, any SUD except nicotine) compared to those without.
The sample was 52.9% female, 48.1% White; the mean age was 46 years (SD = 18). Patients with SUDs were less likely to report low-risk alcohol use relative to no use compared with patients without SUDs. Patients with alcohol or nicotine use disorder had higher odds of reporting unhealthy alcohol use relative to no use; however, patients with all other SUDs (except cocaine) had lower odds. Among patients who reported any alcohol use (n = 861,427), patients with SUDs (except opioid) had higher odds of exceeding recommended limits than those without.
The associations of unhealthy alcohol use and SUDs suggest that screening for both alcohol and drug use in primary care presents a crucial opportunity to prevent and treat SUDs early.

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