What Kind of Beer Is Most Likely to Land You in the E.R.?

(Photo: Michelle Tribe)

(Photo: Michelle Tribe)

A new study (gated) published in Substance Abuse & Misuse and summarized by Anahad O’Connor in The New York Times identifies the brands of beer most often drunk by people who end up in a hospital emergency room:

The study, carried out over the course of a year at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, found that five beer brands were consumed most often by people who ended up in the emergency room. They were Budweiser, Steel Reserve, Colt 45, Bud Ice and Bud Light.

Three of the brands are malt liquors, which typically contain more alcohol than regular beer. Four malt liquors accounted for nearly half of the beer consumption by emergency room patients, even though they account for less than 3 percent of beer consumption in the general population.

While it might make some sense to focus on malt liquor because it is more intoxicating, I am guessing it would be more fruitful to focus on the top E.R. brands as demographic markers — i.e., the people most likely to drink these brands are the most likely to drink enough to do something that lands them in the E.R. To that point, price likely plays a big role as well.

It is interesting that the war on smoking has been increasingly successful because of cigarette tax hikes, while the damage caused by alcohol consumption has, to my knowledge, hardly been addressed through similar means.

I recently had a conversation with a college president who, when asked to name the top three problems he’s facing, said:

  1. Alcohol abuse
  2. Alcohol abuse
  3. Alcohol abuse

Would be interested to hear reader comments on this topic …

Greg Parisi

So a study done at inner city Baltimore hospitals found that ER patients drink malt liquor? Stunning.


Steve- there is a point here that you have missed. For many kids (college age), I have been told it's merely for the "fun" and getting away is not even the point. Trying to explain to a teenager the price of such fun when in the extreme is like hitting your head against a wall and despite the fact that they experience the down side of throwing up, visit to er with a friend etc. Just maybe you gotta go through it for yourself or have parents/friends who enjoyed themselves in other ways. Speaking for myself, I recall Friday and Saturday night soccer team parties. We dansed to latin and afro kinds of music. Had so much fun, who needs to drink or smoke. college no longer sponsor such events. Back then, drinking and smoking were a choice, not a requirement of sociability (as it seems more so today). Parents have to teach their kids tough love to survive. My daughter is attending such a school for the first time. I do hope she remembers what we taught her.


Andrew B

Silly and disappointing research coming from such a prestigious university. I believe malt liquor is favored by certain ethnic groups more than others and by having the study in a probably inner city area (or even the general area there) that might bias it that way. Perhaps if you studied other geographic areas, such as say Gainesville (higher percentage of college students) or Alaska or an area with Native Americans, you would find other choices preferred.


What's interesting about cigarette taxes is that the people who collect them have the nerve to call tobacco companies profiteers.


What this study shows is that in the city environment of Baltimore, these are the 5 most popular brands of beer consumed by individuals who would go to the Johns Hopkins emergency room. I personally think there is quite a bit of selection bias which prohibits this study from making a conclusion that if you drink certain beers you increase the odds of going to the ER.

I think the better takeaway as pointed out by the author is the socioeconomic correlation between wealth and incident of injury for which alcohol was a factor.

Paul K. Ogden

If the college president is worried about alcohol abuse on college campuses he should join his colleagues who are pushing for an 18 year old drinking age. The problem in this country is we pretend that adults aged 18-20 won't drink if we make it illegal. Then the minute they are on college campuses away from parents and other adults, they drink to excess. We should be teaching kids responsible consumption of alcohol. Prohibition didn't work for people over 21 and it doesn't work for adults aged 18-20.


We did an informal "study" like this about 35 years ago and the winner was Schlitz. Be sure to look for ethnic and racial influences.