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Patterns of Alcohol Use Among Transgender Patients Receiving Care at the Veterans Health Administration: Overall and Relative to Nontransgender Patients.

Williams EC, Frost MC, Rubinsky AD, Glass JE, Wheat CL, Edmonds AT, Chen JA, Matson TE, Fletcher OV, Lehavot K, Blosnich JR. Patterns of Alcohol Use Among Transgender Patients Receiving Care at the Veterans Health Administration: Overall and Relative to Nontransgender Patients. Journal of studies on alcohol and drugs. 2021 Jan 1; 82(1):132-141.

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OBJECTIVE: Alcohol use is understudied among transgender persons--persons whose sex differs from their gender identity. We compare patterns of alcohol use between Veterans Health Administration (VA) transgender and nontransgender outpatients. METHOD: National VA electronic health record data were used to identify all patients'' last documented Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test-Consumption (AUDIT-C) screen (October 1, 2009-July 31, 2017). Transgender patients were identified using diagnostic codes. Logistic regression models estimated four past-year primary outcomes: (a) alcohol use (AUDIT-C > 0); (b) unhealthy alcohol use (AUDIT-C = 5); (c) high-risk alcohol use (AUDIT-C = 8); and (d) heavy episodic drinking (HED; = 6 drinks on = 1 occasion). Two secondary diagnostic-based outcomes, alcohol use disorder (AUD) and alcohol-specific conditions, were also examined. RESULTS: Among 8,872,793 patients, 8,619 (0.10%) were transgender. For transgender patients, unadjusted prevalence estimates were as follows: 52.8% for any alcohol use, 6.6% unhealthy alcohol use, 2.8% high-risk use, 10.4% HED, 8.6% AUD, and 1.3% alcohol-specific conditions. After adjustment for demographic characteristics, transgender patients had lower odds of patient-reported alcohol use but higher odds of alcohol-related diagnoses compared with nontransgender patients. Differences in alcohol-related diagnoses were attenuated after adjustment for comorbid conditions and utilization. CONCLUSIONS: This is the largest study of patterns of alcohol use among transgender persons and among the first to directly compare patterns to nontransgender persons. Findings suggest nuanced associations with patterns of alcohol use and provide a base for further disparities research to explore alcohol use within the diverse transgender community. Research with self-reported measures of gender identity and sex-at-birth and structured assessment of alcohol use and disorders is needed.

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