Fellowship Story Showcase
Dr. Chris Lambert Sounds Warning on Mixing Prescription Drugs with Alcohol
This article was written by Noozhawk Intern Tim Fucci as part of Day 4 in Noozhawk's 12-day, six-week special investigative series. Related links are below.
The Noozhawk's Prescription for Abuse series is a special project exploring the misuse and abuse of prescription medications in Santa Barbara County. Our series is a result of an exciting and unique partnership with USC's Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism, which awarded Noozhawk a California Endowment Health Journalism Fellowship to undertake this important work.
Through our reporting and presentation, we will establish an independent baseline of where our community is with respect to the misuse and abuse of prescription medications; how the problem is affecting health care, education, law enforcement, criminal justice, addiction and treatment, and our culture and society; what we as a community can do to educate ourselves about prevention and controls; and how we can perhaps reverse what appears to be a very troubling trend.
Noozhawk staff writers Lara Cooper and Giana Magnoli are the lead reporters on the project, and they've been assisted by managing editor Michelle Nelson; reporters Alex Kacik and Sonia Fernandez; interns Kristin Crosier, Jessica Ferguson, Tim Fucci, Kristen Gowdy, Jessica Haro, Daniel Langhorne, Alexa Shapiro, Sam Skopp, Erin Stone and Sarah Webb; photographers Garrett Geyer and Nick St.Oegger; content producer Cliff Redding; and Web development staffers Will Macfadyen and Edgar Oliveira.
Ashley Almada, Garrett Geyer, Hailey Sestak and Billy Spencer of the Santa Barbara Teen News Network filmed more than two dozen public-service videos featuring many of our story sources.
The project is sponsored by the Santa Barbara Foundation in partnership with KEYT, sbTNN and Zona Seca. The Annenberg School is assisted by the Renaissance Journalism Center at San Francisco State University.
» Dr. Chris Lambert Sounds Warning on Mixing Prescription Drugs with Alcohol
Name: Dr. Chris Lambert
Location: Santa Barbara
Role: Emergency room physician
A Santa Barbara native, Lambert said he chose to be an emergency physician because he liked the fast-paced environment.
“What I enjoy is when you are an emergency physician, you have to communicate with patients in a way that’s precise and quick at the same time,” Lambert said.
Lambert has dealt firsthand with patients suffering with the unforgiving affects of drugs and alcohol.
“Clearly, alcohol-related incidents are very common in the emergency department,” Lambert said. “We see patients with alcohol-related issues daily. A majority of visits during the day is usually with the homeless population and during the night it usually skews toward the college-aged population.”
With its close proximity to Isla Vista and the UCSB campus, Goleta Valley Cottage Hospital’s emergency room frequently treats students for alcohol-related incidents.
“During the weekends there is a significant portion of students coming in,” said Lambert, a UCSB graduate himself. “We tend to see episodic extremes during Halloween and Floatopia.”
Asked whether there has been an upward trend in emergency room visits by young people as a result of excessive alcohol consumption, Lambert said in his time as an emergency department physician the number of incidents has remained consistent, but has not dropped.
While alcohol poisoning and drug overdose are less common, according to Lambert, there has been a rise in complications stemming from prescription drug use mixing with alcohol.
“There have been recent cases where there has been a combination of drug, alcohol, sedatives and narcotics,” said Lambert, who heads Cottage Health System’s Frequent Opiate User Program, which monitors patient prescription histories to determine if they’re seeking additional drugs.
“It’s rare to have a case that involves just polydrug overdose. If you’re drinking heavily, it markedly increases your chances of hospitalization. It’s a very dangerous combination and patients end up with medical complications.”
As the mixture of drugs and alcohol has become more frequent, Lambert called for students and young people to be more responsible and practice common sense. As a medical expert familiar with the dangers of drugs and alcohol, he had some advice.
“We’re concerned about the excessive drinking and binge drinking,” Lambert said. “Moderation is a good thing. Never mix alcohol and drugs. If you see one of your friends appear to be in danger, you need to call 9-1-1 early.
“Our goal as physicians is to administer good medical treatment, not to get someone in trouble.”