Intoxicated patients more likely to survive traumatic injuries, study finds

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In a somewhat paradoxical finding, being intoxicated on alcohol could help you survive a traumatic injury, according to a study to be published in the December issue of the journal Alcohol.

The study analyzed 190,612 patients treated at trauma centers between 1995 and 2009 following traumatic injuries such as fractures, internal injuries and open wounds. Those with alcohol in their system had a lower mortality rate across the range of injuries, with burns being the only exception.

“At the higher levels of blood alcohol concentration, there was a reduction of almost 50 percent in hospital mortality rates,” explained Lee Friedman, an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago. “This protective benefit persists even after taking into account injury severity and other factors known to be strongly associated with mortality following an injury.”

However, consuming alcohol to protect against injury is hardly a prudent strategy, since drinking is itself associated with an increased risk of being injured.

“This study is not encouraging people to drink,” Friedman warned. “However, after an injury, if you are intoxicated there seems to be a pretty substantial protective effect.”

The finding opens up a new avenue of research for medical scientists. Friedman hopes further research will uncover the mechanism behind alcohol’s protective effect, allowing for the development medication that safely mimics it.

Photo credit: Johansen Laurel

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