Drunks More Likely to Survive Injuries

Friday, December 13th, 2013

God really does look after drunks, it would appear:

Friedman analyzed all 190,612 patients treated at Illinois’ trauma centers between 1995 and 2009 who were tested for blood-alcohol content, with levels ranging from zero to 0.5 percent at time of admission. (Blood-alcohol levels above about 0.35 percent can be fatal.) He found that with the exception of burn injuries, the mortality rates of all types of traumatic injury decreased as the blood-alcohol content of victims rose. [7 Ways Alcohol Affects Your Health]

At the upper bounds of intoxication, mortality rates were cut by nearly 50 percent, said Friedman. The effect, however, was not equally strong for all types of trauma, with victims of penetrating injuries, such as gunshot and stab wounds, seeming to show the greatest benefit from alcohol.

Folk beliefs about this aren’t quite right:

There is a folk belief that drunken injuries, especially those incurred during car crashes, are likely to be less severe, due perhaps to increased relaxation or limpness at the time of an accident. But Friedman says his research has convinced him that this belief is “probably grossly overestimated and false.”

His findings don’t show that a drunk driver’s injuries during a car crash are likely to be less serious than those suffered by potential sober victims, just that if all parties suffer the same injuries, the sober ones are more likely to die.

“You don’t die from the injury itself, you die from the subsequent physiological response, things like inflammation and rapid fluid loss,” Friedman told Life’s Little Mysteries. “If you get shot by a gun, it’s not the hole that kills you.”

And it’s when a person’s body goes into emergency preservation mode — tripping a cascade of physiological panic buttons that can ironically end in death — that alcohol seems to help most.


  1. Steve Johnson says:

    So carry a bottle of safety whiskey in the car in case of accident?

  2. Lucklucky says:

    No, but a pill that induces alcohol-like effects might help.

    I think one of the reasons might be the body rigidity that conscious people take that make impacts effects worse.

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