Alcohol Increases Your Likelihood Of Surviving Traumatic Injury

“Accidents will occur in the best regulated families.” —Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

In A Nutshell

Strangely enough, a study has shown that people who are intoxicated have a greater chance of surviving serious injuries than sober folks. The drunker the person is, the greater their chance of living. The study indicates that being drunk lessens the physiological panic response to serious injuries like shootings and stabbings. However, being drunk also increases your chances of getting into an accident in the first place, so it is by no means a recommended protective measure.

The Whole Bushel

It seems sadly cliche: a drunk climbs behind the wheel of his car, his blood alcohol level two or three times the legal limit. Fiddling with the radio, he hurtles through a red light and crashes into another vehicle. Tragically, the other driver dies, and the drunk walks away without a scratch. A study published in the December 2012 issue of the journal Alcohol indicates that this scenario is bizarrely true to life.

The study analyzed nearly 200,000 patients who arrived at hospital trauma centers throughout the state of Illinois between 1995 and 2009. Those with alcohol in their systems fared better than their sober counterparts, with those being extremely drunk enjoying almost a 50 percent better survival rate. The only exception to the rule are those with burn injuries.

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The conventional wisdom behind the drunk’s astounding survival rate is that in the instant before something as devastating as a car crash, a sober person will steel himself, whereas a drunk remains limp, thereby lessening the force of the impact. Lee Friedman, the University of Illinois professor who authored the study, discounts this theory. He asserts that the survival rate has little to do with the moment of injury itself, but its aftermath. This is backed by the fact that the trauma wounds that drunks are most likely to survive are penetrating injuries such as gunshot or stab wounds.

These sort of injuries naturally produce a great deal of panic. Friedman claims that the ensuing physiological response—reactions such as overloads of adrenaline and increased heart rate—are what actually cause death. Those who are extremely intoxicated do not react as intensely to the wound, and therefore linger long enough to be healed. The natural assumption given this conclusion would be that going around with a perpetual buzz might ensure immortality is extremely mistaken. While alcohol might increase your chances of surviving an injury, it also increases your chance of suffering one—a percentage game you will certainly lose before too long.

Show Me The Proof

Drunks More Likely to Survive Injuries, Study Suggests
Alcohol Raises Injury Risk, But Also Survival Rate