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.

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

  • Exiled Phoenix

    May booze flow freely forever…

  • Lien Tio

    padoxical article

  • Hadeskabir

    For this day forward every time I ride in a car as a passenger I’ll be drunk.

  • Hangover ‘s trauma enough.

  • g.g.palin

    A real catch 22 eh?

  • Jhale

    Obviously the alcohol will get you into more petty accidents that result in smaller injuries. Also, its like the first paragraph says; the drunk drivers cause the accidents and get out alive, but that is simply because the object with the most force is going to suffer less damage because it carries the most force of the collision.

  • Riptaway

    This is just referring to people who make it to the hospital. So it appears that alcohol may have some sort of positive effect on the survivability of severe trauma. Alcohol does hundreds of different things in the body, who knows. But being drunk actually increases your chance of dying in a crash. By a lot. Like, way a lot. Oh, and the tensing up thing? Makes no sense. Ever see a video of a crash car dummy? You think doing that is better for you than holding yourself still? Whiplash, appendages striking things, your brain moving around way too fast, etc. All of those things would result if you just went limp during a crash. Obviously there are some crashes that are going to kill you no matter what. But during crashes that you survive, tensing and holding yourself upright and still is way better than letting energy and sudden movements and their G forces have free reign on your body.