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Odds Favor Drunk Trauma Victims

A study in the journal American Surgeon finds that trauma victims who were inebriated at the time of their injury have higher survival rates than their sober counterparts. Rachel Kremen reports

[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

Being drunk might make you more accident prone, but it also increases your chance of survival. Research published in the journal American Surgeon reveals that trauma patients are more likely to survive if they were intoxicated at the time of their injury.

A retrospective study of nearly 8,000 trauma patients found that seven percent of people who came in sober died of their injuries, while those who were hurt while drunk only died one percent of the time. A positive blood alcohol level seemed to increase the likelihood of survival, even after the researchers took into account the age of the patient and the severity of the injury. Trauma patients who came in to the hospital drunk were discharged sooner, too.

Exactly how alcohol protects the injured is still not clear. But a past study on animals did find that ethanol protected against nerve damage. The new work hints that alcohol might have a place in treating traumatic injuries, although more research is needed. In the meantime, avoiding trauma in the first place is still the strategy one might call most sober.

—Rachel Kremen

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