If you have a car accident and are taken to the hospital, you’re less likely to die if you’ve been drinking (as long as you weren’t drinking so much that it CAUSED the accident!) It turns out that injured patients are less likely to die in the hospital if they have alcohol in their blood, and the more alcohol, the more likely they were to survive.

Injury epidemiologist Lee Friedman says, "This study is not encouraging people to drink. However, after an injury, if you are intoxicated there seems to be a pretty substantial protective effect."

Friedman analyzed Illinois Trauma Registry data for 190,612 patients treated at trauma centers between 1995 and 2009 who were tested for blood alcohol content, which ranged from zero to 0.5% at the time they were admitted to the trauma unit. Of that group, 6,733 died in the hospital. Alcohol benefited patients across the range of injuries, with burns being the only exception.

Friedman says, "At the higher levels of blood alcohol concentration, there was a reduction of almost 50% in hospital mortality rates. This protective benefit persists even after taking into account injury severity and other factors known to be strongly associated with mortality following an injury.

"If the mechanism behind the protective effect were understood, we could then treat patients post-injury, either in the field or when they arrive at the hospital, with drugs that mimic alcohol." Or why not with alcohol itself? A few drinks would sure ease the dreariness of a hospital stay.

If they won’t let you drink, make sure they give you your laptop so you can access all the great Dreamland shows. You can listen to this week’s show for free, but if you subscribe, you can listen to everything in our remarkable compendium of fascinating shows and interviews. So before you take that long drive (or that long drink), be sure to subscribe today!

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