Without a doubt, alcohol use can lead to accidents, even fatal ones. And it can screw up the body's ability to recover from traumatic injury, some studies have shown. But it's also been linked to shorter hospital stays and better outcomes after such injuries.
So researchers at the Los Angeles Biomedical Research Institute, on the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center campus, gathered data on the blood alcohol level of almost 8,000 trauma patients -- and compared the death rates of those who had indulged against those who hadn't.
Turns out, the drunken ones fared better. Only about 1% of the intoxicated patients died; compared with 7% of the nonintoxicated patients.
More study is needed, concludes the study published in the American Surgeon, as to what precisely the protective mechanism might be. (Here's the press release; the article itself isn't easily accessible.)
Also worth noting is this point in the study's discussion section: "The mortality rate reported here is based on patients who are actually brought to the hospital, and the sample is thus limited by selection bias. It is certainly possible that a higher proportion of those who died in the field were intoxicated and were thus never transported to the hospital."
-- Tami Dennis