The bare-knuckle spirit of the American boozehound can now hold its head up a little higher: a new study has discovered that being under the influence of alcohol may increase a person’s chances for survival in the event of an accident.

According to researchers from the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health, the more alcohol a patient has in his system, the more likely he is to survive. However, lead researcher Lee Friedman urges enthusiastic drinkers to exercise caution: “This study is not encouraging people to drink."

Ironically enough, even though boozing it up may make your body super-resilient to the perils of freak accidents, it also makes you more susceptible to, well, freak accidents. “After an injury, if you are intoxicated there seems to be a pretty substantial protective effect,” said Friedman. “The more alcohol you have in your system, the more the protective effect.”

To find out just how protective the booze shield actually is, Friedman set out to examine Illinois trauma-center data for more than 190,000 patients with alcohol in their systems at the time they were admitted for treatment; about 6,800 of those people did not make it.

Overall, Friedman found that patients with higher blood-alcohol levels made their way to recovery more so than those with little to no alcohol registered in their system. “At the higher levels of blood-alcohol concentration, there was a reduction of almost 50 percent in hospital mortality rates,” said Friedman. “This protective benefit persists even after taking into account injury severity and other factors known to be strongly associated with mortality following an injury.”

Friedman adds that he believes if this phenomenon were better understood by the medical community, “we could then treat patients post-injury, either in the field or when they arrive at the hospital, with drugs that mimic alcohol.”

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