CNN released a story on how alcohol may prevent brain damage in car accidents. The study monitored 38,000 patients between 2000 and 2005 that suffered moderate to severe brain injuries in accidents, 38% which had high levels of alcohol in their blood.
Patients with the alcohol were more likely to survive from the brain damage than those that did not have a high blood-alcohol level. This means that while alcohol is a leading cause for auto accidents at a startling 40% of all accidents on the road, it also may prevent fatalities in severe auto accidents where brain injury is involved.
According to MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, underage drinking is the number one health problem in the youth of our country. Scientists that are skeptical of the study believe it may be skewed by the fact that younger patients in auto accidents will recover better than older patients, and those younger patients are also coming into the hospital more often thanks to the 40%-alcohol-causes-accidents rate.
But consider this: every year, 2 million people suffer from traumatic brain injuries. Of those 2 million, 56,000 will die and 80,000 will remain injured for life. To get an idea of how underage drinking may be effecting this study, compare that statistic with the following from MADD: 5,000 people under the age of 21 die every year due to drinking; this is not including sexual assaults, violence, or survivable injuries, so we’re only looking at the 56,000 people dying in auto accidents in this case.
The verdict? If both argumentative scientists and MADD are true, then the young patients are likely college students: over the age of 21, but still in the partying years.
It’s not clear why alcohol may help these patients recover from brain injuries. Doctors are saying giving alcohol to patients after the fact might not be beneficial either, because having the alcohol during the accident is a completely separate factor that may be attributing to the brain recovery.
This certainly isn’t to say to drink while driving; best to not get into the accident at all! While using alcohol to treat people is unlikely, scientists are looking for the “what” behind the phenomena to see if they can come up with alternative treatments for brain injuries in the future.