Moderate To Heavy Alcohol Drinkers At Risk for Serious Injury

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It is a well known fact that alcohol beverages do impair coordination, alertness and ability to perceive and respond to heath and physical hazards. More than that, suffering from hangovers do impair neurocognitive performance and psychomotor vigilance. This recent study closely investigated alcohol related injuries brought to hospital care and it found out that alcohol greatly increases one’s risk for serious injury.

The results of the study will be published in the January 2012 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. “We know that alcohol is more heavily involved in fatalities than injuries,” says Ted R. Miller, senior research scientist at the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. Miller, who is also the corresponding author for the study further said, “It is less clear whether and how heavily alcohol is involved in serious injury.”

“It is important to understand the proportion of injury attributable to alcohol for those injuries which are more severe and subsequently hospitalized, compared to those not needing hospitalization,” according to Cheryl J. Cherpitel, a senior scientist with the Alcohol Research Group. “Taken together, both are important for a more comprehensive understanding of the proportional decline in injury in the absence of alcohol.”

The researchers made use of combined national alcohol consumption data which includes alcohol metabolism rates, as well as the estimate hours that heavy drinkers versus other drinkers and non-drinkers spent as “alcohol positive” versus “alcohol negative” within one calendar year.

“If we know how much alcohol people drink, we can estimate how many hours per day people are alcohol-positive versus alcohol-negative,” shared Miller. “Dividing the number of alcohol-positive injuries by the number of alcohol-positive hours indicates injury-risk when alcohol-positive. A similar calculation gives the alcohol-negative risk.”

The results was also able to exhibit that alcohol consumption is a major cause of hospitalized injuries. Though heavy alcohol drinkers lead a generally risky lifestyle and behavior, their risk for injury is still magnified thrice, although they are able to tolerate alcohol than any other types of drinkers.

“Risk during hours that people were alcohol-positive was 4.5 times their risk when sober,” noted Miller. “Heavy drinkers claim they can handle their alcohol. Within limits, that’s true. Alcohol raises a heavy drinker’s injury risk less than an average person’s risk. Still, a heavy drinker is three times more likely to be injured during an alcohol-positive than a sober hour. Possibly due to hangover effects, heavy drinkers also are 1.35 times as likely as other people to be injured when sober. Alcohol especially raises risk for assault, near drowning, non-elderly fall, and pedestrian injuries. An estimated 36 percent of hospitalized assaults and 21 percent of all injuries are attributable to alcohol use by the injured person.”

“Non-heavy drinkers also seem to have a higher risk of injury-related hospitalization when alcohol positive compared to alcohol-positive heavy drinkers,” said Cherpitel, “likely due to their not being accustomed to alcohol’s effects, while heavier drinkers have developed a tolerance to alcohol and are therefore less affected by the same amount of alcohol. It is also possible that heavier drinkers may have consumed so much alcohol that they are unable to place themselves in risky situations that may result in injury; for example, they may become a passenger in a vehicle and sleep rather than attempt to drive. These findings are similar to those from our emergency-room studies.”




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