Booze Therapy: Giving Alcohol to Patients with Head Injury

Ever noticed that drunk people who cause accidents that kill others escape harm? Well, the secret of their luck may actually be the alcohol itself. Dr. Ali Salim and colleagues from the Cedars Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles found that head injury patients who were drunk were significantly less likely to die than sober ones:

The amount of alcohol consumed appears to be important - too little and there is no effect, too much and the beneficial effects are lost, studies on animals suggest.

Experts believe the right dose of alcohol, however, stops the cascade of swelling, inflammation and further destruction of brain cells, known as secondary brain injury.

The latest work, based on more than 38,000 moderate-to-severe head trauma patients, is the largest yet to look at the effects of alcohol on brain injury survival.

This led to an intriguing proposal of giving alcohol to those who just suffered brain injury - call it "booze therapy," if you will: Link


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Have never heard of booze specifically helping or benefiting a brain injury per se other than the above poster. Yes booze has inflammatory effects that are pretty notorious but I recently heard a bit of contradiction regarding the subject. And I'm sure people will get the wrong idea as to this being another little green light to party it up! Not sure about the specifics but actually heard that the malt and hops part of the beer do something positive to the bone structure either regarding reducing inflamation and/or perhaps heeling it. Source: heard it on the alternative medicine show, "Health Talk" on the radio. It's not really a pro alcohol show either - it's pretty impartial about the subject to say the least. Also red wine was mentioned too as to being beneficial in some way regarding basically helping bone structure in some way. Soft tissue however, I do not think was necessarily included in that. Not sure what to do with this information regarding head injuries though. Drinking freely might be a problem here. At the most, one or two drinks at dinner just to be on the safe side, especially with things like aneurysms that can burst from too much booze. I don't think it is recommend drinking more than 5 drinks per week though for anyone, which hardly seems like it would be even worth bothering.
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The "rag-doll" effect was noted in Chinese texts predating Christianity- in the context of "falling from a carriage" it is said that "the drunkard escapes injury because his spirit is complete" which is an old fashioned way of saying the person rolls with the fall and doesn't tense up to resist it. Sorry I can't remember which ancient chinese author wrote this.

The effect being examined here is a different one- on the brains inflammatory response to injury- the right dose of ethanol inhibits this.

Alcohol intoxication is responsible for the vast majority of serious head injury, so drinking before an accident, even if it does reduce neural injury, is not on the whole protective- (you are about 12% less likely to die if you have a head injury while you have ethanol in your blood stream, but you are at least twice as likley to get a head injury in the first place if you are intoxicated).

Based on this research, it would appear that administering the ideal amount of ethanol in an emergency department setting may be able to reduce neural injury after a head injury. However drinking alcohol at home as a treatment for head injury is likely to result in a concussed person lapsing into unconsiousness and dying from intercranial bleeding. The best advice if you have a head injury is not to drink alcohol, and to get to a hospital.

Dr Jane.
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I wonder if this would be more tempting for the nurse giving the "treatment" to either injure themself or just say screw it and join the patient.
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I always believed that drunks survive horrible falls and accidents because they are like loose puppets. That it was the flexibility, the just not really resisting that made them somehow stay more or less in one piece.
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