Alcohol-related accidents account for nearly half of all trauma deaths and non-fatal injuries in the United States, according to the American College of Surgeons. Each year more than 3 million individuals are hospitalized, 37 million seek emergency treatment and 60 million seek other medical attention or lose at least one day of normal activity as a result of an accident. Every 51 minutes, someone dies in the United States from an alcohol-related motor vehicle crash.
Holiday parties and New Year’s events provide a social atmosphere where alcohol is often consumed. The experts in the Smith Level I Shock Trauma Center at Eskenazi Health hope to educate the public about preventable, alcohol-related injuries this holiday season.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, about three in every 10 Americans will be involved in an alcohol-related crash at some time in their lives. In 2009, Indiana University and the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute reported that, in Indiana, 25 percent of traffic crashes with fatalities involved alcohol.
Because alcohol requires no digestion and is absorbed directly into the bloodstream, the effects can be felt quickly and have been proven to impact a person's thinking, judgment, reasoning and reflex activity, even at a low blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
"We generally see an increase in the number of drunk driving crashes and other alcohol-related injuries around the holidays," said Dr. Gerardo Gomez, chief of trauma services and director of the Smith Level I Shock Trauma Center. "Alcohol-related injuries are predictable and, therefore, preventable if education measures are put in place to help build community awareness about the dangers of irresponsible alcohol use."
In order to keep your consumption to a minimum and delay the effects of alcohol, doctors say to try and pace yourself and remember to simultaneously hydrate with water. Eating high-protein foods while you drink will help slow the absorption of alcohol into your system. Also, know how much alcohol you can handle without losing control, and cut yourself off before you reach that limit.
"Alcohol related injuries do not discriminate. They know no socio-economic boundaries," said Dr. Gomez. "Over the years I have seen the terrible consequences such injuries have on families, the young and the old. It is devastating."
Last but not least, if you plan on drinking any amount while you are out, do not drive. Arrange for a designated driver to drive you home or call a taxi or other transportation service. Likewise, if friends or family have been drinking, do not allow them to drive.
The Smith Level I Shock Trauma Center treats more than 2,000 trauma patients each year and became the first verified Level I trauma center in the state in 1992. It remains one of only two adult Level I trauma centers in Indiana. A Level I trauma center is a comprehensive regional resource that is central to the trauma system. Trauma centers verified as Level I are capable of providing total care for every aspect of injury, from prevention to rehabilitation. Key elements of a Level I trauma center include 24-hour in-house coverage by trauma surgeons and prompt availability of care in specialties such as orthopedic surgery, neurosurgery, anesthesiology, emergency medicine, radiology, internal medicine and critical care. For more information on the Smith Level I Shock Trauma Center, please visit EskenaziHealth.edu/SmithTrauma.
CONTACT: Todd Harper