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Alcohol can protect drinkers from injury and the more intoxicated they are, the more the risk of mortality is reduced.

That is according to a study by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health.

The study showed that injured patients were far less likely to die in hospital if they had alcohol in their blood and that increased intoxication led to increased survival rates.

Study author Lee Friedman said: "After an injury, if you are intoxicated there seems to be a pretty substantial protective effect. The more alcohol you have in your system, the more the protective effect.

"At the higher levels of blood alcohol concentration, there was a reduction of almost 50 percent in hospital mortality rates.

"This protective benefit persists even after taking into account injury severity and other factors known to be strongly associated with mortality following an injury."

The study looked at data on 190,612 patients treated in trauma centres between 1995 and 2009. All patients were tested for blood alcohol content when they were admitted. A total of 6,733 patients died.

Injuries included fractures, internal injuries and open wounds. Alcohol was shown to have benefited all patients across most injures, with burns being the only exception.

"We could then treat patients post-injury, either in the field or when they arrive at the hospital, with drugs that mimic alcohol," he said.

However, Friedman also noted that people were far more likely to injure themselves while drunk, even if just mildly inebriated. "This study is not encouraging people to drink," he said.

Jonathan Shepherd, a member of Drinkaware's medical panel, disagreed with the research and reiterated that alcohol greatly increased risk of injury in the first place.

"This is a surprising finding which needs to be confirmed in further research. Alcohol does not protect against trauma and it actually aggravates the situation in various ways once people get to hospital," Shepherd told IBTimes UK.

"Alcohol also increases the risk of getting injured in the first place, which outweighs anything that this research might suggest in terms of protection.

"I don't accept, until [after] further research, that alcohol provides any protection at all. I'm convinced it comes with increased risk in regards to injury.

"If you look at violence, people are physically unable to get out of the situation. They're less likely to be able to run away. In regards to accidents, people are less coordinated, they stagger about.

"People who are intoxicated make the wrong kinds of decisions that put them at greater risk of injury."