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Accidents and injuries

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Alcohol-related injuries can range from a small bruise or twisted ankle right up to drowning, burns, or serious injuries caused by fights, workplace accidents or road traffic collisions.

The more you drink, the greater the chance of having an accident and being injured or even killed. It also means you risk injuring someone else.

1 in 3 of the deaths attributable to alcohol are from unintentional injuries¹

Accidents and alcohol

Think of alcohol and accidents and we often think of drink-driving and car crashes. But alcohol means a higher risk of all kinds of accidents and injuries, especially if you drink a lot in a short space of time.

    • Suicide: Alcohol is a factor in half of all suicides in Ireland.³
    • Self-harm: Alcohol is involved in 1 in 3 cases of deliberate self-harm.²
    • Road traffic accidents: Alcohol is a factor in 2 in 5 road deaths.³
    • Drowning: Alcohol is a factor in 1 in 3 drownings.³
    • Brain injuries: Alcohol is a factor in one in four traumatic brain injuries.³
    • Brain injuries: Alcohol is a factor in 80% of cases of patients admitted to neurosurgery units following an assault.³

More than one in four people attending accident and emergency departments have alcohol‑related injuries 4

Why do so many accidents happen when alcohol is involved?

You are more likely to get into dangerous situations

When you have been drinking you are more likely to find yourself in a risky situation – whether that be dancing on a table, dashing across a busy road or or making another decision you could end up regretting.

Alcohol lowers your inhibitions, so your willingness to take risks gets bigger the more you drink. It also affects your judgement, so you may not see danger. ­­­

You may also be more argumentative or feel angry or violent, depending on your mood and how the alcohol is affecting you.

Your responses are slowed down and your coordination is affected

Alcohol affects your central nervous system in ways that make you much more likely to have an accident and hurt yourself or someone else and less able to handle risky situations. After even one or two drinks your reaction times are slower and your coordination and control are getting worse, making you more likely to drop things, fall over, bump into things and misjudge distances.

Alcohol is like a cocktail of risk factors when it comes to accidents and injuries – higher impulsivity, worse judgement, poor coordination, slower responses and impaired vision and hearing is a dangerous mix.

What can I do to reduce my risk?

  • Stay within the low-risk guidelines and avoid binge drinking

Binge drinking in particular is linked to the loss of inhibitions and control that make accidents more likely to happen.

  • Avoid risky places and activities

For example, walking in dark places or places near water, driving or operating machinery, lighting fires or using chip pans, going to places where fights or arguments might start.

  • Stay with people that you know

Being with friends and people that know can help you to avoid risky situations and to stay safe if you do get into difficulty.

  • Have a plan for the night

Knowing where you are going to go and how you are getting home can avoid unexpected risks.

References

¹ http://www.who.int/substance_abuse/publications/alcohol_injury_summary.pdf
² Mongan, D. and Long, J. (2016) Alcohol in Ireland: consumption harm cost and policy response, HRB. Dublin.
³ http://alcoholireland.ie/facts/health-and-alcohol/
4 Hope A, Gill A, Costello G, et al. (2005) Alcohol and injuries in the accident and emergency department - a national perspective.

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