Is alchohol an anesthetic?

Frequently, in movies etc, the hero gets drunk before digging out a bullet. By himself or by someone else. I’ve been punched once or twice while drunk, and it hurt like hell. Was I not drunk enough, or am I just a big pussy? Both?
Or, is alchohol not an anesthetic.

One, he is frequently pouring it over his wounds to clean the area.

Two, it should work a bit if you get realllllllllllllllllllly drunk. Like, knocked out drunk.

Not all anesthetics are analgesics, I might note. Some simply act to keep you from being able to form memories of the pain.

I watched Ronin again last night. Sam don’t need no booze (in his belly) for his impromptu surgery. Just a mirror and Vincent’s steady hand.

NOT MEDICAL ADVICE - talk to your doctor

Ethanol is an antiseptic and disinfectant- rubbing a wound with sufficiently high proof whiskey or rum is actually helpful in many cases as it kills bacteria that might otherwise infect you through an open wound. Think about why we use rubbing alcohol (though most first-aid alcohol is isopropanol, ethanol has also been available and used). Now, if it was just 4% alc beer, I don’t know, as I don’t know the minimum alcohol concentration necessary to produce a material antibacterial effect.


(Not a doctor)

Two points:

Yes, alcohol is a depressant. All depressants work by blocking nerve endings to prevent pain stimulus from traveling to your brain. This same effect causes loss of coordination and slower reaction times.

On the other hand, pain thresholds vary a lot from person to person. I asked a doctor once why every medical person (including my chiropractor) says “On a scale of one to ten, how painful is it, with 10 being the most painful?” I have a high threshold, so, for example, a rib that popped out of my spine would be a 6, a sprain would be maybe a 4, a broken rib was a 2. My wife, on the other hand, would say a splinter is a 6. She often answers the above question with 11.

Therefore, if you have a low pain threshold, alcohol probably won’t help much, as at least part of the pain is psychological (if it’s bleeding, it must hurt like heck!)

Also, isn’t it more that alcohol makes you not care that you’re hurt than that it makes you have no feeling? I’ve sometimes had that feeling when I’ve been drunk. Not that I’ve had surgery or anything with alcohol, but I’ve just felt so out of it I didn’t care. Or maybe I’m thinking of Valium.

There’s a different effect (I don’t know the technical term, sorry) where a more severe pain blocks out a less severe pain. For example, when I was under a chiropractor’s care, I had my back pain move around from the middle, to the lower back, to the shoulders, etc. He said that the stronger pain distracts me from the weaker pain, and when the stronger pain is lessened, the weaker pain suddenly comes to my attention.

For example, if your left hand gets crushed, you won’t feel the splinter in your right hand until the left hand is anesthetized.

Warning, Gumby skit:
Yes. Well then. So that would explain this, would it not?

Well, I’ve had the experience of being fairly drunk and not noticing a bunch of small injuries at all. Basically a “why the hell am I bleeding?” moment. Cut my arm fairly deeply at a some rusty barbed wire. I’m sure that for real pain, you’d have to be pretty much knocked out drunk to have any effect, though.

Age’ll do that. Every once in a while I’ll discover blood and wonder where it came from. Or someone will say “Look, George, you’re bleeding!”. :confused: I save face by saying “Yeah, I know.” Of course they believe me.
I’m 64 5/6 years old.
BTW; I no lomger drink.

I hope you’re not sitting around with a bullet in your leg, waiting for useful advice here, because you’ll be disappointed. In order for you to be sufficiently anaesthetised for surgery, you’d need to be drunk enough to pass out - drowning-in-own-vomit territory. And even then I’m not promising anything.

Alcohol was used before anaesthetic drugs were available (ether was discovered around 1850). As a CNS depressant, it may have helped a little, but the patient would usually be strapped down and screaming a lot.

You could try biting down on a piece of wood, or knocking yourself out with a blow to the head, then get someone else to extract the bullet/amputate your leg/perform the sex change op, but all in all I would recommend seeing an actual doctor for your anaesthetic needs.

Well, shit. I was hoping I wouldn’t have to use up my smack.
Oh, well.

Well, you should have said so. That’s a much better option. Anyhoo, good luck, be sure to have a friend on hand to remove the bullet, 'cos once you shoot up, you probably won’t care anymore.

I’ll get Vincent. He’s gotten his MD, and changed his name to “Dr. Sheinbaum”.
My life is in some danger for telling you that.

The major usefulness though of a tool like that is two-fold:

  1. It’s used to figure out just how much discomfort a specific patient is in (ie: a 10 or 11 still means that the pt. probably is in a lot of pain regardless of their pain level- it means for THEM the pain is really bad). Usually we try to say things like '10 being the worst pain you’ve EVER felt, and hopefully they can use that for comparisons sake, but you get lots of 9-11’s, but it’s still useful).
  2. The MAJOR use of this- it’s for followups. Because the 1-10 scale is personalized, whatever they’ve said on the pain is written down and kept in the records. THEN AFTER the treatment, you ask them the same question to see the difference.

The key is if you have someone complaining of a 5/10 pre-surgery, and then after his operation he starts saying the pain is around a 7/10, you know that most likely the problem is related to something that’s happened AFTER the initial event. You can track people’s pain levels until the issue is resolved. So you want to keep a running tally of numbers- what they come in with, what it is after a treatment, what it is after some time, does anything make it better/worse. And then you’ll be able to get some idea of what they’re doing on their own individualized pain scale.

So it’s a very funky question when asked one time, but it’s pretty interesting and useful when you keep it up and follow up on it. (You can flip through the medical records sometimes and track people’s pain scale perhaps for an ache or such in a leg over months and every visit what they’ve said you can try to see if the pains gotten better in the long run or if it’s gotten worse or stayed the same).

Technically, yes it is. However its therapeutic index is so narrow that alcohol is virtually useless in that role.

Yeah, I missed the window, I forgot to tell the rest of that story: So when I asked the doctor if that scale question is useless between patients, he explained it’s useful when used on the same patient over time, not as an absolute scale.