Binge Drinking Disrupts Immune System in Young Adults

Binge DrinkingAlcohol when drank in recommended quantities can help one get varied health benefits. however as one continues taking alcohol he may begin to take more of the drink so as to enjoy its euphoric effects, the more alcohol a person drinks and the frequency at which he takes alcohol pave way for serious health complications. There are people today who have been maimed as a result of binge drinking making them dependent on their families as they can no longer work to supplement their own daily needs. The effects of alcoholism are far more than the economic gravity that often befall the addicts but it has more to do with their health. Binge drinking has quite adverse effects on the health of an alcoholic as it has been found to disrupt the immune system of alcoholics especially the youth.

What is Binge Drinking?

Binge drinking usually refers to drinking lots of alcohol in a short space of time or drinking to get drunk. Most researchers define binge drinking as taking more than 8 units or more in a single session. This however may not be so appropriate as different people have different levels of tolerance to the drink and even the speed at which people drink is different. Some people are bound to be fast drinkers while others are slow drinkers but the essence of binge drinking is to get drunk quickly. To avoid binge drinking it is important to space your drinks and to avoid drinking too much that you get drunk instantly.

New research that was led by a researcher now at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine has found that Binge drinking in young, healthy adults significantly disrupts the immune system.

During this study the participants drank four or five shots of vodka. The study also considered the weight of the participants against the number of shots of vodka they took. Twenty minutes after reaching peak intoxication, their immune systems revved up. But when measured again, at two hours and five hours after peak intoxication, their immune systems had become less active than when sober. Binge drinking making them more vulnerable to disease infections. This study led by Majid Afshar, MD, MSCR, and colleagues was published online ahead of print in Alcohol, an international, peer-reviewed journal.

Apart from the fact that that binge drinking has a negative effect on the immune system of youth involved in it , it has also been found that binge drinking increases the risk of falls, burns, gunshot wounds, car accidents and other traumatic injuries. Researchers have also found out that one-third of trauma patients have alcohol in their systems.

There is more harm to binge drinking than just increased risk of traumatic injuries as it also impairs the body’s ability to recover from such injuries. Previous studies have found that binge drinking delays wound healing, increases blood loss and makes patients more prone to pneumonia and infections from catheters. The study led by Dr. Afshar warns that Binge drinkers are also more likely to die from traumatic injuries.

Binge drinking is known to alter behaviors of drinkers but as Elizabeth Kovacs, PhD, a co-author of the study and director of Loyola’s Alcohol Research Program puts it “But there is less awareness of alcohol’s harmful effects in other areas, such as the immune system,”. This shows that most binge drinkers are not fully aware of its risks.

If what the definition of binge drinking by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism holds some water then there are many binge drinkers who do not even know they are binge drinkers. According to this institute binge drinking is drinking enough to reach or exceed a blood alcohol content of .08, the legal limit for driving.

This study included eight women and seven men with a median age of 27. Each volunteer drank enough shots of vodka, generally four or five to meet the definition of binge drinking. Dr. Afshar and colleagues took blood samples at 20 minutes, two hours and five hours after peak intoxication because these are times when intoxicated patients typically arrive at trauma centers for treatment of alcohol-related injuries.

Binge DrinkingFrom the blood samples it was observed that 20 minutes after peak intoxication, there was increased immune system activity. There were higher levels of three types of white blood cells that are key components of the immune system namely leukocytes, monocytes and natural killer cells. There also were increased levels of proteins called cytokines that signal the immune system to ramp up. At this minute the immune system was higher than before they got drunk. However two hours and five hours after peak intoxication, researchers found the opposite effect- fewer circulating monocytes and natural killer cells and higher levels of different types of cytokines that signal the immune system to become less active signaling a drop in the immune system.

Follow up study

Despite the success of this study in showing the effect of binge drinking on the immune system, Dr. Afshar is still planning to do a follow-up study of burn unit patients. He intends to compare patients who had alcohol in their system when they arrived with patients who were alcohol-free. He will measure immune system markers from each group, and compare their outcomes, including lung injury, organ failure and death among other parameters.

Binge drinking has far worse effects on the health of an alcoholic, it is therefore safe to consider the pace at which a person drinks and avoid this dangerous habit. Dr. Dalal Akoury of AWAREmed Health and Wellness Center has dedicated her life to helping addicts restore their lives by use of integrative medicine. Call her on (843) 213-1480 for help.

Binge Drinking Disrupts Immune System in Young Adults