Even though young people may not feel the same health effects that adults do after drinking regularly, the binge drinking habits of adults between ages 18-34 can still significantly impact their well-being. A new study has shown that when young adults engage in binge drinking it can disrupt their immune system.
This can make it more difficult for their body to fight off illness or recover from injuries. College students or younger adults may not be aware of how their drinking behavior is impacting their health because they are young enough to avoid feeling the negative effects of drinking.
However, binge drinking can still be very dangerous at any age because of the way it directly impacts the functioning of the immune system.
Alcohol-related Injuries and Binge Drinking
Binge drinking is defined as drinking enough to reach or exceed a blood alcohol content of .08 by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. This limit, which is also the legal limit for driving is usually achieved after four drinks for women and five drinks for men consumed over a period of two hours.
According to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) 1 in 6 adults in the US binge drink four times a month with young adults being the most common binge drinking group. Binge drinking has been shown to be closely linked to trauma patients and increases the risk of falls, burns, gunshot wounds, car accidents and other injuries.
In addition to this, alcohol's effects on the immune system can make it more difficult for binge drinkers to recover from their injuries. Drinking heavily can delay wound healing, increase blood loss and make patients more susceptible to infection.
Studies have shown that binge drinkers are more likely to die from injuries than the average person.
Alcohol's Effects on the Immune System
Young adults who are binge drinkers are rarely aware of how their behavior is affecting their immune system and their overall health. A recent study had participants drink four or five shots of vodka, enough to meet the criteria for binge drinking, in order to monitor how their immune system reacted to the alcohol.
Blood samples from eight men and eight women showed that within 20 minutes of drinking their immune systems "revved up" and then a few hours later were much less active. The reduction in activity could be dangerous for young people who are injured while drinking.
The blood samples were taken at about the same time as an injured person might arrive at a trauma center after being intoxicated and seeking treatment for alcohol-related injuries. Those involved in the study will continue to research alcohol's effects on the immune system in other injuries such as burn patients.
They will compare the outcome of each patient with their level of intoxication and the activity of their immune system.
Although young people may believe that their binge drinking habits are harmless because they are not addicted and do not get serious hangovers, there are still physical consequences to periods of heavy drinking. With the effects that alcohol seems to have on reducing the activity of the immune system it is possible that frequent binge drinking could have a cumulative effect and damaged the immune system more over time.
Eventually, binge drinking could cause young adults to become sick more frequently and make it harder for them to heal any time they are hurt or get ill. Young people may feel immune from the effects of alcohol but it can harm them just the same as it would an older person who drinks.
Young adults should be cautious about binge drinking and take measures to keep their immune system working effectively.