When I was in college, I went to a toga party and bet a kid I could drink more vodka than him. In the course of 15 minutes, I drank nine shots of vodka. I was fine until about 15 minutes later when I completely passed out. The next day I woke up in my dorm room, bruised and not quite sure of how I got there. This is just one of the binge drinking episodes I put my body through and my question is, can the damage done to my body in my earlier drinking days be undone?
A study done by the Journal of the American College of Cardiology assessed whether binge drinkers (meaning more than five drinks in two hours for men and four drinks in two hours for women) had long term damage done in terms of cardiovascular health. The study enlisted subjects who had an average of six binge drinking episodes per month for a period of four years. The conclusion of the study was that these individuals had damage done to their blood vessels and a “strong prognostic factor” for future cardiovascular events, such as heart attack, stroke, sudden death and higher rates of mortality after myocardial infarction. The main reason for future cardiovascular problems was the lack of elasticity in their blood vessels as compared to those who abstained from alcohol.
Binge drinking is on the rise in the U.S., especially in the 18-20 year old range. Alcohol has often been considered the “safe” drug, but according to the CDC, binge drinking has accounted for approximately 88,000 deaths per year.
In addition to the cardiovascular damage caused by binge drinking, long-term damage can also be done to the liver. In a journal published in January, 2017 Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research examined how mice responded to binge-like drinking as compared to drinking in moderation. The results revealed that binge-drinking raised triglyceride levels in the liver and plasma, could lead to a fatty liver and other liver dysfunction.
When I became sober over 21 years ago, I accepted the fact that I have long-standing consequences from my years of addiction. There were things that I had done or had been done to me that could only be healed by therapy and prayer. I had to learn how to handle my emotions better (still do) and my marijuana use permanently altered my capability to remember things, but I never realized that the binge drinking, once stopped, could have an impact on how long I am to live.
Obviously, the best thing for your body after years of binge drinking is to quit. But it is also important to get a physical examination, letting your doctor know about your periods of binge drinking and get tested for liver and cardiovascular damage.