kidneys, or in sweat. For an average-sized person, the liver can only break down about one standard drink per hour. If you drink more alcohol than what your liver can process, your blood alcohol content (BAC) will increase. So will the effects on your body. Other factors also affect your BAC,

such as how quickly you drink, whether you’ve eaten recently, and your body type. Even your age, sex, and ethnicity play a part.

Binge drinking has many effects on

the body. But what’s often overlooked is that it can be a risky activity. “It’s estimated that about half of all alcohol-related deaths in the United States are related to acute intoxication, and most of the economic costs are also related to binge drinking,” said Dr. Timothy Naimi, professor of medicine at Boston Univer- sity School of Medicine and co-author of the CDC study. Binge drinking can lead to death from alcohol poisoning. Or by depressing the gag reflex, which puts a person who has passed out at risk of choking on their own vomit.

Excessive alcohol also affects your

actions, which can increase your risk of injuries and death from motor vehicle ac- cidents, drowning, suffocation, and other accidents.

"Acutely, when you’re impaired by

alcohol, you not only have poor coordina- tion, but you also have very poor judgment and very poor executive functioning,”

Naimi said. Alcohol is also often found in the blood of people who harm themselves or attempt suicide.

A single night of binge drinking has a number of other effects, especially at higher amounts. “When it comes to in- flammation of the pancreas, stomach, or liver, those effects can be acute,” said Naimi. “A very heavy single drinking epi- sode, or several of those in a short space of time, can cause acute inflammation and irritation of those organs.”

In addition to increasing the risk of

injury, binge drinking impairs the body’s ability to heal from those injuries. “If a person is drunk and gets injured, the per- son will have more complications when alcohol is present in the body, as opposed to a person who may not have been ex- posed to alcohol,” said Mashkoor Choudhry, PhD, director of the Alcohol Research Program at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

Binge drinking can also affect your: One recent study by researchers at the

Heart. Heavy drinking can cause high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, or sudden death from heart failure.

Kidneys. Alcohol is a diuretic, which causes the kidneys to produce more urine. This, alone or with vomiting, can lead to dehydration and dangerously low levels of sodium, potassium, and other minerals and salts.

University of California at San Francisco found that 21 binge drinking sessions over seven weeks was enough to cause symp- toms of early stage liver disease in mice.

More research needs to be done on

people, but the effects of long-term heavy alcohol use are already well-known.

Over the long run, alcohol increases Daniel Lackey, FNP-C Daniel Lackey, FNP-C

Daniel Lackey, FNP-C is a board certified Nurse Practitioner. His background is in Emergency Medi- cine, with 5 years of experience as an ER nurse. His nurse practitioner degree includes specialties in fami- ly practice and adult gerontological acute care. Following his true pas- sion, however, he also obtained a certification in functional medi- cine. He finds it is truly rewarding and efficacious to address the root cause of illness instead of viewing the body as separate systems.

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the risk of several cancers, including can- cer of the liver, mouth, throat, voice box, esophagus, colon, and rectum. Even a few drinks a week is linked with an increased risk of breast cancer in women.

Heavy, long-term alcohol use can lead

to alcoholic liver disease, which includes inflammation of the liver and cirrhosis.

Excessive drinking is also bad for the

cardiovascular system, leading to in- creased risk of heart attack, high blood pressure, and irregular heartbeat.

More researchers are looking at the effects of alcohol on the intestinal micro- biome — the bacteria and other organisms that live inside us. “A single alcohol drink may not have

that much of an impact [on the microbi- ome], but bingeing or chronic alcohol

Lungs. Alcohol inhibits the gag reflex, which can lead to vomit, saliva, or other substances entering the lungs. This can cause inflammation or infection in the lungs.

Pancreas. A single session of heavy al- cohol use can lead to dangerously low blood sugar (hypoglycemia).

Sexual health. Being drunk increases the chance of having unsafe sex — which can lead to sexually transmitted infec- tions (STIs) or unplanned pregnancy.

Long-term effects After a single night of binge drinking, some of the short-term effects will go away. Many, like injuries or STIs, can stay with you for years. There’s not a lot of research on how long the physical effects of binge drinking last, or whether your body can recover completely. More frequent binge drinking, though, is more likely to lead to long-term damage.

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