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The way women and men consume and are impacted by substances differs based on several factors. Men and women’s bodies react differently to various toxins and chemicals, and in many cases, women do not need to intake high amounts of harmful chemicals to feel their effects. A new study has confirmed that this applies to binge drinking, finding that women who binge drink are more likely to suffer liver damage.
Defined as a man consuming 5 or more drinks in under 2 hours or a woman drinking 4 or more drinks in under 2 hours, binge drinking has many long-term and damaging effects. Consuming alcohol is one of the most common causes of severe liver damage and failure in the United States. The CDC notes 1 in 6 individuals consume too much alcohol, binging 4 times per month. A related term, heavy drinking, which has even more lethal effects, is when a woman drinks 8 drinks per week or when a man drinks 15 drinks per week.
A Missouri research team discovered female rats were much more vulnerable to alcohol sensitivity and liver damage than males. Margaret Proctor Mulligan Professor Shivendra Shukla, PhD, noted people can binge drink and be healthy, but greatly expose themselves to liver damage. Excess drinking can transition from being a “fun” activity with seemingly harmful side effects, to one that becomes a dangerous coping mechanism with irreversible consequences. This is because the liver is the epicenter of the body’s metabolism.
Through close analysis, Shukla found that 3 alcohol beverages “triggered a response for more injury in the female rats.” Shukla then discovered the vital difference in the four male rates versus the three female rats when giving them the same amount of alcohol in a “3 times in a 12-hour interval.” The professor looked at the tissue within each set of the rats after the binge drinking session, noticing the blood alcohol concentration was “twice that in the female rats”, but not all damage in males and females were showcased ratio-wise. The result yielded female rats with inflammation, damage, and 4 times the fatty-tissue residuals in their liver.
The CDC produced a fact sheet to make individuals aware of moderate and high drinking levels. In this fact sheet, the CDC noted the pitfalls of excessive alcohol consumption. In the United States, there are 88,000 deaths annually and $249 billion in costs because of alcohol.
Women who binge drink while expecting can damage the liver as well as the baby. Alcohol enters into the mother’s bloodstream, affecting the baby. As a result, babies are often born with physical traits associated with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Some characteristics are mild, while some affect the child’s memory, ability to focus, and birth defects. In some cases, expecting mothers can risk miscarriages if not careful. Lastly, binge drinking, if unchecked, can lead to tolerance for alcohol which can spiral into an alcohol use disorder.
Krystina Murray has received a B.A. in English at Georgia State University, has over 5 years of professional writing and editing experience, and over 15 years of overall writing experience. She enjoys traveling, fitness, crafting, and spreading awareness of addiction recovery to help people transform their lives.