Back to school

It has certainly been an exciting and intense day at Upgrading-Morten’s-knowledge-about-Alcohol-and-Alcoholism-Course. I have been reading up on binge drinking and the damaging physical effects it might have. So, here is a question: What is worst for the body -  is it consuming 21 drinks in one night or 21 drinks spread out over the week? The puzzling answer will be given…tomorrow!

One of the first things I have realised is that there is really not a lot of good information about the effects of binge drinking. There is quite a substantial body of work done on alcoholism but the available information about binge drinking is a bit more scattered. At least the information I have been able to find.

So, before I get into the actual effects of binge drinking on the body, here is what I have learned about what happens to alcohol in the body. And, let me just say that I may be completely off the mark with some of it. I got lousy grades in biology and physics. In fact, my biology teacher once commented after an exam that he thought that I should be a politician because they can also talk for 15 minutes about something they know absolutely nothing about.

When we talk about alcohol, it is actually ethanol because that is what we feel when we get drunk. When we drink a glass of wine, it goes into the stomach but by then only a small amount is absorbed in the blood stream. The majority of the ethanol goes into the blood when it exits the stomach and reaches the small intestine. From there it goes into the liver where it starts to be metabolized. Alcohol is broken down by enzymes, first into acetaldehyd, which is actually toxic in huge concentrations. Then a second enzyme breaks it into carbondioxide and water at which stage it is no longer dangerous.

There is also another pathway that breaks down alcohol – and this happens when you binge! It functions almost like an overflow system and allows the alcohol to pass through the liver without going into the blood stream. This means that it is still being broken down by the liver – and so the liver is affected by the alcohol – but it doesn’t enter the blood stream. That is at least how I understood it. And because of the excessive amounts that may reach the liver through this alternative breaking down of alcohol, the effects are more damaging.

It is quite interesting how tough the liver actually is. I read that you can actully remove 20% of the liver for transplantation and it will still recover to its original size within a month. Pretty impressive…

This is enough information for one day. School is out!


Binging and the brain

Doubt as a guiding principle