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Why binge drinkers are slower to heal from their wounds


April 9, 2014
Brain & Behavior, Health

People who are injured while binge drinking are much slower to heal from wounds suffered in car accidents, shootings, fires, etc.

Now a new study is providing insights into why alcohol has such a negative effect on wound healing. Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine researchers report that binge alcohol exposure significantly reduced levels of key components of the immune system involved in healing.

The study by senior author Katherine A. Radek, PhD, and colleagues from Loyola’s Alcohol Research Program and the Infectious Disease and Immunology Research Institute is published online ahead of print in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

In the United States, alcohol dependence and/or abuse affects 20 percent to 40 percent of hospitalized patients. Alcohol increases the risk of infections in the hospital, including surgical site infections. Patients with surgical-site infections are hospitalized for twice as long, have a higher rate of re-admission and are twice as likely to die as patients who did not binge drink.

The study showed, for the first time, that binge alcohol exposure reduces the amount of white blood cells called macrophages that chew up bacteria and debris. This defect, in part, makes the wound more likely to be infected by bacteria, such as Staphylococcus aureus.

The study also found that binge alcohol exposure impaired the production of a protein that recruits macrophages to the wound site. (This protein is called macrophage inflammatory protein-1 alpha, or MIP-1α.) Binge alcohol also reduced levels of another key component of the immune system known as CRAMP (cathelicidin-related antimicrobial peptide). CRAMP is a type of small protein present in the outermost layer of the skin, the epidermis. These small proteins, called antimicrobial peptides, kill bacteria and recruit macrophages and other immune system cells to the wound site.

“Together these effects likely contribute to delayed wound closure and enhanced infection severity observed in intoxicated patients,” researchers concluded.

The study involved an in vivo model and a typical pattern of binge drinking: three days of alcohol exposure, followed by four days without alcohol, followed by three more days of binge alcohol exposure. The binge alcohol exposures were equivalent to roughly twice the legal limit for driving.


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4 Responses to Why binge drinkers are slower to heal from their wounds

  1. Bevan (14054397) May 4, 2014 at 11:44 am #

    According to another article (http://www.iol.co.za/news/south-africa/under-21s-face-drinking-ban-1.1488588#.U2X5uvmSzT8) 65% of South Africa’s road fatalities were caused by alcohol abuse and this is what led the government’s plan to raise the legal drinking age to 21 similar to American Law in hopes of reducing this percentage. To all including myself it seemed outrageous and would never work as we were all nearly legal to do as we pleased but in light of the blog above and the consequences of binge drinking it actually appears to be the best course of action as 18 is also the legal age to acquire ones driving permit. Alcohol abuse also has devastating long term effects on a person’s health resulting in vulnerability to a variety of diseases and illness greatly reducing life expectancy so maybe it is a good idea to have the legal age to drink to be set at 21 and for teenagers to be educated about what alcohol can really do to someone and their life.

  2. u14009812 May 3, 2014 at 8:56 am #

    This doesn’t even come as a shock to me, although alcohol can make you feel good for a few hours the extent of damage it does to your body is irreversible and unimaginable. Alcohol is known for its huge negative side effects on the body and can possibly be the reason why you get easier sick in winter than everyone else since it affects your immune system. It is also usually seen as gateway that leads to drug abuse. More people should become aware of what alcohol really does to your body.

  3. Bevan (14054397) May 3, 2014 at 7:24 am #

    This passage has been most interesting as I had no idea that alcohol had this effect on the body! I always knew that alcohol was viewed in a negative light for it is generally used irresponsibly in and around social gatherings. In small amounts where a person is able to absorb all the alcohol taken in it causes a person to feel relaxed happy and confident but more often than not it is used excessively and often results in a person being “Drunk” because of its effects on the parts of the brain that control a person’s speech, judgement, memory and movement. This is what generally causes people to make bad decisions and it is because of that lack of motor control that people get hurt in the first place, we have all woken up after a night of heavy drinking with bruises and scrapes that seemed to have appeared from nowhere and we can’t remember what caused them or it was just a small knock that did cause them, and the article now explains why those bumps and bruises take so long to heal after a night on the town. An estimated 14000 people in South Africa die from accidents related to the use of alcohol each year, taking into consideration what this passage has said regarding the effect of alcohol on the immune system and drunk driving being a large cause of death in South Africa especially around the festive season when the amount of cars on the road triples I will be making wiser decisions and hopefully so will many others.

  4. Kara Basson u14144213 May 1, 2014 at 11:23 pm #

    This is a very interesting article and could help people to make wiser decisions when it comes to binge drinking. We all know that alcohol is bad for you but no one actually knows why. This article gives a clear description as to why excessive consumption of alcohol is bad for you. It is one of the many reasons why alcohol is bad for the human body. According to another website (http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/alcohols-effects-body) , alcohol also makes the liver more prone to alcoholic hepatitis, this is inflammation of the liver. This could lead to the liver enlarging and as a result a person has problems with blood clotting and excessive bleeding. Key functions of the liver also include managing infections and absorbing nutrients, excessive drinking damages the liver and in turn, these functions cannot be performed affecting the immune system once again. Although all these conditions are reversible if you were to abstain from alcohol, heavy drinkers make it more difficult for the body to recuperate and that is why people who are binge drinkers should be warned about these conditions and educated about the effects of alcohol. A meeting that alcoholics can attend is a good start.

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