London, Dec 29 (ANI): While binge drinkers are already known to be at increased risk of accidents, violence and engaging in unprotected sex, it has now emerged that only a few sessions of heavy drinking can impact a person's ability to pay attention, remember things and make good judgments.
In a first of its kind study, scientists have identified brain damage can result from consuming more alcohol than official safe limits.
"We know large numbers of people in this country binge drink. This should be a wake-up call to the millions of people whose lifestyle means they get drunk regularly," the Guardian quoted Professor Ian Gilmore, president of the Royal College of Physicians, as saying.
He added: "We are all already aware of the immediate impacts of binge drinking: accidents, violence, admission to hospital and unwanted pregnancies. But this opens up the spectre that drinkers who binge regularly may be at risk of long-term brain damage."
The new study was conducted by Professor Fulton Crews, director of the Bowles Centre for Alcohol Studies at the University of North Carolina, and Dr Kim Nixon of the department of pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Kentucky.
The researchers reviewed earlier studies, where rats were used in experiments for studying the impact of binge drinking and then relating those findings to humans.
In the research, the rats were given the same amount of ethanol that someone imbibing 15 units of alcohol would consume in one drinking session, for four days continuously.
In the weeks after the experiment had ended, the researchers noted the losses in key mental abilities.
"It is fair and credible to extrapolate the research findings from tests on rats to humans," said Dr Jonathan Chick of the alcohol problems service at the Royal Edinburgh hospital, who is the chief editor of Alcohol and Alcoholism.
He added: "From this research we can infer that humans who have a few heavy drinking sessions in a row may sometimes undergo subtle brain changes which make it harder to learn from mistakes and to learn new ways of tackling problems because their brain function has been subtly impaired."
Chick added that the findings also revealed that loss of brain function in people under 20 caused by binge drinking increases their chances of becoming alcoholics in later life.
However, the study also found that binge drinkers who then abstained from alcohol did not suffer long-term brain damage.
The study will be published in the journal Alcohol and Alcoholism. (ANI)