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Partying on the weekend just got a whole lot more sinister. Well, for those who drink, anyway. The idea of alcoholism is nothing new, but the ‘when’ has continued to be a gray motley collection of vagueries and assumptions. The truth of the matter is that for many of us alcoholism is a deceptively slow takeover: it isn’t a problem until it is, creeping up out of the shadows of a recent or ongoing divorce, a death in the family, a loss of employment. So when does it all begin? According to a recent study conducted by researchers of Autonomous University of Nayarit in Mexico, the real problem could stem from as early as the “college years.”

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), four out of five college students drink alcohol. Of these, approximately 1,825 students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year as a result of unintentional alcohol-related injuries. Those who “survive” end up with resulting illnesses that can affect them for the rest of their lives: liver damage, cancer, or even depression. Nothing too crazy—we’ve all seen the reports, heard the talks, experienced these effects either personally or vicariously. But what about the “healthy” drinkers? Firstly, a quick note on oxidative stress. Caused by the consumption of alcohol, oxidative stress can lead to damage to proteins (managing addiction), membranes, and genes. Yes, genetics. As in DNA.

According to an article shared by Medical News Today, the researchers followed two groups of people, ages 18 to 24. One group drank 1.5 liters of alcoholic beverages per weekend, while the other group abstained. Both underwent blood tests at the beginning to ensure that all were healthy and free of any diseases. At the end of the study, results showed that “the alcohol-consuming group demonstrated twice as much oxidative damage to their cell membranes, compared with the group that did not drink.”

But what about a person’s DNA? The findings go on to reveal that in a subsequent study of the entire group, abstainers showed only 8% damage to cells, while a whopping 44% of cells were damaged in the drinking group. That’s over five times more damage to an individual’s cellular infrastructure. Because of drinking.

The researchers go on to admit that these numbers are still less than what can actually be used to determine extensive and long-term effects on DNA, but conclude:

“… that oxidative damage can be found in young adults with only 4-5 years’ alcohol drinking history, and that this is the first study to provide evidence of this damage in individuals at the early stages of alcohol abuse.

Sounds like those continuous binge-drinking weekends could inadvertently lead to generations of alcoholics, if this evidence is to be pursued.

What do you think?