The abuse of alcohol has long been known to have a detrimental effect on the body's organs, but all the evidence suggested that this took place during alcohol withdrawal.
But now scientists in the US have discovered that in fact it takes place during intoxication, and that binge drinking in particular can cause significant damage to the sense of smell.
In a experiment using rats, a team led by Professor Michael Collins from Loyola University Chicago found that after only two days of binge drinking, cells in the olfactory bulb - the part of the brain responsible for smell - the olfactory bulb - had sustained significant damage.
Writing in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, Collins said the rats had consumed alcohol at a rate equivalent to binge drinking for four consecutive days, while a control group had consumed the same number of calories but with an alcohol-free diet.
"Certainly this has implications for [people] contemplating a weekend of binge drinking. It is possible that neuronal degeneration after a couple of days of heavy intoxication in the rat might translate to the human drinker who is not even a chronic alcohol abuser," said Collins.