As New Year’s Eve turns its shiny, glittery head toward 2015, people in their 20s are likely to consume copious amounts of alcohol to celebrate new beginnings and resolutions. Binge drinking is an unhealthy practice of overconsumption, and teens and young adults are the worst offenders. Researchers from Loyola University knew binge drinking wasn’t good for the body, but they wanted to see how badly it was to the immune system of otherwise healthy young adults. Their findings were published in the journal Alcohol.

The research team analyzed 15 study participants with an average age of 27 and had them drink four or five shots of vodka depending on their weight. The 20-something-year-olds’ immune systems were checked through blood samples 20 minutes after they took the shots — during peak intoxication. Their immune systems were working well while processing the alcohol at peak, up until researchers measured again two to five hours later. Their immune systems crashed and in even worse shape than before they started drinking.

With one out of six adults binge drinking four times a month in America, the harm is rampant. Binge drinkers most often fall between 18 to 34 years old, and those 65 years and older, according to the CDC. Aside from the fact binge drinking increases the risk of falls, burns, gunshot wounds, car accidents, sexually transmitted diseases, unintended pregnancies, high blood pressure, stroke, and other traumatic injuries, it “significantly” compromises the immune system and damages those in their 20s. One-third of all trauma patients have alcohol in their system when entering the hospital, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Drinkers are often already aware of the dangers that can come from a night of binge drinking. “But there is less awareness of alcohol’s harmful effects in other areas, such as the immune system,” the study’s coauthor Elizabeth Kovacs, the director of Loyola’s Alcohol Research Program, said in a press release. Researchers are currently planning to measure the two different sets of blood samples to assess lung injury, organ failure, and death.

How to Drink Your Way To A Safer Buzz

There are a few key moves you can make before and during drinking that can lower the risk of binge drinking or danger. Traveling in pairs, scheduling your drinking, alternating between alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages, and the most two preventive steps you could take are eating first and staying well hydrated, according to The College Student’s Guide To Safe Drinking.

This is one of the few times to turn to a fatty meal for your health. Before you go out drinking, it’s imperative to eat a filling meal. When you eat a meal with high-fat content, the pyloric valve between the stomach and the small intestine remains closed for up to six hours in order to thoroughly digest. If you eat a couple slices of pizza or fast food before a night out with friends, the valve will remain shut longer during drinking.

The surface area of the stomach is only a couple square-feet long, compared to the small intestine’s 2,600 square feet full of absorbing villi. With the valve shut longer, the alcohol becomes trapped within the stomach, only able to secrete slowly into the bloodstream through the stomach’s walls because there’s less surface area. Your blood-to-alcohol ratio, known as your BAC (blood alcohol content), will remain low and your buzz at a relatively safe pace due to slow alcohol absorption.

If you eat protein or carbohydrates, such as a plate of spaghetti and meatballs or turkey sandwich, it’ll process through your body quickly. The valve will open sooner because of the speedier break down in the stomach and food along with any alcohol consumed will make it to the small intestine. Because there’s more surface area, the alcohol absorbs rapidly into the bloodstream.

If you drink on an empty stomach, it’s common sense the alcohol will seep into your bloodstream so quickly you may black out or pass out. Keep hydrated with plenty of water as well; it’ll keep you less likely to instinctually gulp down some more alcohol. It’s ironic because alcohol is actually a diuretic, so the more you drink, the thirstier you will be.

Source: Hasday J, Afshar M, Richards S, Mann D, Cross A, and Smith GB, et al. Acute Immunomodulatory Effects of Binge Alcohol Ingestion. Alcohol. 2014.