On a recent week off I consumed 41 units of alcohol. It barely seemed excessive at the time, but it came as a shock - on totting up my intake ahead of this series - to realise I had pummelled my liver with nearly three weeks' worth in the space of eight days.

A few glasses of Prosecco and spirits over lunch with a friend, wine and cocktails in a restaurant, some homemade margaritas as I binged my favourite television shows.

Turns out, it's very easy to overdo it.

As I write this, I haven't had a drop of alcohol in nine days and I don't anticipate drinking again for another two weeks - the next time I'm out with friends.

There is no concerted effort here; this is just how I drink. For me, alcohol is about celebrating (such as being on holiday) or socialising. To unwind, I go to the gym or the cinema.

The Herald: I installed a drinks trolley in my flat during lockdown - but homemade cocktails are an occasional treatI installed a drinks trolley in my flat during lockdown - but homemade cocktails are an occasional treat (Image: Helen McArdle)

As a millennial, who turned 18 in 2001, I belong to the binge drinker generation.

We came of age in the era of the Nineties 'ladettes' and went off to university in the years leading up to "Peak Booze" - when the UK, and Scotland's, total alcohol consumption hit an all-time high in the mid-Noughties.

I can safely say my flatmates and I made an enthusiastic contribution.

The first time I was ever truly drunk was in my first year at university when our hall of residence held its weekly High Table event, where around a dozen residents are invited to a special meal with (back then) copious free wine.


After that, a group of us hit the town for a pub crawl through St Andrews featuring tequila shots and jugs of cocktail.

I was eventually put to bed by friends later that evening, but not before I had thrown up in our room bin and regaled other friends who came to watch and laugh by talking utter gibberish.

I remember none of this.

What I do remember is waking up the next morning, hangover-free, in time for my 11am philosophy tutorial, and wondering as I wandered along the Scores why there was a carrier bag hanging out of our window (turned out my roommate had hung our bin out to spare the cleaners).

The Herald: In the back garden of our university flat, in 2003, proudly displaying the alcohol consumed at house parties over the yearIn the back garden of our university flat, in 2003, proudly displaying the alcohol consumed at house parties over the year (Image: Helen McArdle)

I can't pretend that binge drinking isn't harmful or dangerous. But it would be disingenuous not to admit that, for me, it has also been a lot of fun.

I have been blessed - from university and the years afterwards - with great friends who take care of one another on a night out.

Nothing bad has ever happened to me as a result of alcohol; I haven't lost my housekeys, ended up in A&E, or been sexually assaulted.

I still (with the exception of fatigue and brain fog) tend to escape really terrible hangovers.

If I reflect on the best nights out in my life - the ones that my friends and I still joke and reminisce about years later - they all involved binge drinking and one of us doing something embarrassing that we are still ridiculed for now.

For us, alcohol meant bonding and laughter. Sometimes the best part of a night-out was the morning after debriefs.

From 2003 to 2004, I spent a year living in Madrid where the nightclubs are open until 6am and the copas are like rocket fuel - but you won't find the madrileños getting drunk.

I loved it there, but when it came to a fun night out I relied on my British friends - one from England and one from Wales.

"The Spaniards don't know how to drink," we used to say.

The Herald: With a fishbowl cocktail, on holiday in Ibiza, 2012With a fishbowl cocktail, on holiday in Ibiza, 2012 (Image: Helen McArdle)

At 40, some of my circle are cutting down or quitting, for various reasons: the hangovers have become unbearable, to manage anxiety, or because it aggravates other health conditions, such as Crohn's.

My own drinking is nothing like what it was in my 20s.

During my week off - when I unwittingly, and very unusually these days, consumed those 41 units - I read a funny anecdote in the memoir by Duff McKagan, the Guns and Roses bassist whose pancreas exploded after 15 years of non-stop drinking.

Following his recovery McKagan took up mountain biking and dropped by another rider's house one morning to find him battling a hangover following a six pack of beers the night before.

"We partied like rock stars", the guy proclaimed.

He was quickly disabused of this notion following a summary of McKagan's former habits, which included 10 bottles of wine a day and shoving rocks of cocaine up his nostrils.

"Yeah - we partied mountain bikers," said the man.

Well, maybe sometimes, I still party 'like a millennial'.