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Posts Tagged ‘Alcohol’

Moderate Drinking May Reduce Risk of Rheumatoid Arthritis

Posted by Sun on July 18, 2012

ScienceDaily (July 10, 2012) — Moderate consumption of alcohol is associated with a reduced risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis, suggests a study published on the British Medical Journalwebsite.

The results show that women who regularly consume more than three alcoholic drinks a week for at least 10 years have about half the risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis compared with non-drinkers.

After adjusting for factors such as age, smoking and dietary habits, women who reported drinking more than three glasses of alcohol per week in both 1987 and 1997 had a 52% reduced risk of rheumatoid arthritis compared with never drinkers at both assessments.

These findings add to a growing body of evidence that long term moderate alcohol consumption is not harmful and may protect against a chronic disease like rheumatoid arthritis, say the authors. However, they stress that the effect of higher doses of alcohol on the risk of rheumatoid arthritis remains unknown.

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic inflammatory joint disorder that usually develops between the ages of 40 and 50. About 1% of the world’s population is affected — women three times more often than men. Some studies have shown that drinking alcohol is associated with a lower risk of rheumatoid arthritis, whereas others have found no association.

The relation between alcohol intake and rheumatoid arthritis remains controversial. So a team of researchers based in Sweden set out to analyse this association among 34,141 Swedish women born between 1914 and 1948.

Detailed information about alcohol consumption, diet, smoking history, physical activity and education level was collected in 1987 and again in 1997.

Participants were followed up for seven years (Jan 2003 to Dec 2009) when they were aged 54-89 years, during which time 197 new cases of rheumatoid arthritis were registered.

The age-standardized rate of rheumatoid arthritis was smaller among women who drank more than four glasses of alcohol a week (7 per 10,000 person years) than among women who drank less than one glass a week (9.1 per 10,000 person years) as reported in 1997.

After adjusting for factors such as age, smoking and dietary habits, women who reported drinking more than three glasses of alcohol per week in both 1987 and 1997 had a 52% reduced risk of rheumatoid arthritis compared with never drinkers at both assessments.

One standard glass of alcohol was defined as approximately 500 ml beer, 150 ml of wine or 50 ml of liquor.

The reduced risk was similar for all three types of alcoholic drink.

Further analyses made little difference to the results, supporting the theory that a moderate amount of alcohol may be a protective factor for rheumatoid arthritis. The authors suggest that this is most likely to be due to alcohol’s ability to lower the body’s immune response.

This is relevant because rheumatoid arthritis is an autoimmune disease — it causes the immune system, which usually fights infection, to attack the cells that line the joints.

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Revisiting LSD as a Treatment for Alcoholism

Posted by Sun on July 18, 2012

ScienceDaily (Mar. 8, 2012) — Several decades ago, a number of clinics used LSD to treat alcoholism with some success. But until now, no research has pulled together the results of these trials to document exactly how effective LSD was. Now a new meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of the drug, available in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, published by SAGE, provides evidence for a clear and consistent beneficial effect of LSD for treating alcohol dependency.

Teri Krebs and Pål-Ørjan Johansen are both affiliated with the Department of Neuroscience at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway. During research fellowships at Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA, they spotted a gap in the understanding of lysergic acid diethylamide’s (LSD’s) potential for alcoholism treatment. No researcher had ever performed a quantitative meta-analysis of previous clinical trials using the drug.

Krebs and Johansen set out to independently extract data from previous randomized, controlled clinical trials, pooling their results. They identified six eligible trials, all carried out in the late 1960s and early 1970s. These included 536 participants, the vast majority of whom were male in-patients enrolled in alcohol-focused treatment programs. Individuals with a history of schizophrenia or psychosis were excluded from the original trials. The control conditions included low-dose LSD, stimulants, or non-drug control conditions. Each trial used clearly defined treatment-independent and standardized methods to assess outcomes on alcohol misuse.

While the experiments varied in the dosage used and the type of placebo physicians administered to patients, LSD had a beneficial effect on alcohol misuse in every trial. On average, 59 percent of LSD patients and 38 percent of control patients were improved at follow-up using standardized assessment of problem alcohol use. There was also a similar beneficial effect on maintained abstinence from alcohol. The positive effects of a single LSD dose — reported both in these and in other, non-randomized trials — lasts at least six months and appears to fade by 12 months.

Regarding the lasting effects of the LSD experience in alcoholics, investigators of one trial noted, “It was rather common for patients to claim significant insights into their problems, to feel that they had been given a new lease on life, and to make a strong resolution to discontinue their drinking.” And investigators of another trial noted, “It was not unusual for patients following their LSD experience to become much more self-accepting, to show greater openness and accessibility, and to adopt a more positive, optimistic view of their capacities to face future problems.”

LSD interacts with a specific type of serotonin receptors in the brain, which may stimulate to new connections and open the mind for new perspectives and possibilities, Krebs explains. LSD is not known to be addictive or toxic to the body, but the LSD has striking effects on imagination, perception, and memories and can elicit periods of intense anxiety and confusion.

“Given the evidence for a beneficial effect of LSD on alcoholism, it is puzzling why this treatment approach has been largely overlooked,” says Johansen. The authors suggest a number of reasons for this: many of the individual trials did not have enough patients to confidently conclude that there was a beneficial effect of LSD, but when pooled together the trials shows a clear and consistent effect; trial authors expected unrealistic results from a single dose of LSD and tended to discount moderate or short-term effects and; earlier non-randomized clinical trials reporting promising results but had methodological problems, creating the misunderstanding that well-designed studies did not exist or failed to find a beneficial effect. Finally, the complicated social and political history of LSD meant that obtaining regulatory approval for clinical trials became laborious, although national and international drug control measures have never banned treatment development or medical use of LSD.

Its unusual for a psychiatric medication to have a positive treatment effect lasting for several months after a single dose. Krebs and Johansen suggest that repeated doses of LSD coupled with modern, evidence-based alcohol relapse prevention treatments might provide more sustained results. They also note that plantbased psychedelics such as mescaline and ayahuasca which are used by Native Americans to promote mental health and sustained sobriety, merit further investigation for alcoholism treatment.

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Moderate Doses of Alcohol Increase Social Bonding in Groups

Posted by Sun on July 6, 2012

ScienceDaily (June 29, 2012) — A new study led by University of Pittsburgh researchers reveals that moderate amounts of alcohol — consumed in a social setting — can enhance positive emotions and social bonding and relieve negative emotions among those drinking.

While it is usually taken for granted that people drink to reduce stress and enhance positive feelings, many studies have shown that alcohol consumption has an opposite effect. In a new paper titled “Alcohol and Group Formation: A Multimodal Investigation of the Effects of Alcohol on Emotion and Social Bonding,” research shows that moderate doses of alcohol have a powerful effect on both male and female social drinkers when they are in a group.

The paper is published online inPsychological Science.

According to the researchers, previous alcohol studies testing the impact of alcohol on emotions involved social drinkers consuming alcohol in isolation rather than in groups.

“Those studies may have failed to create realistic conditions for studying this highly social drug,” said Michael A. Sayette, lead author and professor of psychology in Pitt’s Kenneth P. Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences. “We felt that many of the most significant effects of alcohol would more likely be revealed in an experiment using a social setting.”

Sayette and his colleagues assembled various small groups using 720 male and female participants, a larger sample than in previous alcohol studies. Researchers assessed individual and group interactions using the Facial Action Coding System (FACS) and the Grouptalk model for speech behavior.

They concluded that alcohol stimulates social bonding, increases the amount of time people spend talking to one another, and reduces displays of negative emotions. According to Sayette, the paper introduces into the alcohol literature new measures of facial expression and speech behavior that offer a sensitive and comprehensive assessment of social bonding.

Sayette and eight colleagues took special care in the methods they employed to form the groups. Each participant was randomly assigned to a group of three unacquainted “strangers.” Each group was instructed to drink an alcoholic beverage, a placebo, or a nonalcoholic control beverage. Twenty groups representing each gender composition (three males; one female and two males; two males and one female; and three females) were assigned to the three different beverage scenarios. Group members sat around a circular table and consumed three drinks over a 36-minute time span. Each session was video recorded, and the duration and sequence of the participants’ facial and speech behaviors were systematically coded frame by frame.

Results showed that alcohol not only increased the frequency of “true” smiles, but also enhanced the coordination of these smiles. In other words, alcohol enhanced the likelihood of “golden moments,” with groups provided alcohol being more likely than those offered nonalcoholic beverages to have all three group members smile simultaneously. Participants in alcohol-drinking groups also likely reported greater social bonding than did the nonalcohol-drinking groups and were more likely to have all three members stay involved in the discussion.

“By demonstrating the sensitivity of our group formation paradigm for studying the rewarding effects of alcohol,” said Sayette, “we can begin to ask questions of great interest to alcohol researchers — Why does alcohol make us feel better in group settings? Is there evidence to suggest a particular participant may be vulnerable to developing a problem with alcohol?”

The new research sets the stage for evaluation of potential associations between socioemotional responses to alcohol and individual differences in personality, family history of alcoholism, and genetic vulnerability.

Additional Pitt researchers on the project were Pitt graduate students in psychology Kasey Creswell, John Dimoff, and Catharine Fairbairn and professors of psychology Jeffrey Cohn, John Levine, and Richard Moreland. Other researchers included Bryan Heckman, a graduate student in psychology at the University of South Florida, and Thomas Kirchner, a research investigator at the Schroeder Institute for Tobacco Research and Policy Studies.

The study was funded by a grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

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Alcoholism’s Short-Term Effects On Memory Functioning Are Harmful

Posted by Sun on June 19, 2012

ScienceDaily (Apr. 16, 2012) — Alcoholism can disrupt memory functioning well before incurring the profound amnesia of Korsakoff’s syndrome. For example, associative memory — used in remembering face-name associations — can be impaired in alcoholics. A study of the cognitive and brain mechanisms underlying this deficit, through testing of associative memory performance and processing in study participants during structural magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanning, have found that impaired learning abilities are predominantly associated with cerebellar brain volumes.

Results will be published in the July 2012 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.

“There are several memory systems and alcoholism does not disrupt all of them,” explained Edith V. Sullivan, a professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University School of Medicine, and corresponding author for the study. “Chronic alcohol consumption mainly affects episodic memory and working memory.”

Episodic memory is the memory system that ‘files’ personally experienced events associated with a precise spatial and temporal context of encoding, and it appears to have an unlimited capacity. “For example, episodic memory includes memories of vacation such as: ‘when I went to Paris with my husband, I ate a delicious ratatouille for dinner in a very cute restaurant; I can remember the place, how I was dressed, and how I burned my tongue when I tasted the meal,'” said Sullivan, quoting Anne-Lise Pitel, the lead author. “Such memories are unique to the individual. Episodic memory is impaired in some alcoholics, who may have difficulties in remembering a grocery list, a route to a new restaurant, or new face-name associations as encountered in a new job.” Associative memory is a component of episodic memory, she added.

Conversely, working memory is a short-term memory system with a limited capacity, which enables temporary storage and manipulation of information, which is quickly forgotten unless consolidated into a long-term storage system. “Alcoholics have deficits of working memory resulting in difficulties like holding a phone number in mind while dialing it,” Sullivan said.

“This study focused on a cognitive process essential in daily living,” added said Sara Jo Nixon, a professor in the department of psychiatry at the University of Florida. “Effective associative learning and memory processes such as learning that two items ‘go’ together and remembering this link or association later are essential for successful interactions throughout our personal and professional environments. Learning the names of new friends, colleagues or acquaintances is only one example of this type of learning, but it is of particular social and personal importance.”

Sullivan, Pitel, and their colleagues presented learning tasks to two groups: 10 alcoholics (8 men, 2 women) recruited from community treatment centers, outpatient clinics, and hospitals, as well as 10 “controls” or non-alcoholics (5 men, 5 women) recruited from the local community. Tasks were either associative such as face-name, or single-item such as face or name. The participants’ recognition retrieval was designated as “shallow encoding” if the face was recalled as that of a “man,” or “deep encoding” if the face was recalled as “honest.”

“Learning new face-name associations was more difficult than learning new single faces or names whether a control or an alcoholic,” said Sullivan. “Alcoholics had impaired learning abilities for both face-name association and single face or name. Learning performances correlated with different brain regions in alcoholics from those of controls; in particular, associative learning in alcoholics was related to cerebellar brain volumes measured on MRI. This pattern was different from associations we observed in controls, who showed relations between associative learning and limbic system volumes.”

“Mnemonists suggest that our ability to remember face-name associations can be improved if we engage processes such as imagery during learning such as deep processing rather than rely on rote learning or shallow processing,” said Nixon. “These authors asked participants to not only learn the face-name association, but to also judge whether the picture was a man or a woman, which is shallow processing. In another set, while learning the pair, participants were asked to judge whether the person looked ‘honest or not,’ which is deep processing. As Edie notes, alcoholics and controls performed similarly during encoding, requiring more time to complete deep processes vs. shallow processing. Alcoholics, however, were inferior to controls in the accuracy of their memory whether they were asked to recognize the correct face-name pair or simply asked to identify which face they had seen earlier in the task.”

Both Sullivan and Nixon noted that this study helps to underscore the complexities of alcohol’s effects on the brain.

“Even though prompting alcoholics to encode memoranda at a deep level resulted in more specific relations with regional brain volumes than shallow encoding,” said Sullivan, “it did not enable them to take advantage of this strategy and both single-item and associative recognition were impaired.”

“These analyses support and extend previous work suggesting that neurocognitive performance in alcoholics may approach or even match that of controls by utilizing alternative neurobehavioral systems,” added Nixon. “For alcoholics, performance on relatively simple cognitive tasks is positively and widely associated with brain volume; associations not observed in controls. In contrast, brain volumes are associated with performance for controls primarily in more difficult or complex tasks. Furthermore, certain brain areas, such as the cerebellum, appear related to performance only for alcoholics. These differential associations are both provocative and relevant.”

“Impaired memory abilities can have harmful consequences on an alcoholic’s day-to-day functioning,” emphasized Sullivan and Pitel. “At work, alcoholics who have a job with a high cognitive load may have difficulties in learning new tasks. At home, memory disorders may be considered as disinterest in family life and may result in conflicts. Finally, from a clinical perspective, impaired episodic memory in alcoholics may hamper obtaining full benefits from rehabilitation efforts because successful treatment requires: one, learning new knowledge such as the meaning, self-awareness, and consequences of ‘addiction’ or ‘drug;’ and two, to ‘re-experience’ episodes when previously drinking, which enables anticipation and recognition of potentially risky situations.”

The title of the article is “Face-Name Association Learning and Brain Structural Substrates in Alcoholism.”

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Smoking-Cessation ‘Quitlines’ Could Help Identify Hazardous Drinkers

Posted by Sun on June 19, 2012

ScienceDaily (June 15, 2012) — Although numerous studies have shown a strong link between drinking and smoking behaviors, few telephone smoking-cessation “quitlines” routinely screen and counsel callers about their alcohol use. A first-of-its-kind study of drinking and smoking-cessation rates among callers to the New York State Smokers’ Quitline (NYSSQL) has found that a high proportion of the smokers calling also drank at hazardous levels, and these high-level drinking smokers had more difficulty quitting smoking than moderate drinking smokers.

Results will be published in the September 2012 issue ofAlcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.

“Quitlines provide telephone-based treatment services for smokers who want assistance quitting,” explained Benjamin A. Toll, assistant professor of psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine. “All quitlines offer counseling and self-help materials. About 75 percent of quitlines also offer free medications.”

“Quitlines have a broad reach, serving about a half a million smokers in the US each year, and are able to reach populations of smokers that would otherwise be difficult to provide services to,” added Christopher Kahler, professor of behavioral and social sciences at the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University. “They are a remarkable success story in taking tested treatment methods, validating them for use in a new format, and disseminating this approach very broadly. Quitlines are available in all 50 states and are common in Europe, Canada, and elsewhere.”

Toll said that his group chose the NYSSQL for study because he had worked with the quitline for more than five years on various research projects. “It is one of the busiest quitlines in the country — receiving [more than] 100,000 contacts for assistance in 2010 — and is committed to researching innovative treatments to help smokers quit.”

Toll and his colleagues assessed rates of hazardous drinking among 88,479 (53.2% female) callers to the NYSSQL using modified guidelines from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. The study authors also collected data during two routine follow-up interviews (n=14,123, n=24,579), and a three-month follow-up interview (n=2,833), in order to compare smoking-cessation rates for callers who met criteria for hazardous drinking as compared to moderate drinkers and non-drinkers.

“Our strongest finding was that in a large sample of smokers — almost 90,000 individuals — a relatively high proportion, almost 23 percent, drank at government-defined hazardous drinking levels,” said Toll. “This is the first study to assess prevalence of hazardous alcohol use in a quitline population of smokers.”

“In other words, this study demonstrated that hazardous drinking occurs in almost one out of four quitline callers and can interfere with efforts to quit smoking,” said Kahler. “The results provide powerful documentation that there are a large number of heavy drinkers who could be served through the quitline system if assessments and brief alcohol intervention were made a part of the quitline protocols.”

While the high proportion of smokers who were hazardous drinkers surprised neither Toll nor Kahler, they both said the reasons for this association are varied.

“There are many potential contributing factors,” said Kahler. “First, those who drink heavily may have more disrupted lives and more psychosocial stressors. They are likely to have a higher proportion of smokers in their social networks. Finally, drinking alcohol can lead to cravings to smoke, and high levels of drinking may make it more difficult to inhibit smoking behavior during a quit attempt. Results from prior work I have done suggests that heavy drinkers are generally equally motivated to quit smoking as moderate drinkers.”

Both Toll and Kahler said that this study highlights a novel way to reach a very large number of hazardous drinkers to assist them in reducing their alcohol consumption.

“Brief alcohol interventions for as short as five minutes have been shown to reduce rates of hazardous drinking,” said Toll. “It would be relatively straightforward for quitlines to add in a counseling module specific to hazardous drinkers. In fact, we just completed data collection for a study testing the effect of adding a brief alcohol intervention to standard NY quitline smoking cessation treatment for hazardous drinking smokers. We expect the results of that study to be forthcoming within the year.”

“The standard advice is to recommend that smokers avoid drinking alcohol as much as possible when quitting,” added Kahler. “However, that advice is not very detailed. Our approach in clinical trials has been to provide information on the association between drinking and smoking relapse, assess drinking patterns and their association with quitting, and assess smokers’ willingness to avoid or reduce drinking when quitting. After that, it is important to help smokers set concrete goals for their drinking and to check in on those goals at each session.” That said, he noted, “we have found that even those smokers who make a quit attempt and fail are often able to maintain reductions in drinking.”

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Alcohol, Mood and Me (Not You)

Posted by Sun on June 15, 2012

ScienceDaily (Apr. 28, 2011) — Thanks in part to studies that follow subjects for a long time, psychologists are learning more about differences between people. In a new article published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, the author describes how psychologists can use their data to learn about the different ways that people’s minds work.

Most psychology research is done by asking a big group of people the same questions at the same time. “So we might get a bunch of Psych 101 undergrads, administer a survey, ask about how much they use alcohol and what their mood is, and just look and see, is there a relationship between those two variables,” says Daniel J. Bauer of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the author of the article.

But a one-time survey of a bunch of college students can only get you so far. For example, it might find that sad people drink more, but it can’t tell us whether people drink more at times when they are unhappy, whether the consequences of drinking instead result in a depressed mood, or whether the relationship between mood and alcohol use is stronger for some people than others.

One way psychologists have used to learn more about people is collecting data from people over a longer time period. For example, they might give each subject an electronic device to record blood pressure and stress several times a day, or ask them to log on to a website every night to answer a survey. In one case, Bauer’s colleague, Andrea Hussong, asked adolescents to complete daily diaries with ratings of their mood and alcohol use over 21 days. The data showed that the relationship between mood and alcohol use is not the same for everyone. Adolescents with behavioral problems drink more in general, irrespective of mood, but only adolescents without behavioral problems drink more often when feeling depressed.

Analyzing this kind of data requires tougher math than the simple survey data, which is where quantitative psychologists like Bauer come in. “I think even though a lot of researchers are starting to collect this data, I don’t think they’ve taken full advantage of it,” he says. In the new paper, Bauer points to other methods that can do a better job of showing how variables relate differently for different people.

The point of all of this is to help people, Bauer says. For example, if psychologists discover that certain kinds of people are more likely to drink when depressed, it would be possible to help those people early. “Ultimately, the idea would be to identify people who might be more at risk and try to help them,” he says.

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Juveniles Build Up Physical — But Not Mental — Tolerance for Alcohol

Posted by Sun on June 15, 2012

ScienceDaily (June 13, 2012) — Research into alcohol’s effect on juvenile rats shows they have an ability to build up a physical, but not cognitive, tolerance over the short term — a finding that could have implications for adolescent humans, according to Baylor University psychologists.

The research findings are significant because they indicate that blood alcohol concentration levels alone may not fully account for impaired orientation and navigation ability, said Jim Diaz-Granados, Ph.D., professor and chair of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor. He co-authored the study, published in the journal Brain Research.  “There’s been a lot of supposition about the reaction to blood alcohol levels,” Diaz-Granados said. “We use the blood alcohol level to decide if someone is going to get arrested, because we think that a high level means impairment. But here we see a model where we can separate that out. You may have a tolerance in metabolism, but just because your blood alcohol concentration is less than the legal limit doesn’t mean your behavior isn’t impaired.”

“More research is needed to fully understand how adolescents react to alcohol, but this contributes a piece to the puzzle,” said study co-author Douglas Matthews, Ph.D., a research scientist at Baylor and an associate professor in Psychology at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

The study was conducted in the Baylor Addiction Research Center of Baylor’s Department of Psychology and Neuroscience in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences.

More than half of under-age alcohol use is due to binge drinking, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and “when initial alcohol use occurs during adolescence, it increases the chance of developing alcoholism later in life,” said lead study author Candice E. Van Skike, a doctoral candidate in psychology at Baylor. Researchers have long been interested in whether adolescents react differently to alcohol than adults and how alcohol use affects their brains when they reach adulthood, but Baylor researchers also wanted to test the short-term effect of alcohol on adolescents’ brains in terms of memory about space and dimension.

In the study, 96 rats were trained to navigate a water maze to an escape platform. Half were exposed to alcohol vapor in chambers for 16 hours a day over four days (a method to approximate binge-like alcohol intake), while others were exposed only to air. After a 28-hour break, some were injected with alcohol, then both groups tested again in the maze. A comparison found that those who had undergone the chronic intermittent ethanol exposure built up a metabolic tolerance. They were better able to eliminate alcohol from their systems than ones who had been exposed only to air, based on a comparison of the blood ethanol concentrations of the two groups after they had been injected with alcohol later. While the alcohol-injected rats swam as hard and as fast as the others, their ability to find the escape platform was impaired.

Previous research at Baylor led by Matthews showed that adolescents are less sensitive than adults to motor impairment during alcohol intake because a particular neuron fires more slowly in adults who are drinking. The lack of sensitivity may be part of the reason adolescents do not realize they have had too much to drink.

“It’s difficult to compare metabolic and cognitive tolerance in adults with those of juveniles, because many studies that have looked at the cognitive aspect of chronic ethanol exposure didn’t measure blood alcohol concentration levels,” Van Skike said. “It would be an interesting comparison to make, and it is an avenue for future research.”

Other research has shown that high levels of alcohol consumption during human adolescence are mirrored in animals. Adolescent rats consume two to three times more ethanol than adults relative to body weight, suggesting that adolescents are who drink are pre-disposed to do so in binges.

Another collaborator in the Baylor study was Adelle Novier, a doctoral candidate in psychology at Baylor.

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Statistical Model Attempting to Estimate Level of Alcohol Consumption That Is ‘Optimal’ for Health

Posted by Sun on June 7, 2012

ScienceDaily (June 6, 2012) — Cutting the amount we drink to just over half a unit a day could save 4,600 lives a year in England, according to a modelling study by Oxford University researchers published in the journal BMJ Open.

Scientists have carried out a complex analysis in an attempt to determine the “optimal” level of alcohol consumption that is associated with the lowest rates of chronic disease in the UK. They conclude that the intake of about one-half of a typical drink per day would result in the healthiest outcomes, and the authors conclude that the recommended alcohol intake for the UK should be reduced from the current advised level of drinking.

Half a unit of alcohol is as little as a quarter of a glass of wine, or a quarter of a pint. That’s much lower than current government recommendations of between 3 to 4 units a day for men and 2-3 units for women.

The researchers set out to find the optimum daily amount of alcohol that would see fewest deaths across England from a whole range of diseases connected to drink. Previous studies have often looked at the separate effects of alcohol on heart disease, liver disease or cancers in isolation.

‘Although there is good evidence that moderate alcohol consumption protects against heart disease, when all of the chronic disease risks are balanced against each other, the optimal consumption level is much lower than many people believe,’ says lead author Dr Melanie Nichols of the BHF Health Promotion Research Group in the Department of Public Health at Oxford University.

The team used a mathematical model to assess what impact changing average alcohol consumption would have on deaths from 11 conditions known to be at least partially linked to drink.

These included coronary heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver, epilepsy, and five cancers. Over 170,000 people in England died from these 11 conditions in 2006, and ill health linked to alcohol is estimated to cost the NHS in England £3.3 billion every year.

The researchers used information from the 2006 General Household Survey on levels of alcohol consumption among adults in England. They combined this with the disease risks for differing levels of alcohol consumption as established in large analyses of published research.

They found that just over half a unit of alcohol a day was the optimal level of consumption among current drinkers.

They calculate this level of drinking would prevent around 4,579 premature deaths, or around 3% of all deaths from the 11 conditions.

The number of deaths from heart disease would increase by 843, but this would be more than offset by around 2,600 fewer cancer deaths and almost 3,000 fewer liver cirrhosis deaths.

‘Moderating your alcohol consumption overall, and avoiding heavy-drinking episodes, is one of several things, alongside a healthy diet and regular physical activity, that you can do to reduce your risk of dying early of chronic diseases,’ says Dr Nichols.

She adds: ‘We are not telling people what to do, we are just giving them the best balanced information about the different health effects of alcohol consumption, so that they can make an informed decision about how much to drink.

‘People who justify their drinking with the idea that it is good for heart disease should also consider how alcohol is increasing their risk of other chronic diseases. A couple of pints or a couple of glasses of wine per day is not a healthy option.’

Although this study in BMJ Open did not look at patterns of drinking, Dr Nichols says: ‘Regardless of your average intake, if you want to have the best possible health, it is also very important to avoid episodes of heavy drinking (“binge drinking”) as there is very clear evidence that this will increase your risks of many diseases, as well as your risk of injuries.’

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Men Are More Likely Than Women To Crave Alcohol When They Feel Negative Emotions

Posted by Sun on June 4, 2012

ScienceDaily (May 11, 2008) — Women and men tend to have different types of stress-related psychological disorders. Women have greater rates of depression and some types of anxiety disorders than men, while men have greater rates of alcohol-use disorders than women. A new study of emotional and alcohol-craving responses to stress has found that when men become upset, they are more likely than women to want alcohol.

“We know that women and men respond to stress differently,” said Tara M. Chaplin, associate research scientist at Yale University School of Medicine and first author of the study. “For example, following a stressful experience, women are more likely than men to say that they feel sad or anxious, which may lead to risk for depression and anxiety disorders. Some studies have found that men are more likely to drink alcohol following stress than women. If this becomes a pattern, it could lead to alcohol-use disorders.”

As part of a larger study, the researchers exposed 54 healthy adult social drinkers (27 women, 27 men) to three types of imagery scripts — stressful, alcohol-related, and neutral/relaxing — in separate sessions, on separate days and in random order. Chaplin and her colleagues then assessed participants’ subjective emotions, behavioral/bodily responses, cardiovascular arousal as indicated by heart rate and blood pressure, and self-reported alcohol craving.

“After listening to the stressful story, women reported more sadness and anxiety than men,” said Chaplin, “as well as greater behavioral arousal. But, for the men … emotional arousal was linked to increases in alcohol craving. In other words, when men are upset, they are more likely to want alcohol.”

These findings — in addition to the fact that the men drank more than the women on average — meant that the men had more experience with alcohol, perhaps leading them to turn to alcohol as a way of coping with distress, added Chaplin. “Men’s tendency to crave alcohol when upset may be a learned behavior or may be related to known gender differences in reward pathways in the brain,” she said. “And this tendency may contribute to risk for alcohol-use disorders.”

There is a greater societal acceptance of “emotionality,” particularly sadness and anxiety, in women than in men, noted Chaplin.

“Women are more likely than men to focus on negative emotional aspects of stressful circumstances, for example, they tend to ‘ruminate’ or think over and over again about their negative emotional state,” she said. “Men, in contrast, are more likely to distract themselves from negative emotions, to try not to think about these emotions. Our finding that men had greater blood pressure response to stress, but did not report greater sadness and anxiety, may reflect that they are more likely to try to distract themselves from their physiological arousal, possibly through the use of alcohol.”

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Stress and Alcohol ‘Feed’ Each Other

Posted by Sun on May 24, 2012

ScienceDaily (July 15, 2011) — Acute stress is thought to precipitate alcohol drinking. Yet the ways that acute stress can increase alcohol consumption are unclear. A new study investigated whether different phases of response to an acute stressor can alter the subjective effects of alcohol. Findings indicate bi-directional relationships between alcohol and stress.

Results will be published in the October 2011 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Researchand are currently available at Early View.

“Anecdotal reports suggest that alcohol dampens the physiological or negative emotional effects of stress but this has been hard to demonstrate in the lab,” said Emma Childs, research associate at The University of Chicago and corresponding author for the study. “Another way that stress could increase drinking is by altering alcohol’s effects. For example, if stress reduces the intoxicating effects of alcohol, individuals may drink more alcohol to produce the same effect.

Childs explained that the body’s reaction to stress involves separate physiological and emotional consequences that occur at different times after the stress. “For example,” she said, “the increase in heart rate and blood pressure, the release of cortisol, and also the increased feelings of tension and negative mood each reach a climax and dissipate at a different rate. Therefore, drinking more alcohol might have different effects, depending on how long after the stress a person drinks.”

Study subjects comprised 25 healthy men who participated in two sessions, one where they performed a stressful public speaking task and one with a non-stressful control task.

“The public speaking task we used is standardized and used by many researchers,” said Childs. “It reliably produces significant stress reactions, including increases in heart rate, blood pressure, cortisol and feelings of tension. Moreover, because it is so widely used, the results can be compared directly to those from other studies. The public speaking task is also ecologically valid in that it represents a stressful event that many people experience outside the laboratory.”

After each task, participants received intravenously administered infusions containing alcohol (the equivalent of 2 standard drinks) and placebo. One group of participants (n=11) received alcohol within one minute of completing the tasks, followed by the placebo 30 minutes later. The other group (n=14) received the placebo infusion first, followed by the alcohol. Researchers measured subjective effects such as anxiety, stimulation, and desire for more alcohol, as well as physiological measures such as heart rate, blood pressure, and salivary cortisol before and at repeated intervals after the tasks and infusions.

“The results demonstrated bi-directional relationships between alcohol and stress,” said Childs. “Alcohol can change the way that the body deals with stress: it can decrease the hormone cortisol which the body releases to respond to stress, and it can prolong the feelings of tension produced by the stress. Stress can also change how alcohol makes a person feel: it can reduce the pleasant effects of alcohol or increase craving for more alcohol.”

Childs added that it is often hard to separate alcohol’s effects upon stress reactions from its effects on the perception of how stressful an experience is. “However, in our study we administered alcohol after the stressful experience, then examined the effects of alcohol on stress responses so ruling out any effect of alcohol upon perception of the stress. We showed that alcohol decreases the hormonal response to the stress, but also extends the negative subjective experience of the event. We also showed that stress decreased the pleasant effects of the alcohol. These findings illustrate a complex bi-directional interactions between stress and alcohol.”

In summary, said Childs, using alcohol to cope with stress may actually make a person’s response to stress worse, and prolong recovery from a stressor. “Stress may also alter the way that alcohol makes us feel in a way that increases the likelihood of drinking more alcohol,” she said. “Stress responses are beneficial in that they help us to react to adverse events. By altering the way that our bodies deal with stress, we may be increasing the risks of developing stress-related diseases, not the least of which is alcohol addiction.”

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Ladies, Step Away From the Wine

Posted by Sun on May 24, 2012

Last week, the Office of National Statistics reported that British women in white collar jobs drink 11.2 units of alcohol a week. That’s almost double what our blue collar counter-parts are drinking. Apparently there’s more drinking than sex in the city.

Why? I’m sure it’s for a number of reasons: a drinking culture at work, stress, and oh, let me think…um, stress?

Now, I won’t get on my soap-box. I’m a firm believer in (responsible) social drinking. If I’m honest, I want to be like those fabulous Italian mamas you see who are quite happily quaffing wine through a toothless grin with their husband by their side in their ’80s. (OK, maybe I don’t want to be toothless.)

Drinking is deceptive. First off it starts out as part of our social experience, possibly even a necessary part. Then it morphs into an enhancer of your experiences, something you have to have in order to have a good time. Then it turns into something you feel you deserve to have, nightly perhaps, because you need to relax.

The booze creates a fuzzy blur on life, distorting the picture. If you’ve allowed yourself to slip into the habit of drinking several nights a week to relax, de-stress and chill out, I’ve got news for you. You’re no longer a responsible, social drinker.

You’re a person who uses alcohol to handle your stress and to numb yourself after a hectic day.

Long term, it’s terrible coping strategy. Aside from the obvious and well-documented health implications, it’s like putting Polyfilla over the cracks that are being caused serious problems in the foundations.

There is a better way, and I work with my clients on this all the time – to create a menu of self-care activities that don’t involve alcohol.

Self-a-what-a-what?

Self-care, loosely defined here as a group of things you do that make you feel good and that recharge you.

Having a menu of things means you’ve got a list of things to pick from when you’ve had a rough day. It’s something that, the more you do, the more intuitive it becomes to you: you quickly start to learn what the fastest way is to more peace, less stress, and a feeling of calm. Think of self-care activities that can be grouped around all the different areas of your life: friends, family, health and fitness, relationship, home, spirituality, the list goes on.

Wondering where to even begin? Here’s a selection of things you can put into practice right away to start caring for yourself better, so you don’t feel like you have to reach for the rioja as soon as get home:

Chaos creates chaos

I don’t care what time of year it is, it’s always time for a spring clean. If your home is little more than an expensive storage unit for all your stuff, it’s unlikely it’s a relaxing environment you want to spend time in. Cleanse and clear out the junk and create a space that you love being in.

Chaos creates chaos

Oh, and I’m not done! The same goes for your mind. Even if you’ve made Evernote your bitch, I’m willing to bet you’ve got all sorts of ideas, projects, plans, things you keep reminding yourself you should do, but don’t. Take an hour and write all of it down – every single thing. Now, group them into themes like holidays, work, passion projects, hobbies, whatever. Next, decide if it’s something you want to tackle this month, this quarter or this year. Then get it on the calendar. If you don’t want to commit and schedule time to do it, you don’t want to do it. Simple.

Work out and eat real food

Yes, you’ve heard this before but for the love of God, do something you enjoy! Just hauling your butt to the gym and joylessly slogging it through a work out is hardly going to inspire you. Up the joy factor in your work out – take a class, run outside, or go with a girlfriend – just do something to up the fun factor. And when it comes to food, the rule is pretty simple: if your grandmother wouldn’t recognise even one of the ingredients listed as food, it’s not real food. If it took a lab to make it, it takes a lab to digest it. Real food, people, real food.

Practice mindfulness

It’s all the rage these days with good reason. It’s scientifically proven to be awesome (although that’s not how they report the results in the likes of the British Medical Journal). Mindfulness simply invites you to just be where you are now. You can try mindfulness out anywhere any time. Try mindfully drinking a cup of tea – really look at the steaming mug of rosie lee, really smell it, really taste it, really feel the heat of the mug in your hands. If your mind drifts off, just come back to the sensations of your cuppa.

My challenge to you in this post is not to get you to stop your drinking altogether, I just want to get you thinking about some other coping strategies to deal with the hectic nature of being a Square Miler that don’t involve hangovers and judgemental looks from the recycling man. Your body and your mind will thank you for it!

Source: http://hereisthecity.com

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Self-Medication of Anxiety Symptoms With Drugs or Alcohol Associated With Increased Risk of Developing Substance Use Disorders

Posted by Sun on May 23, 2012

ScienceDaily (Aug. 1, 2011) — Self-medicating with alcohol or other drugs appears to be associated with an increased risk of substance use disorders and social phobia in patients with anxiety-related symptoms, according to a report in the August issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, one of theJAMA/Archives journals.

“Self-medication of anxiety symptoms with alcohol, other drugs or both has been a plausible mechanism for the co-occurrence of anxiety disorders and substance use disorders,” the authors write as background information in the article. “Given the significant consequences of mental illness comorbidity [coexistence with another illness] and its high prevalence in the general population, clarifying the underlying mechanisms through which comorbidity develops will have considerable implications for prevention and treatment.”

Jennifer Robinson, M.A., and colleagues from the University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada, examined data collected during two waves of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism survey to measure the occurrence of substance use disorders in individuals with anxiety disorders and new-onset anxiety disorders in those with substance use disorders. The first wave was conducted in 2001-2002, and the second wave was conducted three years later from 2004-2005. A total of 34,653 U.S. adults completed both waves of the survey and participants were separated into three categories: no self-medication, self-medication with alcohol only or self-medication with drugs (with or without the use of alcohol also).

Of participants who reported any substance use during the prior year, 12.5 percent reported self-medicating with alcohol and 24.4 percent with other drugs. Of participants with diagnosable substance use disorders at baseline, 23.3 percent self-medicated with alcohol and 32.7 percent with drugs. Additionally, 12.6 percent of individuals who met criteria for a baseline anxiety disorder and self-medicated with alcohol developed an alcohol use disorder, while 4.7 percent and 1.7 percent of those who did not self medicate developed an alcohol use or drug use disorder, respectively.

In participants with a baseline alcohol use disorder, the prevalence of incident anxiety disorders (including panic, social phobia, specific phobias, generalized anxiety disorder or any anxiety disorder) ranged from 5.7 percent (panic disorder) to 9.9 percent (specific phobia) for those who self-medicated with alcohol. For participants who self-medicated with other drugs, incidence rates ranged from 8 percent (panic disorder) to 13.5 percent (specific phobia). While 6.9 percent of new-onset social phobia was attributable to self-medication with alcohol, 20.4 percent was attributable to self-medication with drugs.

The authors also found that in participants with preexisting anxiety and alcohol use or drug use disorders, reported self-medication was associated with the persistence of alcohol use and drug use disorders, but not anxiety.

“Given the high percentage of incident substance use disorders and social phobia that can be attributed to self-medication, the reduction of self-medicating behavior may lead to a significant decrease in incident comorbidity in the general population,” the authors conclude. “These results not only clarify several pathways that may lead to the development of comorbidity but also indicate at-risk populations and suggest potential points of intervention in the treatment of comorbidity.”

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Teen Alcohol and Illicit Drug Use and Abuse Starts Earlier Than You Might Think

Posted by Sun on April 5, 2012

ScienceDaily (Apr. 2, 2012) — A survey of a nationally representative sample of U.S. teenagers suggests that most cases of alcohol and drug abuse have their initial onset at this important period of development, according to a report published in the April issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, a JAMA Network publication.

Alcohol and drugs use patterns in adolescence are increasingly seen as indicators of later substance abuse, the authors write in their study background.

Joel Swendsen, Ph.D., of the University of Bordeaux, France, and colleagues examined the prevalence, age at onset and sociodemographic factors related to alcohol and illicit drug use and abuse by U.S. adolescents. Their cross-sectional survey included a nationally representative sample of 10,123 adolescents ages 13 to 18 years.

Their study results indicate that by late adolescence, 78.2 percent of teenagers reported having consumed alcohol; 47.1 percent having reached regular drinking levels of at least 12 drinks within a year; and 15.1 percent having met the criteria for lifetime abuse. The opportunity to use illicit drugs was reported by 81.4 percent of the oldest adolescents, drug use by 42.5 percent and drug abuse by 16.4 percent.

“Because the early onset of substance use is a significant predictor of substance use behavior and disorders in a lifespan, the public health implications of the current findings are far reaching,” the authors note.

The median age at onset was 14 years old for regular alcohol use or abuse with or without dependence; 14 years old for drug abuse with dependence; and 15 years old for drug abuse without dependence.

The probability of each stage of alcohol and drug use increased with age, but the rates were almost always lowest for black and other racial/ethnic groups compared with white or Hispanic adolescents.

The researchers also note that using the term “lifetime” to describe the prevalence of substance use disorders in teenagers does not necessarily indicate the persistence of these disorders in the long term because adolescents may “mature out” of harmful substance use as they become adults.

“The prevention of both alcohol and illicit drug abuse requires strategies that target early adolescence and take into account the highly differential influence that population-based factors may exert by stage of substance use,” the authors conclude.

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Deprived of Sex, Jilted Flies Drink More Alcohol

Posted by Sun on March 19, 2012

ScienceDaily (Mar. 15, 2012) — Sexually deprived male fruit flies exhibit a pattern of behavior that seems ripped from the pages of a sad-sack Raymond Carver story: when female fruit flies reject their sexual advances, the males are driven to excessive alcohol consumption, drinking far more than comparable, sexually satisfied male flies.

Now a group of scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) has discovered that a tiny molecule in the fly’s brain called neuropeptide F governs this behavior — as the levels of the molecule change in their brains, the flies’ behavior changes as well.

The new work may help shed light on the brain mechanisms that make social interaction rewarding for animals and those that underlie human addiction. A similar human molecule, called neuropeptide Y, may likewise connect social triggers to behaviors like excessive drinking and drug abuse. Adjusting the levels of neuropeptide Y in people may alter their addictive behavior — which is exactly what the UCSF team observed in the fruit flies.

“If neuropeptide Y turns out to be the transducer between the state of the psyche and the drive to abuse alcohol and drugs, one could develop therapies to inhibit neuropeptide Y receptors,” said Ulrike Heberlein, PhD, a Professor of Anatomy and Neurology at UCSF, who led the research.

Clinical trials are underway, she added, to test whether delivery of neuropeptide Y can alleviate anxiety and other mood disorders as well as obesity.

A Reward Switch in the Brain

The experiments, described this week in the journal Science, started with male fruit flies placed in a container with either virgin female flies or female flies that had already mated. While virgin females readily mate and are receptive toward courting males, once they have mated, females flies lose their interest in sex for a time because of the influence of a substance known as sex peptide, which males inject along with sperm at the culmination of the encounter. This causes them to reject the advances of the male flies.

The rejected males then gave up trying to mate altogether. Even when placed in the same cage as virgin flies, they were not as keen to have sex. Their drinking behavior also changed.

When placed by themselves in a new container and presented with two straws, one containing plain food and the other containing food supplemented with 15 percent alcohol, the sexually rejected flies binged on the alcohol, drinking far more than their sexually satisfied cousins whose advances were never spurned. The difference was not only apparent in their behavior. It was completely predicted by the levels of neuropeptide F in their brains.

“It’s a switch that represents the level of reward in the brain and translates it into reward-seeking behavior,” said Galit Shohat-Ophir, PhD, the first author of the new study.

A former postdoctoral researcher at UCSF, Shohat-Ophir is now a research specialist at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Janelia Farm Research Center in Ashburn, VA. Later this year, Heberlein will also move to Janelia Farm, where she will become scientific program director.

Experiments Began as a “Crazy” Idea

When the work first started a few years ago, Shohat-Ophir said, it was just a crazy idea. The UCSF team suspected there might be a molecular mechanism in the brain linking social experiences like sexual rejection to psychological states such as depression of the brain system that responds to rewards. So they decided to test whether flies that were rejected sexually would be more prone to drinking.

Flies in the laboratory will normally drink to intoxication if given the choice, but this behavior is altered when neuropeptide F levels are altered in their brains because of their sexual experiences. Mated flies are less likely to seek out such rewarding experiences.

The male flies that were paired with receptive virgin females from the start and successfully mated had lots of neuropeptide F in their brains and drank very little alcohol.

Rejected flies, on the other hand, had lower levels of neuropeptide F in their brains, and sought alternative rewards by drinking to intoxication.

In their work, Heberlein, Shohat-Ophir, and their colleagues showed that they could induce the same behaviors by genetically manipulating the neuropeptide F levels in the flies’ brains. Activating the production of neuropeptide F in the brains of virgin males flies made them act as if they were sexually satisfied, and they voluntarily curtailed their drinking.

Lowering the levels of the neuropeptide F receptor made flies that were completely sexually satisfied act as if they were rejected, inciting them to drink more.

The finding has great relevance to addressing human addiction, though it may take years to translate this discovery into any new therapies for addicts, given the much greater complexities of the human mind.

The human version of neuropeptide F, called neuropeptide Y, may work similarly, connecting socially rewarding experiences to behaviors like binge drinking. Already, scientists know that levels of neuropeptide Y are reduced in people who suffer from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder — conditions that are also known to predispose people toward excessive alcohol and drug abuse.

Manipulating neuropeptide Y may not be so straightforward, however, since the molecule is distributed all over the human brain — and based on rodent studies, it has roles in feeding, anxiety and sleep, in addition to alcohol consumption.

This work was funded by a Sandler Research Fellowship, the Program for Breakthrough Biomedical Research at the University of California, San Francisco and the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, one of the National Institutes of Health.

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com

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Tweens Just Say ‘Maybe’ to Cigarettes and Alcohol

Posted by Sun on March 17, 2012

ScienceDaily (Mar. 12, 2012) — When it comes to prevention of substance use in our tween population, turning our kids on to thought control may just be the answer to getting them to say no.

New research published in theJournal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, co-led by professors Roisin O’Connor of Concordia University and Craig Colder of State University of New York at Buffalo, has found that around the tween-age years kids are decidedly ambivalent toward cigarettes and alcohol. It seems that the youngsters have both positive and negative associations with these harmful substances and have yet to decide one way or the other. Because they are especially susceptible to social influences, media portrayals of drug use and peer pressure become strong alies of substance use around these formative years.

“Initiation and escalation of alcohol and cigarette use occurring during late childhood and adolescence makes this an important developmental period to examine precursors of substance use,” says O’Connor, who is an Assistant Professor in Concordia’s Department of Psychology. “We conducted this study to have a better understanding of what puts this group at risk for initiating substance use so we can be more proactive with prevention.”

The study showed that at the impulsive, automatic level, these kids thought these substances were bad but they were easily able to overcome these biases and think of them as good when asked to place them with positive words. O’Connor explains that “this suggests that this age group may be somewhat ambivalent about drinking and smoking. We need to be concerned when kids are ambivalent because this is when they may be more easily swayed by social influences.”

According to O’Connor, drinking and smoking among this age group is influenced by both impulsive (acting without thinking), and controlled (weighing the pros against the cons) decisional processes. With this study, both processes were therefore examined to best understand the risk for initiating substance use.

To do this, close to 400 children between the ages of 10 and 12 participated in a computer-based test that involved targeted tasks. The tweens were asked to place pictures of cigarettes and alcohol with negative or positive words. The correct categorization of some trials,for example, involved placing pictures of alcohol with a positive word in one category and placing pictures of alcohol with negative words in another category.

“From this we saw how well the participants were able to categorize the pictures in the way that was asked. Using a mathematical formula of probabilities we were able to identify how often responses were answered with impulsive and thoughtful processes as they related to drinking and smoking,” says O’Connor.”

The next step in this study is to look at kids over a longer period of time. The hypothesis from the research is that as tweens begin to use these substances there will be an apparent weakening in their negative biases toward drinking and smoking. The desire will eventually outweigh the costs. It is also expected that they will continue to easily outweigh the pros relative to the cons related to substance use.

“We would like to track kids before they use substances and follow them out into their first few years of use and see how these processes play out,” says O’Connor. “Ultimately, we would like to help kids with that thoughtful piece. There is such a big focus now on telling kids substances are bad, but from our study we are seeing that they already know they are bad, therefore that is not the problem. The problem is the likelihood of external pressures that are pushing them past their ambivalence so that they use. In a school curriculum format I see helping kids deal with their ambivalence in the moment when faced with the choice to use or not use substances.”

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com

I am medical doctor and hypnotherapist with more than 17 years experience. Feel free to send me email (guide.rehab@gmail.com) to discuss your situation.

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Spring Break Ritual Could Lead to Brain Damage

Posted by Sun on March 17, 2012

ScienceDaily (Mar. 12, 2012) — Every year, thousands of teens and young adults celebrate Spring Break by drinking large amounts of alcohol — binge drinking — a dangerous right-of-passage for some and one linked to possible brain damage later as adults, says an expert. 

While young people still make the final choice to drink or abstain, parents play a vital role in helping them make healthy decisions, says Dr. Alicia Ann Kowalchuk, medical director, Harris County Hospital District’s InSight, an early alcohol and drug intervention program, and assistant professor, Department of Family and Community Medicine, Baylor College of Medicine.

Binge drinking, defined as the consumption of four alcoholic drinks by males or three drinks by females in a day, could be a sign of alcohol dependency or addiction. Because the brain continues to develop through age 25, alcohol use, particularly episodes of binge drinking, severely affects the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for impulse control and decision making, she says.

“The developmental delay of this area of the brain caused by binge drinking can make it hard for young people to later as adults make healthy choices about acceptable alcohol use and impulse control, some being more prone to alcohol abuse and addiction,” Kowalchuk says.

Amounts for one standard drink are:

• 12 ounces of regular beer, ale or malt liquor

• 1.5 ounces or one “shot” of 80-proof whiskey, gin or vodka

• 5 ounces of wine

• 12 ounces of wine cooler

• 4 ounces of sherry, liqueur or aperitif

In the U.S., alcohol use is high among young people. Unfortunately, some teenagers and young adults use occasions like Spring Break to drink in excess, suffering alcohol poisoning or other health-related issues. Law enforcement agencies cite alcohol as a contributing factor in more than 50 percent of all suicide, homicide and motor vehicle accident cases involving young people.

“Alcohol impairs good judgment and exposes teens and young adults to make irrational decisions like drinking and driving, riding with someone who’s been drinking, engaging in unintended or unprotected sex or committing criminal activities,” Kowalchuk says.

She urges parents to have frank and consistent talks with their children early in life about the dangers of alcohol.

“If they hear anything that sounds middle of road, they hear ‘yes to drinking.’ Any ambiguity as a parent will be interpreted as an approval for drinking. The clear message needs to be that alcohol is not acceptable because it’s not safe or good for your developing brain,” she says.

Parents who waiver even slightly tend to lose credibility.

“Some parents will debate that maybe it’s better to have your children drink at home. They reason that by providing the alcohol, they can control what their teens are drinking and where. However, it’s only a false sense of security. In reality, it’s the opposite,” Kowalchuk says.

Research has shown that lenient drinking attitudes at home tend to lead to higher drinking rates.

“They hear the implicit approval of their drinking, and even if you control the alcohol use while they’re with you, they’re that much more likely than their peers in non-permitting homes to drink more when unsupervised and not around their parents,” she says.

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com

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Revisiting LSD as a Treatment for Alcoholism

Posted by Sun on March 17, 2012

ScienceDaily (Mar. 8, 2012) — Several decades ago, a number of clinics used LSD to treat alcoholism with some success. But until now, no research has pulled together the results of these trials to document exactly how effective LSD was. Now a new meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials of the drug, available in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, published by SAGE, provides evidence for a clear and consistent beneficial effect of LSD for treating alcohol dependency.

 Teri Krebs and Pål-Ørjan Johansen are both affiliated with the Department of Neuroscience at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway. During research fellowships at Harvard Medical School, Boston, USA, they spotted a gap in the understanding of lysergic acid diethylamide’s (LSD’s) potential for alcoholism treatment. No researcher had ever performed a quantitative meta-analysis of previous clinical trials using the drug.

Krebs and Johansen set out to independently extract data from previous randomized, controlled clinical trials, pooling their results. They identified six eligible trials, all carried out in the late 1960s and early 1970s. These included 536 participants, the vast majority of whom were male in-patients enrolled in alcohol-focused treatment programs. Individuals with a history of schizophrenia or psychosis were excluded from the original trials. The control conditions included low-dose LSD, stimulants, or non-drug control conditions. Each trial used clearly defined treatment-independent and standardized methods to assess outcomes on alcohol misuse.

While the experiments varied in the dosage used and the type of placebo physicians administered to patients, LSD had a beneficial effect on alcohol misuse in every trial. On average, 59 percent of LSD patients and 38 percent of control patients were improved at follow-up using standardized assessment of problem alcohol use. There was also a similar beneficial effect on maintained abstinence from alcohol. The positive effects of a single LSD dose — reported both in these and in other, non-randomized trials — lasts at least six months and appears to fade by 12 months.

Regarding the lasting effects of the LSD experience in alcoholics, investigators of one trial noted, “It was rather common for patients to claim significant insights into their problems, to feel that they had been given a new lease on life, and to make a strong resolution to discontinue their drinking.” And investigators of another trial noted, “It was not unusual for patients following their LSD experience to become much more self-accepting, to show greater openness and accessibility, and to adopt a more positive, optimistic view of their capacities to face future problems.”

LSD interacts with a specific type of serotonin receptors in the brain, which may stimulate to new connections and open the mind for new perspectives and possibilities, Krebs explains. LSD is not known to be addictive or toxic to the body, but the LSD has striking effects on imagination, perception, and memories and can elicit periods of intense anxiety and confusion.

“Given the evidence for a beneficial effect of LSD on alcoholism, it is puzzling why this treatment approach has been largely overlooked,” says Johansen. The authors suggest a number of reasons for this: many of the individual trials did not have enough patients to confidently conclude that there was a beneficial effect of LSD, but when pooled together the trials shows a clear and consistent effect; trial authors expected unrealistic results from a single dose of LSD and tended to discount moderate or short-term effects and; earlier non-randomized clinical trials reporting promising results but had methodological problems, creating the misunderstanding that well-designed studies did not exist or failed to find a beneficial effect. Finally, the complicated social and political history of LSD meant that obtaining regulatory approval for clinical trials became laborious, although national and international drug control measures have never banned treatment development or medical use of LSD.

Its unusual for a psychiatric medication to have a positive treatment effect lasting for several months after a single dose. Krebs and Johansen suggest that repeated doses of LSD coupled with modern, evidence-based alcohol relapse prevention treatments might provide more sustained results. They also note that plantbased psychedelics such as mescaline and ayahuasca which are used by Native Americans to promote mental health and sustained sobriety, merit further investigation for alcoholism treatment.

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com

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Alcohol-Related Behavior Changes: Blame Your Immune System

Posted by Sun on October 2, 2011

ScienceDaily (Sep. 28, 2011) — When you think about your immune system, you probably think about it fighting off a cold. But new research from the University of Adelaide suggests that immune cells in your brain may contribute to how you respond to alcohol.

“It’s amazing to think that despite 10,000 years of using alcohol, and several decades of investigation into the way that alcohol affects the nerve cells in our brain, we are still trying to figure out exactly how it works,” says lead researcher Dr Mark Hutchinson from the University’s School of Medical Sciences.

Although scientists know much about how alcohol affects nerve cells, there is also a growing body of evidence that alcohol triggers rapid changes in the immune system in the brain. This immune response lies behind some of the well-known alcohol-related behavioural changes, such as difficulty controlling the muscles involved in walking and talking.

In research published in the latest edition of the British Journal of Pharmacology, Dr Hutchinson’s team gave a single shot of alcohol to laboratory mice and studied the effect of blocking Toll-like receptors, a particular element of the immune system, on the behavioural changes induced by alcohol. The researchers used drugs to block these receptors. They also studied the effects of giving alcohol to mice that had been genetically altered so that they were lacking the functions of selected receptors.

The results showed that blocking this part of the immune system, either with the drug or genetically, reduced the effects of alcohol. While the research was carried out on mice, Hutchinson’s team believe that similar treatments could also work in humans.

“Medications targeting Toll-like receptor 4 may prove beneficial in treating alcohol dependence and acute overdoses,” says Dr Hutchinson.

This work has significant implications for our understanding of the way alcohol affects us, as it is both an immunological and neuronal response. Such a shift in mindset has significant implications for identifying individuals who may have bad outcomes after consuming alcohol, and it could lead to a way of detecting people who are at greater risk of developing brain damage after long-term drinking.

Source:http://www.sciencedaily.com

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University Students Who Use Cannabis, Tobacco and Alcohol Take Too Many Non-Prescribed Drugs, Study Suggests

Posted by Sun on September 25, 2011

ScienceDaily (Sep. 23, 2011) — A Spanish study carried out by the University of Santiago de Compostela (USC) on the consumption of drugs amongst university students confirms that non-prescribed drug abuse amongst those who use cannabis, tobacco and alcohol could be considered “another form of multi-drug consumption.”

University students who drink alcohol, smoke tobacco and take cannabis are more inclined to self-medicate, according to a study carried out by the University of Santiago de Compostela (Spain).

“We selected a sample of 1,400 first year students who voluntarily completed a questionnaire. After two years the cohort was re-evaluated. Anonymity was ensured at all times,” declares Francisco Caamaño, the lead author of the study published in the Journal of Public Health.

The questions were divided into two parts. The first part consisted of an Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) and an additional questionnaire which included socioeconomic variables and variables with regard to expectations of alcohol and drug use. Caamaño explains that “in order to measure drug use, we used questions taken from Spain’s National Health Survey on prescribed and non-prescribed medication.”

In terms of drug intake, researchers discovered a “very high consumption” of all medication groups, particularly those used to treat fever and pain, along with stimulants, vitamin and mineral tablets, anti-anxiety drugs and sedatives. Experts point out that “this consumption is high but still in line with Spain’s National Health Survey for this age range.”

Furthermore, there was a strong link between drug abuse and cannabis, tobacco and alcohol abuse, especially upon analysis of non-prescribed drugs. Caamaño insists that “students who take these three drugs have a tendency to take the most non-prescribed drugs. After two years of monitoring, this tendency remains in those who use cannabis.”

Living away from home increases consumption

Another important fact is that students who live away from home whilst studying at university consume 35% more drugs than those who live with parents.

The study found that the prevalence of a dangerous consumption when students begin their studies stands at 37% for alcohol, 30% for tobacco and 20% for cannabis. After two years, the prevalence of a dangerous alcohol consumption increased to 53.4% whereas that of tobacco decreased slightly to 29% and that of cannabis to 17%.

The study concludes that “as for gender, women at the beginning of their studies are those who consume more drugs. Excluding contraceptives, they take around 70% more. This can be attributed to their use of drugs to ease menstrual pain.”

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com

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Living Alone Is Associated With an Increased Risk of Alcohol-Related Deaths, Finnish Study Finds

Posted by Sun on September 21, 2011

ScienceDaily (Sep. 20, 2011) — Living alone is associated with an increased risk of alcohol-related mortality — from alcohol-related diseases and accidents — according to a Finnish study published inPLoS Medicine, suggesting that a lack of social relationships should be regarded as a potential risk factor for death from alcohol related causes. However, the idea that a lack of social relationships is a risk factor for death is still not widely recognised by health professionals, policy makers, or the public.

Researchers led by Kimmo Herttua from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, in Helsinki, found a greater increase in alcohol-related deaths (particularly fatal liver disease) among people living alone compared to married and cohabiting people after an alcohol price reduction in 2004, suggesting that people living alone are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of increased alcohol availability.

The authors analyzed information on about 80% of all people who died in Finland between 2000 and 2007 and found that roughly 18,200 people–two-thirds of whom lived alone–died from underlying alcohol-related causes such as liver disease and alcoholic poisoning or contributory alcohol-related factors such as accidents, violence and cardiovascular disease.

Furthermore, for people living alone (particularly those aged 50-69 years) a reduction in the price of alcohol in 2004 was associated with a substantial increase in the alcohol-related mortality rate. For example, between 2000 and 2003, men living alone were 3.7 times as likely to die of liver disease as married or cohabiting men but between 2004 and 2007, they were 4.9 times as likely to die of liver disease. The pattern of mortality was similar but lower in women living alone.

The authors conclude: “Living alone is associated with a substantially increased risk of alcohol-related mortality, irrespective of gender, socioeconomic status, or the specific cause of death.”

They add: “Further longitudinal research is needed to confirm the generalizability of our findings to other countries with different alcohol cultures (e.g., Mediterranean wine culture) and to identify selective and causal processes underlying the association between living alone and alcohol abuse.”

Source: http://www.sciencedaily.com

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