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Entries in Alcohol (77)

Wednesday
Mar282012

Alcohol May Benefit Heart Attack Patients

Monkey Business/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- A daily alcoholic beverage or two may be good for men who have survived a heart attack, according to new research published in the European Heart Journal.

The study, carried out by researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, found that men who consumed two alcoholic drinks per day after their first heart attack were at lower risk of dying than non-drinking men. The type of drink did not have an effect on the results, but heavy drinkers had a risk of death that was similar to that of non-drinkers.

Researchers followed more than 1,800 men who survived a heart attack. The study participants filled out lifestyle questionnaires, and researchers found that men who drank about two alcoholic drinks per day had a 42 percent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular problems and a 12 percent reduced risk of dying from any cause, when compared with teetotalers.

"For many men after experiencing a heart attack, major diet and lifestyle changes are recommended by their physicians," said Dr. Jennifer Pai, lead author of the study and assistant professor of medicine at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School. "Our study indicates that for men already consuming moderate amounts of alcohol, continuing to consume moderate amounts after a heart attack may be beneficial for long-term survival."

Pai noted that moderate alcohol consumption has long been associated with lower risk of coronary heart disease among healthy populations.

"More recently, some studies have suggested a beneficial effect of moderate alcohol consumption on reduced mortality among individuals with established heart disease, but the results were somewhat conflicting," continued Pai. "Our study is the first to examine moderate alcohol consumption both before the men experienced their heart attack, and also after they survived the event."

But because the data was based on self-reports, which can lead to measurement errors, Dr. Robert Bonow, professor of medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, said the findings should be taken with caution. It is unclear whether women would have similar results, and the findings certainly should not encourage non-drinkers to suddenly start drinking after a heart attack, he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Mar282012

'Almost Alcoholic': Close to the Real Thing, Says New Book

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(BOSTON) -- Many people live with physical conditions such as prehypertension or prediabetes that are not quite full-blown illnesses, and a new series of books argues that the same is true of mental health conditions.

Millions of people may be suffering from an "almost" psychological problem, but have no idea they are affected or what to do about it. The "almost effect," the books argue, is a very real phenomenon.

The first book in the series, Almost Alcoholic, outlines the key signs that someone might be suffering from almost alcoholism, such as drinking despite negative consequences, looking forward to drinking, drinking alone and drinking to blunt emotional or physical pain. The book will be published next month.

"We have two goals," said Dr. Julie Silver, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School and chief editor of books at Harvard Medical Publications who developed the idea for the book series. "One is to alleviate the pain and suffering going on right now, and two is to try and prevent more severe problems later."

One of the biggest problems almost alcoholics face is the serious toll their drinking has on their loved ones.

"The father who comes home from work, is stressed and drinks to alleviate stress, ends up getting tired, goes to bed earlier and isn't all that helpful to his wife, helping with the kids, isn't as present for his wife and kids as he needs to be. This is really impacting their ability to function," Silver said.

Dr. Robert Doyle, a co-author and clinical instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, told ABC News that while he can't put a number on how many, he regularly sees "almost alcoholics" in his practice.

"There is a tremendous number of people who have alcohol problems and almost all have gone through the gray area of the scale," he said. "So almost everyone who's at the far end had some experience in the 'almost' range, and if we can bring some awareness to that, we might be able to help them make some health lifestyle changes."

One key criterion that distinguishes almost alcoholics from alcoholics is the development of tolerance, meaning an alcoholic has to drink more to experience the same effect. Often, however, it's more of "a gray line," Doyle said.

Someone who has developed tolerance should seek alcohol detoxification or a formal treatment program, he said. Detoxificiation is the cessation of alcohol along with the use of drugs that will prevent withdrawal symptoms.

But the almost alcoholic is different, he explained. They can address their problem by assessing their life and how their drinking is affecting it. They can attempt a variety of solutions, including social support, changing routines and abstinence if nothing else works.

Experts who treat alcoholism say by identifying people who are close to being alcoholics, the book is helpful in raising awareness of what constitutes problem drinking.

"Alcoholism is a progressive disease and it is always preluded by problematic drinking behavior," said Dr. Jason Hershberger, chief of psychiatry at SUNY Downstate Medical Center. "Problematic drinking is common, more common than full-blown alcoholism, and once identified, it can be helped."

"It is good for people and their friends/relatives to recognize the signs and symptoms or alcohol abuse and addiction, so that they may be able to influence someone before they get into trouble," said Dr. Robert Gwyther, professor in the department of family medicine at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

But others say despite the potential helpfulness of the book, "almost alcoholic" is another term that can create confusion.

"We run the risk of having too many terms -- alcohol abuse, alcohol misuse, risky drinking, unhealthy use, almost alcoholic," said Dr. James Garbutt, a professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine.

The experts also weighed in on the variety of treatment options available depending on the severity of a person's problem drinking. As the book recommends, finding social support and talking through the problem can be helpful for almost alcoholics and others who have not yet reached the point of full-blown alcoholism.

"I try to treat the underlying issues like anxiety," said Dr. Edwin Salsitz, an attending physician specializing in chemical dependency at Beth Israel Medical Center. "That is very helpful in stopping the progression of alcoholism, but also in general for helping a person have a better life."

"Individuals with unhealthy alcohol use may benefit from brief advice and counseling," Garbutt said. "Individuals with alcoholism, especially if severe, may need inpatient treatment followed by specialized treatment, including medication."

But before seeking treatment, people need to recognize that almost alcoholism is a problem they may never have realized they had, Silver and Doyle said. That's where the book can have its biggest impact.

"It's about describing symptoms that aren't normal, that are well documented, and explaining those symptoms to people so they can better deal with them and have better health now and in the future," Silver said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Mar272012

Binge-Drinking Teenage Girls Can Black Out, Get Into Trouble

File photo. Monkey Business/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- After a few too many drinks, Holley, once a teenage binge drinker, was barreling down a highway at 90 miles per hour and running red lights. She said she didn't remember doing it until she saw herself on film.

Holley's exploits are featured in the documentary Faded: Girls & Binge Drinking, a movie about teenage girls who drink heavily because they feel enormous peer pressure to fit in. It offers a sobering message for unsuspecting parents and for teenage girls.

According to several surveys, an estimated one in four teen girls don't just drink, they binge, meaning five or more drinks in one sitting. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said more than 90 percent of alcohol consumed by youths is through binge drinking.

Rebeccah Thomas said she had no clue her 17-year-old daughter Erin was secretly binge drinking, until one night Erin wound up at a party with older boys that she didn't know well and landed in a police station.

"I thought I'll just take a couple drinks, I'll relax, I'll get to know these people, but then it became one or two beers and that turned into I'll take another shot and another shot," Erin Thomas said. "I probably consumed about four beers and I want to say 10-13 shots."

With all that alcohol in her system, Thomas said she passed out. But that night she got into a car with her boyfriend, who was busted for drinking after being pulled over, and Thomas was taken into custody by police. Her mother Rebeccah got a heart-stopping phone call from a police officer.

"At first the officer said, 'Are you Rebeccah Thomas and is your daughter Erin Thomas?' I just thought, 'Oh my gosh is she dead?' The worst, that's where your head is. I was just panicked," she said.

Often binge drinkers aren't the college campus misfits. They are just as likely to be "good girls," who are under enormous pressure to fit in. Erin Thomas said she first began lying to her mother when she was in the eighth grade.

"It was about me wanting to make a decision and knowing that I wasn't going to be able to do anything unless I did it behind her back," she said. "I think one of the main things that I struggled with is trying to be independent at a young age."

Underage bingers will often secretly "pre-game," pounding back large quantities of alcohol before their school dance or a big game, where alcohol is strictly banned.

"You're encouraging each other, 'just do it, just, fast, just, here-and telling each other tips on how to drink it faster, so you don't taste it,'" Holley said.

Alcohol mixed with wild partying is featured in several teen movies, including the American Pie series, Superbad, Mean Girls, and more recently, Project X -- Hollywood's take on a high school party run amok.

For girls, alcohol has the added danger of giving them courage to act out sexually, making them more vulnerable, and then providing an excuse for risky behavior the morning after.

During her 40 years as a pediatric trauma nurse at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland, Ore., Shelley Campbell said she has treated all sorts of ghastly consequences.

"About three-fourths of the injuries, all injuries [related to] falling, tripping over a curb, had alcohol on board," she said. "Or people heard there was a party, this happens frequently, and show up, and they can't get rid of them, and so we got knives pulled, we've got guns pulled, and then we have violence."

Just this month, a high school student was shot and killed at a Project X copycat party in Houston.

But beyond getting injured, a new study from Stanford University shows that teen girls are more likely than boys to physically damage their brains from binge drinking because they weigh less and their livers process alcohol differently. Brain scans conducted on intoxicated teenage girls have shown less activity in the areas of memory and spatial awareness.

As the documentary Faded showed, binge drinking can start young, which is why Campbell talks about the dangers of alcohol with middle schoolers, before puberty, and the anxiety that comes with it, hits.

Girls Inc., a non-profit organization that works with local communities to empower young girls, also has an outreach program in Portland, where they target 12-year-olds with exercises designed to prepare them for the inevitable temptations in their teenage years, including partying, boys and drinking.

A person is five times less likely to abuse alcohol as an adult if she can just delay drinking until after age 15, according to the National Institute of Health.

Looking back, Holley, who is now 28, said that perhaps the best prevention for binge drinking is helping a young girl beat back her escalating insecurities.

"I'd tell her that she's beautiful, and she's capable of doing whatever she wants to do, and I don't think I knew that, that I could be cool without it," Holley said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Mar092012

Could LSD Treat Alcoholism?

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Could a drug known for its psychedelic “acid trips” be used to treat alcoholism?

Norwegian researchers say that lysergic acid diethylamide — also known as the hallucinogenic drug LSD — was used in a few clinics in the 1960s and 1970s to help some alcoholics, and should be revisited once again as a possible treatment, according to a study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology.

Teri Krebs and Pal-Orjan Johansen of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology looked back at studies from the 1960s and 1970s and identified six studies with 536 participants that examined the effect LSD had on alcoholism.

“A single dose of LSD had a significant beneficial effect on alcohol misuse at the first reported follow-up assessment, which ranged from 1 to 12 months after discharge from each treatment program,” they wrote. The effect lasted about six months.

Participants from three studies reported completely abstaining from alcohol, and this effect lasted between one and three months.

Krebs and Johansen noted that one of the previous study authors stated that after taking LSD, some subjects were able “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.”

“Given the evidence for a beneficial effect of LSD on alcoholism, it is puzzling why this treatment approach has been largely overlooked,” Krebs and Johansen wrote.

They added that other studies found that the psychedelic effects of other substances, such as mescaline, psilocybin (found in magic mushrooms) and ayahuasca were “highly valued and beneficial,” and indigenous groups have claimed that ayahuasca and peyote helped them stay sober.

But they acknowledged that criticism of the previous studies’ reliability and the turbulent history of the infamous drug may also have made it difficult to get approval for clinical trials, which could explain why LSD had never made it to the mainstream as a treatment for alcoholism.

Dr. Ihsan Salloum, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Miami’s Miller School of Medicine, is a bit more skeptical of LSD’s potential to become a standard treatment option.

“It really has never been a treatment for alcoholism, and it probably would be very controversial to treat alcoholism with something that can potentially cause problems,” he said.

“People have tried in the past, and there are also attempts now to give people substances that will provoke some kind of experience, and supposedly this experience changes the craving for the drug, but I think that sounds too good to be true,” he said.  “This is an area that is very nebulous.”

There aren’t many options for alcoholism treatment right now, he said.  Among the standard therapies are psychotherapy and a few medications.

“We definitely need more treatments, so it would be great if someone can develop something else,” Salloum said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Feb152012

Should Governments Regulate Alcohol Use?

iStockPhoto/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- A University of Oxford researcher is calling on the World Health Organization (WHO) to put policies in place that would regulate alcohol use.

Devi Sridhar, a lecturer in global health politics, wrote that WHO should treat dangerous drinking as a global public health crisis, just as the agency treats disease outbreaks and tobacco use. The WHO, she said, requires countries to report outbreaks of certain diseases and could institutes policies requiring member nations to take measures designed to curb tobacco’s supply and demand.

“About 2.5 million deaths a year, almost 4 percent of all deaths worldwide, are attributed to alcohol -- more than the number of deaths caused by HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis or malaria,” Sridhar wrote in her commentary, published in the journal Nature.

In 2010, WHO published a document, "The WHO Global Strategy to Reduce Harmful Use of Alcohol," that included strategies such as prohibiting “unlimited drinks” promotions and instituting a minimum age to purchase alcohol.  These recommendations, Sridhar argued, should become legal requirements.

Excessive drinking is also a major public health issue in the U.S.  According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, excessive drinking cost the U.S. $223.5 billion in 2006.  Losses in workplace productivity, illnesses caused by too much drinking, and motor vehicle accidents made up most of the burden.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Feb032012

Baseball MVP Admits to Addiction Relapse

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images(DALLAS) -- Texas Rangers’ outfielder Josh Hamilton, the 2010 American League MVP who has battled alcohol and drug addictions for over a decade, admitted Friday he relapsed and had several drinks on Monday night.

In a press conference, Hamilton, 30, said while dealing with personal issues, he went to a Dallas restaurant and in a “weak moment,” had about three or four drinks.

Teammate Ian Kinsler joined him later and the two left and eventually went to another restaurant across the street. Kinsler drove Hamilton home and asked Hamilton if he was planning to go back out. Hamilton said he wasn’t planning to go anywhere.

But, the All-Star confessed, he ended up back at the same restaurant he and Kinsler visited earlier.

“It was just wrong. That’s what it comes down to,” Hamilton said.  “I needed to be responsible at that moment.”

He later reported the incident to the team and to Major League Baseball and underwent two drug tests.

Hamilton said he plans to meet with the league’s doctors in New York in the next few days, and stressed he is serious about staying clean and sober.

“I cannot take a break from my recovery. My recovery is an everyday process.”

The relapse is not Hamilton’s first. In August 2009, Hamilton was photographed drinking in a bar in Tempe, Ariz., which he said was the first drink he had since he vowed to stay sober in October 2005.

Dr. David Sack, chief executive officer of Promises Treatment Centers in Los Angeles and Malibu, said stumbles like Hamilton’s are pretty common on an addict’s road to recovery.

“Most people who achieve long-term sobriety have failed multiple times before they’ve succeeded,” Sack told ABC News. “But an athlete has strong motivation to keep pursuing treatment because their livelihood and career depend on it. In our experience, they do remarkably well with treatment.”

Hamilton has gotten significant support from baseball management and his teammates in his efforts to stay alcohol-free. His teammates stopped drinking in front of him, even shielding him from the smell of alcohol. The 2011 American League champion team’s postseason celebrations eschewed the traditional champagne showers for ginger ale and water.

ESPN reported that the Texas Rangers are working to get Hamilton recovery-related support, which Sack said may include a combination of addiction medications like Naltrexone and individual therapy to explore what factors triggered his alcohol relapse.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Jan102012

UK Recommends Two Drink-Free Days Per Week

Comstock/Thinkstock(LONDON) -- People should have at least two drink-free days out of the week, according to new U.K. government guidelines set out by the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee.  The committee said recommendations needed to be revamped because they can be conflicting and difficult to understand.

In 1987, U.K. national guidelines suggested that men should drink a maximum of 21 units per week and women should not exceed 14 units per week.  But, in 1995, guidelines changed when the government recommended against more than three to four units per day and two to three units per day for women, according to BBC News.  Some experts questioned whether the new guidelines validated daily alcohol consumption.

In the report, government officials suggested the new recommendations, “enforce the message that drinking every day should be avoided.”

American guidelines recommend fewer drinks per week: a maximum of 14 units per week for men (and no more than four in one day) and seven (or no more than three in one day) for non-pregnant women.

A “unit” of alcohol is 10 to 12 grams, or the amount in a 12-ounce can of beer, 4 to 5 ounces of wine, or a shot of 100-proof liquor.

While many studies have shown that small amounts of alcohol have potential health benefits, exceeding recommended amounts can have debilitating effects on one’s liver, weight, mental health, and other parts of the body.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec302011

Can You Cure a Hangover?

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Ringing in the New Year with too much bubbly might lead to a rough start to 2012.  But a new wave of hangover-fighting pills and patches, plus a handful of old standbys, claim to spare you the headache, fatigue and upset stomach brought on by booze.

The latest concoction, “Blowfish,” combines aspirin, caffeine and an antacid into an Alka-Seltzer-like effervescent tablet.  When dropped into a glass of water, it fizzes up a lemony brew that packs the hangover-fighting power of two extra-strength aspirins, three espressos and a greasy breakfast.

“It’s the only over-the-counter drug that’s specifically hangover-related,” Blowfish creator Brenna Haysom told ABC News. “The [Food and Drug Administration] has specifically said our formula is effective for treating hangover symptoms.”

A hangover is a collection of symptoms that emerge as alcohol’s intoxicating effects wear off.  Alcohol is thought to trigger an inflammatory response -- a process blocked by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin.  The inflammatory response is similar to the body’s defense against the flu, and is linked to lethargy -- an energy lull boosted by caffeine.  Finally, the chemicals produced by the body to break alcohol down are hard on the stomach -- collateral damage tempered by an antacid.

Aspirin and caffeine are already FDA-approved, so Blowfish can be sold over-the-counter without being itself FDA-approved.

Because hangovers are so poorly understood, the jury’s still out on how best to treat them.  And it’s unclear whether Blowfish, which contains acetylsalicylic acid and citric acid at doses likely to cancel out its stomach-soothing effects, is better than the age-old hangover remedy: aspirin and a cup of coffee.

“Almost no research at all has been done on the hangover state,” said Dr. Timothy Collins, associate professor of medicine and neurology at Duke University Medical Center’s Pain and Palliative Care Clinic.  “Without any clinical trial data, it’s hard to really talk about how well any treatment’s going to work.”

Personal anecdotes, however, support Blowfish and a host of other hangover remedies -- from banana smoothies to pickle juice -- in preventing or at least minimizing hangovers.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Tuesday
Dec062011

‘Blowfish’ for Hangovers: Cure or Red Herring?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- An Alka-Seltzer-like tablet that claims to cure hangovers is set to hit New York City drugstores in January.

The tablet, called “Blowfish,” combines aspirin, caffeine and an antacid to fight the headache, fatigue and upset stomach typical after a night of drinking. When dropped into a glass of water, it fizzes up a lemony brew that packs the hangover-fighting power of two extra-strength aspirins, three espressos and a greasy breakfast.

“It’s the only over-the-counter drug that’s specifically hangover related,” Blowfish creator Brenna Haysom told ABC News. “The [Food and Drug Administration] has specifically said our formula is effective for treating hangover symptoms.”

The FDA did not immediately return ABC News’ requests for a comment. Contrary to recent headlines, the agency did not approve the drug. Because the over-the-counter formula combines drugs that are already approved, it didn’t have to. It does, however, regulate the manufacturing process and the drug’s packaging.

“Like all drug packaging, it has a lot of warnings for people with certain conditions,” said Haysom, describing the health risks of aspirin – a blood thinner – for people with bleeding conditions.  “And pregnant women should not take it, but hopefully they don’t need to be taking it!”

A hangover is a collection of symptoms that emerge when alcohol’s intoxicating effects start to wear off. Research on hangover treatments is scarce, but alcohol is thought to trigger an inflammatory response – a process blocked by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin. The inflammatory response is similar to the body’s defense against flu, and is linked to lethargy – an energy lull boosted by caffeine. Finally, the chemicals produced by the body to break alcohol down are hard on the stomach – collateral damage tempered by an antacid.

But it’s unclear whether Blowfish, which contains acetylsalicylic acid and citric acid to mitigate some of its stomach-soothing effects, is better than the age-old hangover remedy: Aspirin and a cup of coffee.

“Almost no research at all has been done on the hangover state,” said Dr. Timothy Collins, associate professor of medicine and neurology at Duke University Medical Center’s Pain and Palliative Care Clinic. “One of the things we know from headache clinical trials is that at least 25 percent of patients getting a placebo say it worked really well for them. One in four people are going to say this helps, but we just don’t know.”

A two-tablet dose of Blowfish (which is what the makers recommend for a typical hangover) contains 1,000 milligrams of aspirin, 120 milligrams of caffeine 816 milligrams of sodium and 25.2 milligrams of phenylalanine. The makers, West Village-based Rally Labs, are so convinced of their product’s hangover-quashing effects they offer a money-back guarantee.

Blowfish is already sold at Ricky’s in New York City, and will be sold nationally early next year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Friday
Dec022011

Driving Stoned: Safer Than Driving Drunk?

Hemera/Thinkstock(DENVER) -- Drivers who get behind the wheel stoned instead of drunk may actually be making the roads safer in states that allow medical marijuana, according to new research.

Economists Daniel Rees of the University of Colorado Denver and Mark Anderson of Montana State University looked at traffic fatalities in thirteen states that enacted medical marijuana laws between 1990 and 2009.  They found that on average, traffic fatalities in those states fell nearly 9 percent after medical pot became legal.

“What’s going on is that young adults– especially males– were drinking less when medical marijuana became legal,” Rees tells ABC News, pointing to data from the Beer Institute that showed a drop in beer sales in states with new medical marijuana laws.  “You legalize medical marijuana and the highways become safer.”

Why?  Rees and Anderson have two theories.

“One hypothesis is that it’s just safer to drive under the influence of marijuana than it is drunk,” Rees says.  “Drunk drivers take more risk, they tend to go faster.  They don’t realize how impaired they are.  People who are under the influence of marijuana drive slower, they don’t take as many risks.”

The other theory, Rees says, is that people smoking marijuana simply don’t go out as much.

Could other factors be at work?  For example, some states like Tennessee and Virginia, have seen declines in traffic fatalities since 1994 even without medical marijuana laws.   And in Colorado–where medical marijuana is legal–police have seen increasing numbers of stoned drivers.  In 2010, 32 people involved in fatal crashes had ingested marijuana, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Rees says he and Anderson stand by their research, which they note has not yet been peer-reviewed by colleagues.  They say they carefully accounted for nationwide trends and other policy changes — such as seat belt laws or lower speed limits– that could also be responsible for lowering traffic deaths.

“It’s really hard to think, once you’ve accounted for all those things, what could be reducing alcohol consumption and be correlated with legalization of medical marijuana,” Rees said.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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