Entries in Alcoholism (9)


It's Not When You Had Your First Drink, It's When You Got Drunk

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Researchers are saying teen drinkers won’t necessarily have problems later in life -- but teen drunks will.

A new study published in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research tracked nearly 45,000 15 year-olds who had experiences with alcohol.  

What they found challenges years of commonly-held thought. Now, teen drinkers who become drunk at an early age is the predictor for teens who will later engage in alcohol abuse, marijuana, and fighting.

Previously, researchers thought that age, more than intoxication level, affected performance later in life.  The authors say preventative programs should shift their focus in light of the new evidence.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


'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


CDC: Millions of Americans Are Binge Drinkers

iStockphotos/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- America has a binge drinking problem, according to a new government report.

More than 38 million U.S. adults binge drink an average of four times each month, according to a new report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The agency notes that the majority of people who binge drink are not alcoholics, but the trend is alarming because of the number of serious problems that can result from people having too much alcohol, such as car accidents, violence and contracting sexually transmitted diseases.

The CDC reports that too much drinking results in 80,000 deaths each year in the U.S., and cost the country more than $223.5 billion in 2006.

The agency defines binge drinking as women having four or more drinks in a sitting and men drinking five or more, but the definition of binge drinking can vary. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, the same amount of alcohol must be consumed in two hours or less to qualify as binge drinking, an amount that would put a person’s blood alcohol level above the legal driving limit.

According to the CDC’s report, binge drinking is more common among young adults ages 18 to 34 and among wealthier Americans, those with an annual household income of $75,000 or more. But binge drinkers age 65 and older reported drinking more in one sitting, and people with an annual income of less than $25,000 per household drank the largest number of drinks per sitting -- about eight or nine at a time.

The data in the CDC’s report came from a 2010 report of an ongoing telephone health survey and analyzed responses of nearly 500,000 Americans to questions about their alcohol habits.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Study: Liver Transplant Can Give Some Alcoholics a Second Chance

Jupiterimages/Thinkstock(PARIS) -- Early liver transplantation can improve survival in patients with a first episode of severe alcoholic hepatitis who aren't responding to medical therapy, according to a study by French researchers released Wednesday.

A six-month abstinence from alcohol is usually required before patients with acute alcoholic hepatitis are considered for liver transplantation, but some doctors want to rethink the rule.

Only 30 percent of those who do not respond to treatment live beyond six months and most die within two months, according to the study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

With supportive families, no other severe medical conditions and a commitment to future abstinence, patients can do well, the study revealed.

But study authors say that although early liver transplantation is "attractive," many doctors are reluctant to treat patients with alcoholism because they are "responsible for their illness" and are likely to resume drinking.

Alcoholic hepatitis, or inflammation of the liver, is a potentially fatal condition that can be a "red flag" that cirrhosis of the liver may soon follow, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA).  The NIAAA says up to 70 percent of all alcoholic hepatitis patients will develop cirrhosis, a scarring of the liver that is a major cause of death in the United States.

But those who stop drinking can have a complete recovery from alcoholic hepatitis and a liver transplant can save their lives.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Students Who Post Drunken Facebook Photos Could Be at Risk, Study Says

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images(MADISON, Wis.) -- College students who post the details of their drunken nights on Facebook can end up with a few problems on their hands -- embarrassment, regret or explanations to Mom and Dad. But a new study from researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison suggests those Facebook postings may also signal that a student is at clinical risk of having a drinking problem.

Dr. Megan Moreno, the study's lead author and a pediatrician, said she often talks with teenage patients and parents who are worried about college students they know who post status updates on Facebook about drinking.

"College is a frequent time that students will drink, and we often see references to alcohol on Facebook," she said. "So we wanted to find if there is a way to separate what might be 'rite of passage' drinking from drinking that shows actual clinical risk."

Moreno and her colleagues analyzed more than 200 Facebook profiles of 18- to 20-year-old college students at the University of Wisconsin and the University of Washington, looking for pictures, status updates and comments that referred to drinking alcohol. Then they had those students, both with and without alcohol mentions on their profiles, take the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test, a survey that clinicians use to assess potential problems with alcohol.

They found that students who posted on Facebook about drinking while driving, blacking out, drinking alone or other "problem drinking" behaviors were more likely to be considered "at-risk" for alcoholism. Based on their responses to the clinical survey, the researchers found that 58 percent of them met the clinical definition for at-risk problem drinking, compared with 38 percent who merely displayed alcohol in pictures or status updates on their profiles.

The study also found that students who posted about problem drinking behaviors were more than six times as likely to report an alcohol-related injury, compared with students who didn't mention alcohol use on Facebook at all.

The study was published online on Monday in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Moreno said that Facebook posts and Twitter hashtags don't always indicate that a student has an alcohol problem. Nearly 23 percent of the students in the study who never mentioned alcohol on Facebook were still considered at-risk based on their responses to the clinical survey. But she said social media activity can be a red flag that some students have a problem. The key is to keep an eye on how a young person talks about alcohol use.

Moreno said the goal of her study wasn't to encourage university officials to stalk students' drinking habits on Facebook. But she said social media tools could be a valuable way to reach students who weren't willing to report their problems with alcohol on their own.

"Most college students are going to balk at being approached by a stranger about their drinking. The most helpful approaches are going to be by someone in that student's trusted circle," Moreno said. "Often that cool aunt or uncle who is the student's Facebook friend, or even other college friends or an RA [Resident Advisor] will be in the best position to help."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Study Finds Alcohol May Prolong Stress -- A new study suggests that alcohol may prolong, rather than curtail, stress, according to HealthDay.

The study used 25 healthy men, and monitored their reaction to alcohol after completing a stressful public speaking project. The scientists found that stress can also change a person's reaction to alcohol, and even make him crave more alcohol.

The study will be published in the October issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Can You Stop Drinking by Getting Drunk Faster?

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CAMBRIDGE, Mass) – A study suggests that taking a kudzu extract can be used to decrease binge drinking and eventually lead to complete alcohol cessation.

The study, published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, randomly assigned 12 participants to either take kudzu extract or a placebo for nine days.  All participants then drank a set amount of alcohol as the experimenters closely monitored their heart rate, blood alcohol levels and sense of inebriation. 

The researchers, from McLean Hospital at Harvard Medical School, found that those who took kudzu extract had increased heart rate, elevated blood alcohol levels and reported greater levels of dizziness than those who took the placebo.
Although the authors don’t know why kudzu caused the rapid rise in blood alcohol levels, they believe that they’ve discovered why people drink less when taking kudzu: they may simply feel the effects of the alcohol sooner.

The researchers argue that, although getting drunk faster may not be a good method to quit drinking, kudzu can decrease binge drinking and lead to complete cessation.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Not All Bar Fights Involve ‘Tough Guys’

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(ONTARIO, Canada) – A new study suggests that bar fights do not always involve men in a testosterone-driven rage, but rather sometimes involve men who are non-aggressive, unwilling participants.

The study, published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, surveyed 675 Canadian male drinkers ages 19-25. Almost half of those surveyed said they had participated in a bar fight within the previous year.

Researchers at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Ontario, Canada found that men who reported initiating the fight scored higher on measures of aggressive personality traits and hypermasculinity, or exaggerated stereotypical male behavior, than the 18 percent of men who only reported being victimized in a bar fight situation.

The authors concluded that there is a sizeable group of unwilling victims who do not have the hypermasculine and aggressive personalities and whose victimization should not be trivialized by the “boys will be boys” mindset.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Researchers Identify Gene That Makes You Feel Tipsy

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(CHAPEL HILL, NC) -- Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine recently discovered new information about how alcohol affects the brain. The scientific team led by Dr. Kirk Wilhelmsen uncovered a gene variant in 10 to 20 percent of the population that protects against alcoholism by making a person feel more inebriated than most after just a few drinks.   “Basically, we gave alcohol to college kids,” Wilhelmsen told the Charlotte News Observer.  He reported the discovery in the journal Alcoholism:  Clinical and Experimental Research.

The kids were pairs of siblings who had at least one alcoholic parent.  Researchers gave them alcohol then asked them how they felt, testing to see whether their level of drunkenness was linked to any specific gene. 

Researchers zeroed in on the gene that carries an enzyme that breaks down alcohol, CYP2E1.  The enzyme works in the brain, not the liver, where most alcohol gets broken down.  Wilhelmson says that means the people with the “tipsy” variant don’t act drunker  than anyone else but they do feel more intoxicated.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio