Lower Binge Drinking

Alcohol not allowed Stronger Alcohol Policies Have Lower Rates of Binge Drinking

States with stronger alcohol control policies have lower rates of binge drinking than states with weaker policies, a new study concludes.

Researchers gave scores to states based on how they implemented 29 alcohol control policies, Health Day reports. States that had higher policy scores were one-fourth as likely to have a binge drinking rate in the top 25 percent of states, compared with states with lower scores. Binge drinking rates were 33 percent higher in states in the bottom quarter than those in the top quarter of policy scores.

States with larger increases in policies had larger decreases in binge drinking over time, the study found. Binge drinking is responsible for more than half of the 80,000 alcohol-related deaths in the United States annually, the article notes. It is generally defined as having more than four to five alcoholic drinks in a two-hour period.

“If alcohol policies were a newly discovered gene, pill or vaccine, we’d be investing billions of dollars to bring them to market,” study senior author Dr. Tim Naimi, Associate Professor of Medicine at Boston University Schools of Medicine and attending physician at Boston Medical Center, said in a news release.

The researchers report in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine that alcohol policy scores varied by as much as threefold between states. “Unfortunately, most states have not taken advantage of these policies to help drinkers consume responsibly, and to protect innocent citizens from the devastating secondhand effects and economic costs from excessive drinking,” Naimi said.

While previous studies have investigated the effect of individual alcohol policies, the researchers said this is the first study to look at the effect of the overall alcohol policy environment.

By Join Together Staff

Alcohol Self Assessment

Almost empty mug of beer and cigarette burning in ashtray uid 1344166Individual drinking habits may be found on a continuum from responsible drinking through alcohol abuse to alcoholism, or physical dependence.

There are many signs that may point to an alcohol problem. Drunkenness on its own or solitary drinking does not necessarily indicate alcoholism. The questionnaire will be meaningful to you only if you are honest with yourself when taking it.

The important question is: Is your use of alcohol creating significant negative consequences in your life?

  • Do you sometimes drink heavily after a setback or an argument, or when you receive a poor grade?
  • When you experience trouble or are undergoing stress, do you always drink more heavily than usual?
  • Can you handle more liquor now than you could when you first began drinking?
  • Have you ever awakened the “morning after” and found that you could not remember part of the evening before, even though your friends said that you didn’t pass out?
  • When drinking with others, do you try to have just a few additional drinks when they won’t know of it?
  • Are there times when you feel uncomfortable if alcohol isn’t available?
  • Have you noticed lately that when you start drinking you’re in more of a hurry to get to the first drink than you used to be?
  • Do you sometimes have negative thoughts or feelings about your drinking?
  • Are you secretly irritated when your friends or family discuss your drinking?
  • Do you often want to keep drinking after your friends have said that they’ve had enough?
  • When you’re sober, do you often regret things you have done or said while drinking?
  • Have you tried switching brands or following different plans for controlling your drinking?
  • Have you often failed to keep promises you have made to yourself about controlling or cutting down on your drinking?
  • Do you try to avoid your girlfriend/boyfriend when you are drinking?
  • Are you having an increasing number of school, work, or financial problems?
  • Do more people seem to be treating you unfairly without good reason?
  • Do you eat very little or irregularly when you’re drinking?
  • Do you sometimes have the “shakes” in the morning and find that it helps to have a drink?
  • Have you noticed lately that you cannot drink as much as you once did?

If you can answer “yes” to several of these questions, your drinking is causing problems for you and professional consultation can help prevent problems from getting more intense or numerous. Additionally you may find help at Alcoholics Anonymous.

Some people resolve to curb their drinking and can do so for a time only to have their alcohol problems persist or reoccur. The drinking habits of alcohol abuse or alcoholism can become very entrenched.

Alcohol and Senior Citizens

elderly couple in front of house uid 1187314People are living longer and are generally healthier. This means that seniors are making up a larger portion of our population. Although alcohol use typically declines with age, some seniors may be at risk for alcohol-related problems.

What Makes Alcohol an Issue for Seniors?

Alcohol has a greater effect on seniors because metabolism changes as we age. Older people are more sensitive to the effects of alcohol, and a little will go a long way. Seniors generally take more medications than other adults. Mixing alcohol with either prescription or over-the-counter drugs is unwise and can be dangerous. The development of age-related health problems can cause anxiety and drinking may help some people feel more relaxed. At the same time, chronic conditions such as heart disease or decreased mobility can be aggravated by alcohol use.

Loss of a spouse, friends, home, or career often occurs in later years. Alcohol may be used to deal with these and other emotional stresses. Retirement brings long stretches of leisure time and may result in feelings of loneliness and depression. Alcohol may assume a role in helping pass the time.

Alcohol problems among older persons are often mistaken for physical, social or emotional conditions associated with aging. The abuse or misuse of alcohol may go undetected or may be treated inappropriately.

For some seniors, lack of day-to-day contact with fellow workers, families, and neighbors can make it difficult for others to detect an alcohol problem if one exists.

Older people who have lived through many life experiences often pride themselves on being able to handle their problems without the help of outsiders. They may be unwilling to admit to a drinking problem or uncomfortable seeking help.

In general, alcohol problems among older people can be divided into three categories. Some seniors have used alcohol excessively throughout most of their lives. Others drink at low levels but are inadvertently mixing alcohol with other drugs in ways that are harmful. And some people begin to use alcohol for the first time in their later years.

Throughout our lives it makes sense to spend our time wisely and enjoy the best health possible. Seniors can choose healthier alternatives to alcohol use – exercise, a second career, hobbies, or professional counseling to help deal with grief and loneliness.

Getting to know your doctor and pharmacist is also a good idea. These health professionals will have answers about alcohol and other drug use. Young or old, it is important to ask for help when needed. Information and treatment services are available in your area.

ER Doctor Can Help Reduce Drinking

Doctor with stethoscope around her neck holding clipboard uid 1173327Seven Minutes of Counseling by ER Doctor Can Help Reduce Drinking

People who engage in hazardous and harmful drinking are more likely to reduce their consumption of alcohol for at least one year if they receive just seven minutes of counseling from an emergency room physician, a new study finds. Physician counseling can also reduce drinking and driving.

The study included 740 people considered hazardous and harmful drinkers, defined as men who had more than 14 drinks a week, or more than four drinks at a time, and women who had more than seven drinks a week, or more than three at a time. They were divided into three groups. One group received brief counseling aimed at limiting alcohol consumption, the second group received the counseling plus a follow-up phone call, and the third received standard care alone.

Health Day reports patients who received the counseling reduced their average number of drinks from almost 20 a week to 13 a week within six months. One year later, they drank slightly more than 14 drinks a week.

Participants who received the counseling reduced binge drinking episodes, from about seven per month to fewer than five, within six months. They engaged in slightly more than five episodes a month one year later. Among patients who received counseling, rates of driving after having more than three drinks dropped from 38 percent to 29 percent after one year.

Follow-up phone calls were found to have little benefit in reducing drinking.

“So many of the tragedies we see in the emergency department are due to problem drinking. Our study shows that brief counseling of patients can improve outcomes and have a life-saving impact,” lead researcher Gail D’Onofrio of the Yale University School of Medicine said in a news release.

The findings are published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Teen Drinking in College

Talk to Your Teens About Drinking Before They Start College

Parents who discuss drinking with their teens before they start college can influence their children’s drinking behavior once they are at school, a new study suggests.

A parental talk can reduce the chances that light drinkers will become heavier drinkers, and increase the odds that teens who already drink heavily will reduce their drinking or stop, Time.com reports.

Effective strategies can include discussing why some teens drink and others don’t, and the potential dangers of drinking too much, the article notes.

The study included 1,900 students and their parents, who were surveyed in the summer before the teens started college, and again in the fall of the teens’ freshman and sophomore years. The parents were divided into four groups. One group was given a handbook to guide discussions. The book provided tips on starting casual and nonjudgmental conversations, as well as information on the risks of underage drinking.

A second group used the handbook, as well as “booster” discussions. A third group did not talk about drinking with their children until they had already begun school, and a fourth group was not given any instructions on talking with their children about drinking.

Before the study began, 51 percent of students described themselves as nondrinkers, 30 percent said they drank heavily on some weekends, and 15 percent drank moderately on weekends. An additional 5 percent said they were frequent, heavy drinkers. After 15 months of college, only 25 percent were nondrinkers and 29 percent were heavy drinkers.

Students whose parents talked to them about drinking before they left for school were 20 times more likely to have healthier drinking patterns, including not drinking at all, than they were to stay heavy drinkers 15 months later.

The researchers found parental talks were effective only if they took place before students left for college.

The study appears in the Journal of Studies of Alcohol and Drugs.

By Join Together Staff 

Deaths Fall When Alcohol Price Increases

Drop in alcohol related deaths by nearly a third follows minimum alcohol price increase of 10%

A new study made available online today in ‘Addiction’ shows that, between 2002 and 2009, the percentage of deaths caused by alcohol in British Columbia, Canada dropped more than expected when minimum alcohol price was increased, while alcohol-related deaths increased when more private alcohol stores were opened. The paper has significant implications for international alcohol policy.

The study was carried out by researchers from British Columbia, the westernmost province in Canada, using three categories of death associated with alcohol – wholly alcohol attributable (AA), acute, and chronic*, analysing death rates across the time period against increases in government set minimum prices of alcohol drinks.

The study was complicated by another provincial policy which allowed partial privatisation of alcohol retail sales, resulting in a substantial expansion of alcohol stores.  Previously, alcohol could only be sold directly to the public in government owned stores, unlike in Europe where it is widely available in supermarkets, off-licences and petrol stations.  The researchers therefore had to both control for the effects of the wider availability of alcohol, and assess what effect this measure had on mortality rates.

The major finding was that increased minimum alcohol prices were associated with immediate, substantial and significant reductions in wholly AA deaths:

A 10% increase in the average minimum price for all alcoholic beverages was associated with a 32% reduction in wholly AA deaths

Some of the effect was also detected up to a year after minimum price increases

Significant reductions in chronic and total AA deaths were detected between two and three years after minimum price increases

A 10% increase in private liquor stores was associated with a 2% increase in acute, chronic, and total AA mortality rates

This overall drop in deaths was more than expected, and disproportionate to the size of the minimum price increase – a minimum price increase of 1% was associated with a mortality decline of more than 3%.

The authors suggest that the reason for the reduction in mortality is that increasing the price of cheaper drinks reduces the consumption of heavier drinkers who prefer these drinks. They note that other research has also suggested that impacts on some types of mortality may be delayed by one or two years after price increases.

Dr Tim Stockwell, director of the University of Victoria’s Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia and a lead author, said “This study adds to the scientific evidence that, despite popular opinion to the contrary, even the heaviest drinkers reduce their consumption when minimum alcohol prices increase. It is hard otherwise to explain the significant changes in alcohol-related deaths observed in British Columbia.”

Zhao J, Stockwell T, Martin G, Macdonald S, Vallance K, Treno A, Ponicki W, Tu A, and Buxton J. (2013) The relationship between changes to minimum alcohol prices, outlet densities and alcohol attributable deaths in British Columbia in 2002-2009. Addiction, 108: doi:  10.1111/add.12139

* Wholly alcohol attributable deaths included the following: poisonings due to alcohol, alcoholic psychoses, alcohol dependence, alcohol abuse, alcoholic cardiomyopathy, alcoholic gastritis, chronic pancreatitis (alcohol induced), fetal alcohol syndrome and excess alcohol blood level; acute alcohol attributable deaths comprised mainly injuries whether caused intentionally or unintentionally while chronic alcohol attributable deaths were those caused by alcohol-related illnesses such as liver cirrhosis and various cancers (e.g. cancers of the mouth, oesophagus, stomach, colon and breast). These types of diagnosis were determined from the underlying cause of death identified on the death certificates.

Guide on Drug Treatment

Guide to drug abuse treatment NIDAGovernment Publishes Guide on Drug Abuse Treatment

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) has published a free guide to choosing a drug abuse treatment program. “Seeking Drug Abuse Treatment: Know What to Ask” recommends questions that individuals and families who are struggling with addiction should ask to help them make an informed choice.

“Treatment options can vary considerably, and families often don’t know where to begin,” NIDA Director Nora Volkow said in a news release. “This booklet highlights the treatment components that research has shown are critical for success, to help people make an informed choice during a very stressful time.”

Many recent scientific advances have changed addiction treatment, but not all treatment centers have kept up with these changes, according to the Los Angeles Times. The guide recommends asking the following questions:

•    Does the program use treatments backed by scientific evidence?
•    Does the program tailor treatment to the needs of each patient?
•    Does the program adapt treatment as patients’ needs change?
•    Is the duration of treatment sufficient?
•    How do 12-step or similar recovery programs fit into drug addiction treatment?

The guide provides information on medications, evidence-based behavior therapies, the realities of relapse, and the role of community-level support.

By Join Together