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

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.

Alcohol Costs Society $1.90 per Drink

Excessive Drinking Costs US $223.5 Billion

A new study finds that alcohol consumption cost the United States $223.5 billion in 2006, or about $1.90 per drink.

clip_image001Excessive alcohol consumption is known to kill about 79,000 people in the United States each year, but a new study released by the CDC and The Lewin Group shows that it also has a huge impact on our wallets as well.

The cost of alcohol consumption in the United States reached $223.5 billion in 2006 or about $1.90 per drink.

Almost three-quarters of these costs were due to binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as consuming four or more alcoholic beverages per occasion for women or five or more drinks per occasion for men, and is the most common form of excessive alcohol consumption in the United States.

The researchers found that the cost of excessive drinking was quite far-reaching, reflecting the effect this dangerous behavior has on many aspects of the drinker’s life and on the lives of those around them.

The costs largely resulted from losses in workplace productivity (72% of the total cost), health care expenses for problems caused by excessive drinking (11% of total), law enforcement and other criminal justice expenses related to excessive alcohol consumption (9% of total), and motor vehicle crash costs from impaired driving (6% of the total).

The study analyzed national data from multiple sources to estimate the costs due to clip_image002excessive drinking in 2006, the most recent year for which data were available. The study did not consider a number of other costs such as those because of pain and suffering among either the excessive drinker or others that were affected by their drinking, and thus may be an underestimate.

The researchers estimated that excessive drinking cost $746 for every man, woman, and child in the United States. in 2006.

From the Centre for Disease Control

Older People at Greater Risk for Alcohol Impairment

Older People May Be at Greater Risk for Alcohol Impairment than Teens, According to Baylor Study

An acute dose of alcohol may cause greater impairment in coordination, learning and memory in the elderly than in young people, according to a study by Baylor University.

Researchers said the findings have profound significance for older people –a population that is aging worldwide at an unprecedented rate and that includes Baby Boomers as they become senior citizens.

“Health implications such as falls, accidents and poor medicine-taking are pretty easy to conclude,” said Douglas B. Matthews, Ph.D., senior author of the paper, published online in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. April is Alcohol Awareness Month.

In the United States, as many as 13 percent of men and 8 percent of women over age 65 engage in risky drinking behavior, with an estimated 1 to 3 percent of those afflicted with an alcohol use disorder, according to prior research. Because of improvements in medicine and public health, nutrition and education, people 65 and older will account for 20 percent of the U.S. population by the year 2030, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates.

While previous data have indicated that aged people show significantly greater impairments than younger adults when alcohol is consumed, understanding the neurobiology underlying that increased sensitivity in the aged has been hampered by the lack of an adequate animal model, said Matthews, a research scientist in psychology and neuroscience in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences and head of psychology at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.

The Baylor research, the first of its kind, established a baseline of the acute effects of alcohol in aged populations, which can aid future research into neurobiology and in determining the effect of prolonged alcohol abuse.

The experiment included adult and aged rats (at least 18 months old), Matthews said. It showed a dramatic increase in ethanol-induced ataxia.

“We know a lot of neurobiological changes occur during aging which underlie age-related cognitive and behavioral deficits. It’s reasonable to suspect a significant interaction exists between age-related and alcohol-induced effects in the brain,” said Jim Diaz-Granados, Ph.D., a study co-author, chair of Baylor’s department of psychology and neuroscience, and chair of the Council of Graduate Departments of Psychology, a national organization.

“Our hope would be that further findings in this area will serve as a basis to educate the public regarding the risks and provide insights in the clinic,” Diaz-Granados said.

Findings were presented at the Research Society of Alcoholism conference in San Francisco. Also conducting research in the study was Adelle Novier, a doctoral student in psychology and neuroscience at Baylor.

The Genetics of Alcoholism

Is Alcoholism due to Nature or Nurture

Why can some people have a glass of wine or beer with their meal without feeling compelled to drink more, whereas others can’t seem to stop drinking? Can some people “hold” their liquor better than others? Does alcoholism tend to run in families? Does genetics hold the key to developing medications to treat alcoholism and its effects on the body? Researchers have been trying to find answers to questions such as these for several decades, seeking to identify the factors that influence a person’s risk of becoming alcohol dependent.

Research, to date, indicates that both your genetic makeup (i.e., the information stored in the DNA that you inherited from your parents) and your environment (i.e., how you live) influence your risk for alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

Your genes certainly play an important role, influencing how your body responds to alcohol, how sensitive you are to its effects, and how likely you are to have a problem with alcohol. However, environmental factors—such as being surrounded by people who are heavy drinkers and who encourage you to drink—also can raise your risk for drinking too much.

The next question then becomes just how much of this risk is determined by our genes—that is, how much can be attributed to factors beyond our control. By studying large families with alcoholic and non-alcoholic members, comparing identical and fraternal twins, and studying adopted children and their biological and adoptive families, researchers found that about half of our risk for alcoholism is influenced by genetics. The remaining risk is related to the influence of environment—where and how we live. The two factors also work together in complex ways.


Unlike for some other diseases, there is no single gene that determines whether you will develop a problem with alcohol; instead, many genes influence your risk for developing alcoholism, each of which only has a small impact.

Understanding how genetics influences alcoholism also is important for another reason. Knowing the genes involved in this disease could help researchers and clinicians identify those who are most at risk of becoming alcoholic and understand how alcohol affects the body. These individuals then could be targeted more effectively for prevention and treatment efforts.

This Alcohol Alert describes how research is helping to identify the genes involved in alcoholism. In examining this research, one thing becomes clear: Unlike for some other diseases, there is no single gene that determines whether you will develop a problem with alcohol; instead, many genes influence your risk for developing alcoholism, each of which only has a small impact. Further, environmental influences may override or blunt the effects of the genes that increase risk. This overview describes how researchers are trying to tease apart which of the thousands of genes and millions of gene variants that make up your DNA play a role in alcoholism, how some of these genes act, and how these genes interact with your environment to determine how you and your body respond to alcohol.

Genes v’s Environment

As described above, researchers are learning more and more about how your genetic makeup can influence your drinking behavior and its consequences and which genes may put you at increased risk of alcoholism. But does this mean that if you inherit a certain combination of genes from your parents, you are destined to become an alcoholic? The answer to this is a clear “no” because how you live also plays an important role. People with the same genetic makeup may be more or less likely to develop alcoholism depending on their environment and life circumstances.

Researchers can study the interactions between genes and the environment and the relative impact of each through a variety of direct and indirect approaches.38 These approaches have helped identify several environmental factors that either protect us from or place us at increased risk for alcoholism; for example, marital status and religiosity have been found to be protective factors, lessening the impact of genetic risk factors on drinking in women. For adolescents in particular, drinking seems to be influenced strongly by environmental factors in addition to genetic makeup. Adolescents who carry high-risk genes and whose parents do not monitor their activities and/or who have friends that use alcohol and other drugs are more likely to develop alcohol problems than those with a similar genetic makeup whose behavior is monitored more closely. Modifying the environment also can help adolescents avoid risky drinking behavior. Participants in one prevention program designed for youth were less likely to engage in high-risk behavior, such as drinking, even though they had a high-risk genetic background.

The bottom line is that genes alone do not determine our destiny—lifestyle choices and other environmental factors have a substantial impact. In addition, many other individual and psychosocial variables influence when and how much we drink, both in the short and long term, and how this influences our risk of alcoholism.

Full story at; http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/AA84/AA84.htm

Treat, Don’t Blame Addicts

Why We Should Treat, Not Blame Addicts Struggling to Get ‘Clean’

Journalist David Sheff’s son Nic began using marijuana and alcohol at the age of 12, then heroine and crystal meth. Sheff was baffled; his son transformed from an intelligent student and athlete into an addict living on the streets. At first he thought Nic was just being a wild teenager who needed some tough love. But after struggling to find Nic treatment — and keep him alive — Sheff realized that his son was dealing with a serious disease, more similar than different from diabetes, hypertension or even cancer.

With his personal experience and more than 10 years of research, Sheff concluded that addiction is a health crisis with a price tag of US$600 billion in combined medical, economic, criminal and social costs every year.

In a follow-up to his memoir “Beautiful Boy,” David Sheff has written a new book, “Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy,” in order to outline a slew of reasons why society and addiction treatments have largely failed to help the 20 million Americans with addictions.

Sheff asserts that the reason that addiction treatments overwhelmingly fail is because of how we view addiction. And he says correcting common misconceptions about the disease can be the first step towards improving the social support and medical treatment systems for those struggling with their addictions.

Below are the top myths about addiction, according to David Sheff.  


Myth No. 1: Good kids don’t use drugs, bad kids do. 

Myth No. 2: It’s impossible to prevent drug use. Kids who are going to use are going to use.

Myth No. 3: People who get addicted are weak and without morals.

Myth No. 4: Addicts must hit bottom before they can be treated.

Myth No. 5: You don’t treat drug problems with drugs.

Myth No. 6: The only way for addicts to stop using is by going to AA meetings.

Myth No. 7: Marijuana is not addictive. No one’s ever died from marijuana. It’s not a gateway drug. Marijuana shouldn’t be legalized.

Myth No. 8: America’s drug problem is unsolvable.

  • We’ve failed at solving America’s drug problem not because it’s impossible to do so, but we’ve been focusing on the wrong things. The main problem is that we’ve treated drug use as a criminal problem and drug users as morally bankrupt.
  • There are several developments that make me optimistic that we can lower drug use, treat addicts and potentially solve many of the problems in America caused by addiction:
  • There’s a growing understanding and acceptance that addiction is a disease and must be treated like we treat other diseases.
  • There are advances in treatment that will dramatically improve the likelihood that addicts will get well. There are also new prevention strategies, early assessment, and brief intervention strategies that work.
  • There is progress toward making sure that people who need treatment will be able to find programs that use evidence-based treatment.
  • There is a new organization founded called Brian’s Wish To End Addiction

The top myths about addiction above were adapted from content from David Sheff’s new book, “Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America’s Greatest Tragedy. The views are his own.

Full story at; http://www.pbs.org/newshour/rundown/2013/04/addiction-mythbusters-understand-what-triggers-addiction-and-how-to-manage-the-disease.html

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.

Parents and children both affected by substance misuse

Children and teenagers recognised too as perpetrators

A new report has identified parents as sufferers of abuse and violence from substance misusing children. The report by Adfam and Against Violence and Abuse (AVA) explores and documents Child to Parent Violence (CPV) and consulted with 88 parents seeking support from services.

Key findings from the research found:
  • Children as young as 11 and as old as 40 are physically, emotionally and/or mentally abusing their parents
  • There is a significant correlation between substance misuse and perpetrating domestic violence
  • 88% of victims of abuse were female and 12% were male
  • That abuses range from lower grade emotional manipulation to at the extreme end deaths.
  • Metropolitan Police Service records show that in 2009, 6 out of 7 non-partner/ex partner victims were mothers or fathers killed by sons – with substance misuse or mental health problems considered a key factor

The report makes recommendation including calls for better understanding of CPV, how to respond to requests for help and referral mechanisms are needed for front-line workers (such as police, social workers and GPs. It argues family support services are a cost effective resource, providing essential support to parents at a fraction of the cost that other health and social care services.

Children’s Commissioner re-iterates calls for protection of children

A new report from the Children’s Commissioner urges the Government to give as much attention to alcohol abuse among parents as to other drug misuse, and to train the relevant authorities to spot the signs of problem drinking in families earlier. See BBC report.

The Children’s Commissioner exists to promote the best interests of children and young people in England. It’s report suggest more than a fifth of all children in the UK, approximately 2.5 million, are living with a hazardous drinker (risky) drinker. The research also suggests 26,000 babies in England are living with a parent who is a dependent drinker, which is equivalent to 31,000 across the UK.

Synthetic Drugs Outlawed

Obama Signs Legislation Banning Synthetic Drugs

President Obama on Monday signed legislation that bans synthetic drugs. The law also expedites the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval of new drugs and medical devices.

The law bans harmful chemicals in synthetic drugs such as those used to make synthetic marijuana and “bath salts,” according to the Star Tribune. While more than 30 states have banned various compounds in synthetic drugs, new ones are continually being created, the newspaper notes.

“In Minnesota and across the country, we are seeing more and more tragedies where synthetic drugs are taking lives and tearing apart families,” Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota said in a statement. “Today’s action means that this critical legislation to give law enforcement the tools they need to crack down on synthetic drugs is finally the law of the land.” Senator Klobuchar co-sponsored bills banning synthetic drugs, which were included in an amendment to the FDA’s Safety and Innovation Act.

Synthetic drugs are readily available online. The law outlaws sales of synthetic drugs by both retail stores and online retailers.

In December, the National Institute on Drug Abuse released new information indicating that one in nine high school seniors had used “Spice” or “K2” over the past year, making synthetic marijuana the second most frequently used illicit drug, after marijuana, among high school seniors. Poison control centers operating across the nation have also reported sharp increases in the number of calls relating to synthetic drugs.

By Join Together Staff

Teens Use Diverted Medical Marijuana

74 Percent of Teens in CO Substance Abuse Treatment Programs Used Diverted Medical Marijuana

Three-quarters of teenage patients in substance abuse treatment programs in Denver, Colorado said they used someone else’s medical marijuana, according to a new study.

The study revealed that 121 of 164 teenage patients (73.8 percent) have ever used medical marijuana prescribed to someone else.  Patients reported using diverted medical marijuana from one to 1,000 times, with a median of 50 times, suggesting that most adolescent patients have used medical marijuana on multiple occasions, according to Stacy Salomonsen-Sautel, PhD, a post-doctoral fellow at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Division of Substance Dependence. She reported the findings at the recent College on Problems of Drug Dependence, and the study appears online in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

The study found that after adjusting for gender and race/ethnicity, teenage patients who used medical marijuana had an earlier age of regular marijuana use, more marijuana abuse and dependence symptoms, and more conduct disorder symptoms, compared with those who did not use medical marijuana.

As of the end of April 2012, Colorado has 48 registered medical marijuana users under the age of 18. Four of the 164 teenage patients in the study reported being evaluated for a medical marijuana card; however, only one teenage patient received a medical marijuana card. According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, 96,709 people in the state were registered as medical marijuana users as of April 30, 2012. This means 2.5 percent of the adults in Colorado are registered medical marijuana users, according to Salomonsen-Sautel.

“We don’t know what proportion of the marijuana they are using is medical marijuana,” Salomonsen-Sautel notes. She said the findings imply that there is substantial diversion from registered medical marijuana users. She and her colleagues say the results support the need for policy changes that protect against diversion of medical marijuana, and reduce teenager access to it.

From; The Partnership at Drugfree.org and Join Together