Drinking dulls the brain's response to threats

Drinking alcohol dulls the brain's ability to detect threats, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday in a study that helps explain why people who are drunk cannot tell when the guy at the end of the bar is angling for a fight.

They said the study is the first to show how alcohol affects the human brain as it responds to threats.

"You see this all of the time. People get into confrontations when they are intoxicated that they probably wouldn't get into when they are sober," said Jodi Gilman of the National Institutes on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, whose study appears in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Gilman studied 12 people who were given intravenous infusions of alcohol and then monitored their brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging while they looked at pictures of frightened and neutral faces.

Her team did the same study on these people when they were given a simple saline infusion as a placebo.

As expected, when people were given the placebo, their brains responded to the fearful faces.

"Our brains respond more to fearful stimuli," Gilman said in a telephone interview. "They signal to us that we are in threatening situations."

When these same people were given infusions of alcohol, however, this response was dulled, suggesting that while intoxicated, "our brain can't distinguish between the threatening and nonthreatening stimuli," said Gilman.

She said this impaired appreciation for threats could lead to a host of risky situations, including drunk driving. And it also explains why alcohol is sometimes called a social lubricant.

"People have used alcohol for years to become euphoric and to decrease anxiety. Alcohol has been used in particular to increase sociability. How alcohol acts on the brain to produce these effects has not been well understood or studied," Gilman said.

Her study found that alcohol increases activity in a reward center of the brain known as the striatum. And they found a link between the level of activation in this region and how intoxicated people said they were feeling, which could help account for the addictive properties of alcohol.

"This is important because we think we can develop potential treatments for alcoholism," Gilman said.

People in the study were social drinkers, not heavy drinkers. Gilman said the research team plans to conduct the study in heavy drinkers next.
source: Reuters


At least Ireland now recognises it has a drink problem

The Government's decision to implement legislation to regulate the sale and use of alcohol is winning widespread praise from those who deal with the fallout from alcohol abuse.

"Families can now close ranks and look at the real dangers of alcohol abuse," says Andrew Conway, senior clinical child psychologist with the Mater hospital.

"Our children are supposed to be our treasures, but what are we doing to protect them? The permission we give our children to drink is a national scandal.

"We need to deal with this urgently, because we're talking about a lot of children and the tremendously disabling brain disease of alcoholism, which robs a child and their family of the personhood of this child."

Like many people working with adolescents in the county, Conway recognises the value of this legislation."If we did not have new laws, the country would need a rash of treatment centres in 10 years' time to deal with the problem," he says.

Addiction counsellors will be the first to recognise the Government's vital step towards national recovery. Because when an alcoholic admits that they have a problem, they're more than half-way into the solution.

When a government recognises its country has a problem, it stands on the same ground. These new laws, and more to follow, bring hope -- a national campaign for recovery can begin. Of course, it's regrettable that the legislation has taken this long, but denial and resistance is the nature of the beast. Like an addict, the country needed to hit rock bottom before it was ready to face its problem.

Until now, those working with the negative consequences of alcohol abuse were managing upwards -- it was difficult to create awareness of the ill-effects of excessive drinking when our Government was colluding in the denial.

But that's over now. Every great journey begins with a first step. So where to from here?

Conway wants a well-funded prevention campaign across the board (health, justice and education). In particular, he'd like to see a huge improvement in recreational facilities in schools. "This will offer kids a resource they need, particularly the disadvantaged ones, who are going to off-licences after school," he says.

Standing on this, in terms of adult awareness, I would suggest a national advertising campaign targeting 30 to 50 year olds.

The advertisement showing a boy jumping off a building and smashing to the ground because he thinks he can fly is excellent for adolescents. But what about demonstrating the dark powers of alcohol for adults who, when they drink, think they too can fly?

What would we see if we televised a dinner table of adults getting drunk, or a group of parents with children nearby?

Last week a friend of mine told me about her drinking escapades in the Eighties -- which, on hindsight, she regrets.

A group of mothers would meet for a boozy lunch in a Dublin hotel and get the doorman to collect the children who would do their homework in the lobby while they got smashed next door. I didn't ask if cars were crashed as a result of these sessions, but I bet many little hearts crashed when they saw their withering mum on a bar stool.

"We didn't know the extent of the harm we were inflicting," she said. Which is understandable. Because when we're drinking, we don't see ourselves.

Far from it, we think all is well. That's the magic of booze -- it casts a spell. Because alcohol tells lies -- some are harmless and fun but others hurt how we want to see ourselves and behave towards those around us. A sensitive television campaign, informing not shaming, could be effective for a new national mental health programme.

The idea of a country in recovery from addiction is not new. Anne Wilson Schaef, a no-nonsense best-selling author, introduced this idea more than 10 years ago in her book, When society Becomes an addict.

It has had several editions since, but each book outlines the symptoms of a society that admits it's an addict and offers a programme on how that society can get well.

Introducing her subject, she says: "The good news is that, like the individual alcoholic/addict, an addictive system can recover. But before this can happen we must name and accept the disease. We must admit that the society we care about has a disease and can recover from that disease.

"We must also be willing to do the necessary work towards recovery. This is a long process that eventually requires a shift to a new system, one I call the Living Process System." Schaef recognises that addictions can be divided into two categories: substance addictions (alcohol, drugs, nicotine, caffeine and food); and process addictions (accumulating money, sports, gambling, sex, work and worry).

Her views on how to deal with them are controversial but thought-provoking.

She says an addicted society is a dishonest one and that its addictive system reveals itself in the three "ifs" of the individual addict -- 'If only', 'As if' and 'What if'.

Defining these addicts, Schaef says the 'if only' addict is dishonest about the past. The 'As if' addict is dishonest about the present, while the 'What if' addict is dishonest about the future.

For many working in the complex field of addiction, it's wholesome stuff. But, staying in the present, the Government legislation is the first and vital step for a national recovery programme.

It's great news.
source: Independent ie


Out on the streets

THE daily soup kitchen at St Mary's Church is an important part of Simon Leach's day. The 28-year-old, who sleeps rough in a car park in Southampton, has been coming to get free food, provided by the Society of St James, on a daily basis since he came to Southampton three months ago.

While some rough sleepers who had gathered at the church to get some warm food and catch up with their friends said that sleeping rough was a matter of choice for them, Simon was clear that this way of life was something he wanted to escape from.

"Do I want to get off the streets? Hell, yes," he said.

"I want to get into a decent job, live in decent accommodation and live a normal life. Sleeping on the streets, you just don't know what you are going to be doing from day to day - you have to put a lot of effort into trying to stay safe."

Simon first began sleeping rough at the age of 17. He stayed with friends for a while but they fell out and he found himself sleeping rough again.

Articulate and intelligent, Simon didn't fit the stereotyped image many people have of the homeless - and he wasn't the only one.

The people who were gathered for the soup run were a diverse group with a range of reasons for becoming homeless.

For some of them, like Stu, who wasn't sure of his age but thought he was around 46, sleeping rough, and the nomadic life that often accompanies it, was a way of life that he had no desire to escape from.

"This is a way of life for me," he said, "I can't get out of it."

Michael, 41, said sleeping rough was, to some extent, a matter of choice. Michael has been battling with alcohol problems and said that he has found in the past that when he has gone into hostel accommodation - the first step on the ladder away from homelessness - he has gone backwards in terms of his motivation and alcoholism.

"I've been homeless on and off since I left school," he said.

"Time goes so quickly that it becomes a way of life and then it's hard to get back into the system. If you want to get back into the system you have to start at the bottom and work your way up and that can be hard, mentally. And going into hostel accommodation you can lose your motivation and become lazy and start drinking."

Michael's friend Kelly, 37, also said she preferred sleeping rough to hostel accommodation.

She became homeless when she fell out with her family and says that she's happy with her lifestyle at the moment but is planning on getting back onto the system soon.

Another entrenched rough sleeper is 39-year-old Michelle. She has been sleeping rough most nights for the last seven to eight years and has come to depend on the soup kitchen, which she visits daily.

"If it wasn't for the soup kitchen, where would we go?" she said.

Michelle also became homeless after falling out with her family but is hoping to return to them soon.

It was with the aim of helping the whole range of homeless people that the Rotary Club of Southampton joined forces with city-based homelessness charity the Society of St James, to produce "survival packs" for the homeless.

These backpacks, which were distributed at the soup kitchen, contained items which were aimed to help take care of some of the immediate welfare needs of the homeless as well helping to get them off the streets in the long term.

They included a first aid kit, toothbrush and flask as well as items such as a diary and alarm clock to help people make sure they attend appointments such as job interviews.

All the homeless people I spoke to thought the packs were a very good idea and said it was the first aid kit that they thought they would find particularly useful.

Bob Jackson, president of Southampton Rotary Club, came up with the idea of the packs after meeting a young homeless person and talking to him about his situation.

"I came across a young lad of about 15 sitting in a car park at night with his head in his hands and he asked if I had any money," he explains.

"I asked him why he wanted it and he said that he was homeless. I quizzed him about what he wanted the money for and he said that he was on drugs. I didn't give him any money but I wanted to do something so I looked up local homeless charities and contacted the Society of St James.

"I pledged that during my year as president of the club I would link up with them and help."

Bob organised a sleep-out to help raise funds for the Society but wanted to do more. He came up with the idea of the packs as a version of the emergency packs that are sent overseas to help people cope with disasters such as flooding.

"They're not a way of resolving homelessness but they're a first step. They're a way of showing we care and of helping to make life more bearable."

He added that the response of the people who were given the packs had been brilliant and that if the feedback from the Society of St James was positive more packs would be produced.

Holly Barnes-Thomas, of the Society of St James, said the charity was delighted to be receiving help from Southampton Rotary Club.

She said the backpacks could be a lifesaver for rough sleepers and that they would hopefully help people to access the help they need to get off the streets.

Typically, there are seven people sleeping rough on the streets of Southampton on any given night, although there are far more people who are classed as homeless - staying in hostels, squats and other temporary accommodation. In March, there were more than 230 homeless or at risk of homelessness people in Southampton with more than 500 more housed by homelessness agencies.

Holly says that while it can be tempting to give money to people who are begging on the streets, generally it's best to give your money to a local homeless charity or, if you want to help the individual, buy them a sandwich and a drink rather than giving them money.

The Society of St James provides a whole range of services for the homeless, from the most basic form of support in the form of the soup kitchen through hostel accommodation to helping people deal with the problems such as alcoholism which may have led to their becoming homeless and getting them back on the housing and job ladder.

Simon Leach says he is making the most of the facilities available to get himself off the streets and back into "normal" life, but it can be tough.

"Jobs aren't that readily available for rough sleepers," he says.

"You have gaps in your employment and employers don't always want to hear that that's because you've been on the streets."

source: The Daily Echo, U.K


Mission is reaching out to drug addicts

Re: Cracking open Ottawa's drug problem, April 23.

Columnist Kelly Egan laid out the facts very well in his column in the wake of the recent community meeting on the street drug problem. Except for one.

Mr. Egan points out that residential treatment for addicts are severely rationed. That is true. He adds that waiting lists for treatment can be in the hundreds. That may be true in some programs, but not at The Ottawa Mission.

The downtown homeless shelter now has a total of 220 beds but only 24 of those are designated for addiction services. Program managers at The Ottawa Mission realized there needed to be a partial shift away from residential addiction treatment to offer services to literally hundreds of people in the community suffering from addictions. They researched the Ottawa community and were unable to find any short-term outpatient programs that serve this population.

In February 2007, the addiction services team created and launched the day program, a one-year pilot project. It was to provide an opportunity for shelter residents and persons in need in the community with addictions to learn about and acquire new skills relating to addictions, mental health and overall health. The day program also targeted those people who have never had addiction treatment before, or never considered addiction treatment, or may have considered getting help for their addiction but struggled with motivation, remained ambivalent or were unaware of community resources.

There is no lengthy assessment or wait list for the day program -- people can just appear. The only rule is they must be sober or straight that day. After the drop-in group session, they are offered a chance to make a one-on-one appointment with an addictions counsellor and an opportunity to get a bed in the "dry wing" of The Ottawa Mission.

By offering out-patient or non-residential addiction services, we are reaching many more clients that suffer from the ravages of addiction and mental health. As of last month, the day program has had approximately 300 different individuals attend and groups have averaged 23 participants since inception. Furthermore, the drop-in counselling associated with the day program has also been well attended, averaging 50 counselling sessions per month.

And due to the success of the day program, The Ottawa Mission launched the evening program last year as well, six months after the start of the day program. The evening program is closing in on the statistical success of the day program averaging between 20 to 25 participants in groups and 30 counselling sessions monthly.

Mr. Egan states that Ottawa police are in the middle of the street-drug problem. I would argue so are Ottawa's homeless shelters and we need more help and resources to meet the need.

Troy Thompson, Ottawa

Addiction services manager

The Ottawa Mission, http://www.ottawamission.com/en/home.html
source: © The Ottawa Citizen 2008


In Transition To Alcohol Dependence The Role Of Genes Increases

The influence of genetics increases as young women transition from taking their first drink to becoming alcoholics. A team of researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that although environment is most influential in determining when girls begin to drink, genes play a larger role if they advance to problem drinking and alcohol dependence.

The researchers studied 3,546 female twins ages 18 to 29 to ferret out the influences of genes and environment in the development of alcohol dependence. Their findings appear in the April issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

The road to alcohol dependence involves transitions through many stages of drinking behaviors: from the first drink to the first alcohol-related problems (such as drinking and driving, difficulty at school or work related to alcohol use) to alcohol dependence.

Environmental factors the twins shared, such as exposure to conflict between parents or alcohol use among peers in school, exerted the largest influence on initiation of alcohol use. The study found that females who had their first drink at an earlier age were more likely to develop serious alcohol problems. The researchers found that all transitions were attributable in part to genetic factors, increasing from 30 percent for the timing of first drink to 47 percent for the speed at which women progressed from problem drinking to alcohol dependence. But genetics did not explain everything.

"Even when genetic factors are most influential, they account for less than half of the influence on drinking behavior," says lead author Carolyn E. Sartor, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow at the School of Medicine. "That's good news in terms of modifying these behaviors and reducing the risk of developing alcohol dependence. Genetics are not destiny, and our findings suggest that there are opportunities to intervene at all stages of alcohol use."

Sartor's team collected alcohol-use histories from telephone interviews to determine when these women made transitions from one drinking milestone to the next. They studied twins to get an idea of the genetic influences on those transitions. Identical twins share 100 percent of their genetic material, and fraternal twins share about half. So when identical twin pairs are found to be more similar on a given behavior than fraternal twin pairs, this suggests that genetics are playing a role in that behavior. The researchers used this twin-based design to estimate the contributions of genes-versus-environment to the rate at which women progressed through stages of alcohol use.

"Alcohol dependence is a psychiatric disorder, but drinking alcohol in moderation is normative and is a part of many cultural traditions," Sartor explains. "For example, 85 percent of women in our study reported having at least one drink in their lifetimes whereas only about 7 percent became alcohol dependent."

Past studies have focused more on men than women, but Sartor says it is important to study both sexes because risk factors that contribute to alcohol problems differ somewhat between males and females. She also says this study helps to dispel the myth that alcohol dependence is a disorder exclusive to middle-aged men. In the United States, the prevalence of alcohol use disorders is highest among 18- to 29-year-olds.

"Much of the heavy drinking that occurs in the young adult years is actually problem drinking," she explains. "What once was perceived as partying a little too much is now being recognized as a potentially serious problem."

The majority of the young women in the study curtailed their drinking before it advanced from a normal behavior to a psychiatric disorder.

The researchers plan to extend their investigations to examine genetics and environment on other drinking behaviors, such as the cessation of alcohol use. Many problem drinkers in their 20s, for example, "mature out" of alcohol-related problems, she says. These changes coincide with major lifestyle changes including engagement in serious relationships, commitments to career and the arrival of children, all of which involve significant changes in the environment. Sartor and her colleagues also are planning to study the timing of transitions in the development of other substance-use problems.

source: MediLexicon


Kids drinking into oblivion

I don't know why we think we are any different than any other part of the world: gambling, drinking, violence, traffic congestion ... the list could go on and on.

Recently I was in the UK where people were talking about the same things.

For instance, binge drinking is high on their list of concerns and the articles out of the newspapers could be mistaken as being the same ones written here.

The problems seem to be identical.

I guess the only difference is that MPs in the UK want to put the price up on alcohol but most sensible people realise that, if they do, the drug trade will probably just grow bigger.

It seems to me that getting drunk is something that seems to be universal. Whether it be alcohol, drugs or chewing some type of nut, people have being doing it for centuries.

I am not saying it is right but it has been going on for a while.

Now, before I go any further into this, I should declare to those who do not know me that, as a hotel manager many years ago, I probably did most of the things that I am now saying not to do.

But I agree with most people that the problem is getting bigger and something needs to be done.

I agree with state politicians having a look at late-night hours and bringing them back into line.

Nothing good happens after 1am.

But the problem with doing that is ever since Expo 88 our culture is to go out late and stay out well into the early hours of the next day.

Changing that is going to be difficult but it is worth a go.

The downside is if they start charging big fees for late-night permits, the multinational operators will get bigger while a lot of ma and pa businesses will fall to the wayside, which could mean a whole lot of kids in parks late at night in regional areas unsupervised.

Of course, they need to fix the public transport problem before they start shutting venues at midnight or 1am or there will be more carnage than there is now.

But I see a couple of other things as major contributing factors: ready-to-drink alcohol, which is lethal to young people, and shots of spirits or liqueurs.
These are just two examples.

Now, venues can talk about accords and how they are going to manage their businesses but, fair dinkum, anyone that sells Jaeger bombs is not serious about trying to fix the problem.

Granted, some responsible folk might have one as a nightcap and stumble off to bed. But most are drinking them for one reason.

The fun police should stop venues from selling straight-up shots of anything because it appears a fair percentage of people can’t handle it.

So, think earlier hours, no shots, more buses and taxis and no 7% ready-to-drink beverages and maybe the problem starts to turn around.

source: Sunshine Coast Daily


Being aware during Alcohol Awareness Month

In 2006, 43,000 Californians sought publicly funded treatment for alcohol addiction, including vulnerable populations like seniors and youth. But, recent studies show that more than 2.2 million people in our state meet the criteria for alcohol dependence or abuse. Costs associated with alcohol abuse in California now reach $22.5 billion each year. In 2005, drunken driving caused 1,387 fatal accidents and 20,581 injury traffic accidents statewide. Alcohol abuse devastates families and communities. Treatment admissions in the state for alcohol dependence are second to methamphetamine. While drugs like methamphetamine make front-page news, alcohol addiction is the "elephant in the room."

Some individuals in California who abuse alcohol deny or refuse to discuss their alcohol problem, while others do not seek treatment out of fear, shame or lack of information. Alcoholics and their families and friends hide the addiction, and the stigma attached to alcoholism remains.

We need to remind the millions of Californians who are struggling with alcohol abuse of a simple message: treatment works and recovery happens. That is why it is important for us to recognize April as "Alcohol Awareness Month." This is a terrific forum in which to stimulate conversation about alcoholism, educate Californians about alcohol abuse and urge abusers to get help.

Science has proven that alcoholism is a brain disease -- a chronic condition that can be prevented and treated. Unlike an acute illness, say, appendicitis, we can't simply operate and make the person better. People who become addicted to alcohol will never be "cured," but they can get well and recover. We now recognize that those who abuse alcohol need both acute care and ongoing monitoring.

What makes me so sure that treatment works and recovery happens?

Thirty years ago, alcoholism nearly devastated my family and my life. The disease almost wrecked my marriage, took away my self-esteem and livelihood, and would have killed me had I not sought help. In treatment, I discovered that I was genetically predisposed to alcoholism. Moreover, I learned I didn't have to face the condition myself. With treatment and family support, I got help -- and I got better. I picked up the pieces of my life, marriage and career, and now, in a sweet bit of irony, I head the state's largest agency in the campaign against alcohol abuse.

source: Santa Cruz Sentinel


Inmates win ‘cold turkey’ payout

Taxpayers have footed a £1 million compensation bill after almost 200 drug-addicted prisoners sued the Government, claiming that denying them a heroin substitute breached their human rights.

The prisoners claimed that their rights were infringed when they were deprived of methadone and had to go “cold turkey”.

A High Court test case involving six prisoners was going ahead two years ago but the Government agreed to settle out of court and pay £750,000 to 197 inmates in jails in England and Wales.

The compensation payments averaged £3,807 per prisoner, with four in Wymott jail in Lancashire receiving a total of £15,228 and three at Preston prison £11,421.

The overall bill to the taxpayer of £1 million includes the compensation payments plus the estimated lawyers’ fees.

The Government decided against fighting the compensation claims to minimise costs. It had been warned that if the case had gone to court the prisoners could have won even larger amounts of compensation.

The prisoners had been using methadone paid for by the Government but it was decided that they should go through cold turkey detoxification instead. They claimed that their human rights had been breached under Articles 3 and 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which bans discrimination, or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

At the preliminary hearing in 2006 Richard Hermer, a human rights lawyer specialising in group actions against the Government, told the court: “Many of the prisoners were receiving methadone treatment before they entered prison and were upset at the short period of treatment using opiates they encountered in jail. Imposing the short, sharp detoxification is the issue.”

The addicts said that their treatment was handled “inappropriately” with the consequence that they “suffered injuries” and had “difficulties” with their withdrawal. They claimed that the treatment constituted trespass and accused the Prison Service of clinical negligence.

A Prison Service spokeswoman said that the payments made were in response to a minority of the claims. “We successfully defended the majority of claims. We make payments only when we are instructed to do so by the courts or where strong legal advice suggests that a settlement will save money,” she added.

Latest figures show that compensation payments to prisoners have fallen from a total of £4.4 million in 2005-06 to £2 million in 2006-07.

source: Times Online


When an Employee Is A Problem Drinker

If you're a manager or supervisor, you may one day face the unpleasant task of dealing with an employee with an alcohol or other addiction.

About 80% of heavy drinkers are employed either full or part time, reports the Hazelden Foundation, a treatment and research center in Center City, Minn. About 500 million work days are lost annually due to alcoholism, a 1991 study shows, while lost productivity due to alcohol and drug abuse in the U.S. is estimated at $81 billion a year, according to a 1995 study.

Rather than firing an employee due to alcohol or substance abuse, or ignoring the issue, alcoholism-treatment experts say the best plan is for managers to treat the issue as a job-performance problem.

"Managers can't identify the problem, even if they are sure, because that would mean they are making a diagnosis, and they aren't qualified to do that," says Bill Arnold, corporate director of substance-abuse counseling services for Quad/Graphics, a Sussex, Wis., printing company with about 12,000 employees.

Approaching the issue as a performance problem avoids legal issues that might surface from labeling an employee and therefore being liable for their actions, says Eric Goplerud, director of Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol Problems, a program offered by George Washington University Medical Center to encourage treatment. Once they are treated and recovering, employed alcoholics and addicts are covered by the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and cannot be fired because of their illness.

"The ADA says a person in recovery is a protected class and must be treated as any other employee," says Dr. Goplerud.

Dealing with addiction issues as a performance problem applies whether an employee has been a star performer or just average. And just as with any other performance issue, it should be done as soon as problems surface. "The worst thing you can do is look the other way," says Mr. Arnold.

Most employers use a progressive approach when disciplining employees with performance problems, starting with a warning and leading up to more severe consequences and eventually, termination, if the problems aren't corrected. Managers should use progressive discipline when dealing with employees who may have addiction issues, starting by documenting the performance problems or concerns and then meeting with the employee to discuss them, says Dr. Goplerud.

"The kind of intervention that usually makes sense is for the supervisor to sit down with the employee and say, 'I have observed that your productivity is slipping,' or 'that you are missing meetings,' " Dr. Goplerud says. "If their performance deteriorates, then whatever human-resources processes that are in place for discipline or removal from the job should be applied."

During the initial discussion, managers should provide employees with a list of resources they can tap to deal with personal issues that might be causing their poor performance.

At many companies, managers refer employees to an (EAP) for evaluation. EAPs have counselors who are trained to diagnose substance-abuse problems and recommend treatment. About 86% of companies with more than 500 employees have EAPs, while 62% of companies with between 25 and 499 employees have them, according to a 2002 study by Open Minds, a market-research and consulting firm in Gettysburg, Pa.

For companies, a lot is at stake in intervening with alcoholics and addicts effectively. Screening and treating employees with alcohol problems yields a 215% return on investment in health-care savings for employers, according to Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol Problems, which offers an "alcohol cost calculator" that shows the financial return for businesses investing in alcohol treatment.

Employees are more likely to get help when they are given deadlines to improve performance and told they'll face more serious consequences, such as termination, if they don't, says Scott Basinger, associate dean of extramural affairs for Baylor College of Medicine's Graduate School of Biomedical Studies, who leads its Substance Abuse Assistance Council and the program.

Dr. Basinger says he recalls counseling an associate professor, a medical doctor in his late 40s who was sent for an evaluation. The chairman of the department said the professor had become increasingly irritable, was missing work because of the "flu," and had other performance problems, he says.

During the counseling session, the professor admitted he had a drinking problem and agreed to enter a treatment center. When he returned to work, he signed a contract agreeing to attend support meetings and counseling sessions and take random drug-screening tests. Now, three years later, he is in recovery and holds a high-ranking clinical position at Baylor, says Dr. Basinger.

Sometimes all employees need to hear to get help is that it's available and that their company will support them if they seek treatment.

A.J. Johnson says while he was a general manager of food and beverage for Marriott International Inc., he was a daily drinker and suffering from memory blackouts. After Marriott hired an EAP provider, Mr. Johnson attended a meeting for managers to learn about the new service. "They talked about the symptoms of the illness and that there was help available and employees wouldn't lose their jobs as a result," says Mr. Johnson.

He went home after the meeting and had what he says was his last alcoholic drink. "I called them that morning and said I had a friend who drinks too much," he says. "This nice lady I talked with asked me if I was drinking now, and, by 5 p.m., I was in treatment."

Mr. Johnson worked for Marriott another 11 years before starting a new career as an alcohol counselor at the Kolmac Clinic in Silver Spring, Md., where he had been a patient years earlier. He is now its assistant clinical director.

source: Wall Street Journal


Watch for warnings of alcoholism

Most of us know someone at work whom we believe drinks a bit too much.

It can be the co-worker who puts away a couple of six-packs of beer after work, or the colleague who imbibes too much wine at various gatherings or even the boss who smells like alcohol after lunch, despite the breath mints.

It's not that we think they're alcoholics, but we are aware that there could be a problem. And that's where a little education can go a long way to making sure these little problems don't become full-scale disasters that ruin professional and personal lives, says one expert.

Eric Goplerud, a Ph.D. and the director of Ensuring Solutions to Alcohol Problems at the George Washington University Medical Center (www.ensuringsolutions.org), says that while workers' alcohol problems cost employers millions of dollars each year and contribute to skyrocketing health insurance costs, the problem often is not effectively dealt with in the workplace.

"I think one of the reasons that more employers have not addressed this issue is because it's perceived as a private issue in the life of an employee," he says. "We're hoping that people will see there are several things they can do that are relatively easy."

The goal, he says, is getting more employees to talk to those who drink too much, in a program called AIM - aim, inform and motivate.

"You go to someone and you say, 'You know, you seem to be drinking more - how much are you drinking?' Then, you inform them that what they're drinking seems like an awful lot. Finally, you motivate them to get help, by expressing your concern and saying: 'Have you thought about changing?' "

Goplerud also explains that just as an unhealthy lifestyle can lead to more serious issues such as diabetes, drinking too much can really impact someone's health and possibly lead to alcoholism.

source: Cincinnati Enquirer


Fresh ideas about alcohol

Drinking experts have come together to tackle booze misuse in a holistic way. Reformed alcoholic Kevan Martin has set up a group in Sunderland called North East Regional Alcohol Forum to help recovering alcoholics with holistic therapy methods.

Alcohol misuse campaigners gathered in the region to explain why a new holistic approach was needed to support people with the problem.

Kevan Martin, chief executive of the North East Regional Alcohol Forum (NERAF), set up the national charity after the system failed to help him through his own journey out of addiction.

Addressing experts at a special Alcohol Abuse Symposium, hosted by Northumbria University’s Centre for Public Policy, Mr Martin said it was pointless giving people detox as the only form of support.

“It is essential that we move towards a more holistic approach to tackling alcohol misuse,” he explained.

“It’s pointless giving people detox alone as it just doesn’t work in isolation – you have to look at all other aspects of life at the same time as providing treatment.

“Relationships, housing and debt are just some of the external factors that can all impact on a person’s treatment programme and ultimately on their recovery.

“We believe that by taking this holistic approach, it will enable people to enjoy a total and radical lifestyle change, which is what is needed for people who have been misusing alcohol for many years.”

Alcohol misuse affects every area of life, from education, employment and health to crime and disorder.

At the event some of the strategic priorities for reducing the risks of alcohol abuse were addressed.

The event focused on alcohol misuse in its broadest sense, with a specific interest in young people and binge drinking.

It also looked at the links between alcohol and domestic violence and focused on alcohol policy within a regional context.

The Centre for Public Policy, which has had a team of staff working with NERAF, organised the meeting.

They have devised an extensive toolkit that is set to help people experiencing problems with alcohol, as well as providing a wide source of data regarding misuse.

Rob Wiggins, business manager at Northumbria’s Centre for Public Policy, said: “This project is part of a major initiative called Urban Regeneration: Making a Difference.

“The aim of the scheme is to tackle some of the real and very complex problems facing communities across the North of England.

“Working with NERAF has given us the opportunity to provide academic and research expertise to a valuable organisation while working alongside the team in a holistic way.”

He added: “We have devised a special toolkit that enables individuals to chart how alcohol is affecting their lives overall, including their health and wellbeing, relationships with family and friends, finance and employment and their self-esteem.

“The progress results will be charted on a specifically tailored database that will then give a clear view of the wider social and economic impact of alcohol misuse in the lives of the individuals.

“The results from this database could also potentially have a policy impact in terms of the way individuals receive and respond to treatment, as well as the implications for wider society.

“This has been an excellent opportunity for us to help make a real difference to people’s lives, as well as providing a greater understanding of the key issues. We believe this could eventually become the template for a national model of excellence.

“It has also given us the opportunity to work alongside the NERAF team in a genuinely collaborative way.”

The Alcohol Misuse Symposium was chaired by David Warcup, Det Chief Constable of Northumbria Police, along with Rob Wiggins from Northumbria’s Centre for Public Policy and Rosie Cunningham, associate dean of Northumbria’s School of Arts and Social Sciences.

The event came days after the findings of a study conducted by Northumbria and Keele University were presented at the British Psychological Society’s Annual Conference, revealing binge drinking by teenagers may put them at risk of everyday memory loss.

Binge drinking teenagers run the risk of losing their memory because of the permanent damage alcohol is doing to their brains.

Psychologists in the region discovered high levels of everyday memory loss among university students who have regular heavy boozing sessions.

Bingeing appeared to have a large impact on prospective memory, the kind used to remember future tasks such as calling a friend or buying washing powder from a supermarket.

Study leader Dr Thomas Heffernan, from Northumbria University, said: “There is evidence that excess alcohol and binge drinking in particular damages parts of the brain that underpin everyday memory.

“Not only may these teenagers be harming their memory, if their brains are still developing they could be storing up problems for the future.”

Scientists who carried out the tests on volunteers aged 17 to 19 from the region believed the harm caused to the brain may be long lasting or even permanent.

Teenagers were asked to fill in questionnaires about how good they believed their memory was before carrying out a video memory test.

Dr Heffernan added: “We found no differences between binge drinkers and non-binge drinkers in the self-reporting questionnaires, but when it came to the video the binge drinkers recalled significantly less than the non-binge drinkers.

“Although from their own reports they appeared to have good memories, they didn’t perform as well in the video test. The binge drinkers recalled up to a third less of the items, a significant difference.”

Help in looking at your lifestyle

Reformed alcoholic Kevan Martin was addicted to booze for 20 years but has now turned his life around and set up the North East Regional Alcohol Forum.

The 47-year-old, of Whitburn, South Shields, said his out-of-control habit ruined his life as it cost him his job, his marriage and his relationship with his daughter.

He would consume an average of eight litres of cider a day until he won his battle in 2000.

To help others in a similar situation, Kevan set up the North East Regional Alcohol Forum (NERAF) to offer a holistic approach to tackling the problem.

He said: "I misused alcohol for 20 years and it ruined my life during that time. I lost my job, my home, my relationship with my daughter and my wife.

"My addiction to alcohol started when I was in my 20s. I enjoyed going out to the pub and I liked socialising.

"I did not realise how addictive alcohol was and how much of my lifestyle was taken up by drinking. My problem just crept up on me without any warning signs."

He added: "When I finally accepted I was an alcoholic and stopped drinking I realised I’d been failed by the system. I had only been given ways to combat the issue through medication and was not encouraged to look at my lifestyle – which is essential.

"As a result I set up the North East Regional Alcohol Forum, which I did using my own money as it is something I’m very passionate about.

"It is crucial if someone wants to give up drinking that they look at the root cause of the problem, which generally involves assessing their lifestyle as that can be why the misuse of alcohol begins.

"Often people start drinking because they are in debt, unemployed, have a terrible home life and very few friends. NERAF provides long term aftercare and support to those affected by alcohol misuse.

"We highlight the dangers and health risks of misusing alcohol and, at the same time tell you that if you treat alcohol with respect and drink safely then none of the health risks should affect you."

source: Evening Chronicle


Alcohol may boost breast cancer risk

It's a sobering thought for women who enjoy a few drinks at the end of a long day.

A new study has found that women who drink even moderate amounts of alcohol face a substantially increased risk - up to 50 per cent higher - of developing a common type of breast cancer.

"Even a drink a day can cause an increased risk," said Jasmine Lew, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Chicago who received a scholarship to conduct research at the National Cancer Institute in the United States.

The study, being presented at this week's American Association for Cancer Research annual meeting, seems to high- light the need for women to evaluate their levels of alcohol consumption.

Researchers examined data of nearly 185,000 postmenopausal women in the United States collected by the National Institutes of Health. About 70 per cent of women reported some level of alcohol intake. After following the women for seven years, researchers found that women who consumed three or more drinks a day had about a 50-per-cent increase in their risk for developing estrogen receptor positive, progesterone receptor positive breast cancer, which is one of the most common types.

Women who reported drinking one to two drinks a day had a 32-per-cent increase in breast cancer risk, while those who consumed, on average, less than one drink of alcohol a day had about a 7-per-cent increased risk.

"The more you drink, the higher your risk, the relative risk, of getting breast cancer," Ms. Lew said. "I think what should be taken from [the study] is that alcohol consumption is positively associated with breast cancer."

Although more research must be done to determine whether alcohol actually influences the development of breast cancer, the findings indicate a conclusive association between alcohol intake and possible risk, Ms. Lew said.

The findings appear to present further evidence that alcohol may increase the amount of estrogen metabolites in a woman's body, which may contribute to the development of hormone-sensitive breast cancer, according to the study.

The study is the latest in a growing collection of research that is demonstrating the significant consequences that alcohol can have on health.

"Alcohol is quite a toxic drug," said Tim Stockwell, director of the Centre for Addictions Research of British Columbia at the University of Victoria. "The sad fact is there are approximately 60 ways in which alcohol can kill a person or cause them to be very ill."

It's a growing problem in an era when binge drinking is increasingly socially acceptable, Dr. Stockwell said.

"Nearly all the provinces are going through a phase of increased consumption and have been across Canada for about the last 10 years," he said. "When that overall consumption goes up, drinking at all age groups tends to go up."

Numerous medical studies have found small amounts of alcohol have a positive effect on health and can protect against certain diseases. For instance, studies suggest that moderate amounts of red wine may reduce a person's risk of developing heart disease.

The problem is that people often drink beyond the small doses that could provide such benefits, Dr. Stockwell said.

He also said it's possible that some studies linking moderate consumption with positive benefits may be misleading, because people who report themselves as moderate to light drinkers may be more likely to be in good health than heavy drinkers.


Personal alcohol detectors help prevent accidents

Hoping to save a life when an army buddy's had too much to drink, 767 soldiers and civilians on the army's largest training post now carry personal alcohol detectors in their cars or on their keychains.

Fort Jackson's safety director Sean O'Brian has been handing out the 10-centimetre devices since the first of the year.

"It's a good way to not get into a confrontation with a buddy, in case they've been drinking," said Master Sgt. James Smith. "It's impartial. It lets you say, 'Hey, let's let this be our guide.'"

While there hasn't been a big problem with drunken driving on the base there were 10 alcohol-related accidents in a recent 12-month span that's still too many in O'Brian's opinion.

Fort Jackson is one of eight army installations that have begun using the pocket-sized detectors, base spokesman Pat Jones said.

Staff Sgt. Tenesia Vann at Fort Benning, Ga., said she grabbed half of dozen of the tiny breathalyzers when she first arrived at the base in January.

"If I go to a gathering where people are drinking, I want to be able to hand them out. I think they could be a deciding factor in convincing people not to get behind the wheel," said the 35-year-old administrative assistant. "I keep them at home in case I have people over for a cookout."

Fort Benning, home to multiple infantry units and the service's Airborne and Ranger training schools, got 155,000 of the devices last May. Officials have handed out 100,000 of them in nearly a year's time.

Yvonne Wilbanks, alcohol and drug control officer for the post, has worked for 25 years trying to convince soldiers not to drink and drive. Handing out the devices has been "one of the better things that we've done," she said. All army bases mandate safety lectures for soldiers, while others try to emphasize the message through posters or offering no-questions-asked rides home should someone have one too many.

The army, with more than 524,000 men and women on active duty, is the largest military service in the U.S. Besides Benning and Jackson, other installations trying out the detectors include Fort Lee, Va.; Aberdeen Proving Ground, Md.; Fort Greeley, Alaska; Fort Sam Houston and Corpus Christie Army Depot in Texas, and Fort Dix, N.J.

In South Carolina, the detectors come amid a state legislator's proposal that would allow members of the armed forces younger than 21 the right to buy alcohol even though it's in contrast to the military's efforts to diminish underage drinking and related accidents.

Five years ago, there were 23 alcohol-related accidents at Fort Jackson, where 55,000 to 65,000 soldiers pass through the gates annually. Luckily, none of the accidents has been fatal, OBrian said.

Smith, 41, who has been in the army for 23 years, said he wished he had the device earlier in his career. At Fort Jackson, he is in charge of a dozen drill sergeants and their 240 basic training recruits.

"I think it's an excellent idea to 'police up' yourself and your buddies. I keep it in my car," Smith said.

The detectors are not a self-diagnostic tool. They require a buddy's help.

Known as "Breathscan" tubes, they're carried inside the yellow plastic key fob designed for military use, said Patrice McMorrow, marketing director for Akers Biosciences Inc. in Thorofare, N.J., which produces the devices. They aren't marketed directly to the public, she said, although some might be found for sale on the web. O'Brian, who is in charge of giving safety lectures to all new soldiers and the 4,400 civilian workers who come to Fort Jackson, got 2,500 of the devices to hand out along with information designed to puncture myths about drinking and driving.

For example, he said, "Coffee doesn't make you sober. It just wakes you up. Another myth is that you know when you're too drunk to drive. You don't."

That's where a friend with the tiny device comes in.

To use it, soldiers simply pull a cardboard tube out of a yellow plastic container. Pressing the outside of the tube breaks a small vial containing yellow crystals. The drinker holds the tube vertically and blows hard for about 12 seconds. Then, the non-reusable tube must be placed on a flat surface.

After two minutes, the colour of the crystals detects whether a person has a blood-alcohol level of 0.04 per cent or higher, which O'Brian said is enough to "slow your reflexes and impair your judgment." The crystals remain yellow if no alcohol has been consumed.

A non-drinker should administer the test because of the multistep process.
source: Sarnia Observer


Alcoholism: Losing Old Friends to Stay Sober

Alcoholism, like many addictions, is a disease of reinforcement. When you take drugs or alcohol, you feel better and when you stop drinking, you miss the feeling. By this same mechanism, the people you associate with can start to reinforce your drinking behavior.

Even though, for many, alcoholism ends up being a disease of solitude and loneliness, but it could start off completely differently. The divorced alcoholic that drinks half a bottle of whiskey every night before going to bed, probably started off drinking socially with friends.

That is not to say that everyone you might drink with is an alcoholic, but when trying to recover, it is wise to cut ties with people who could influence you to drink. If you have friends that you only saw on the weekends at the bar, these friendships reinforce your alcohol use. And when you're trying to get sober, it can be challenging to be with these friends.

Aside from the obvious fact that you need to have great self control to be around other people drinking and not drink yourselves, often times your friends can try to persuade you to drink. This doesn't make them bad people. It can be hard for someone who does not suffer from alcoholism to understand the disease. Most of the time, these friends just want you to be having fun with them.

Even if you are completely committed to getting sober once you've realized you have a problem, being around other drinkers can be too hard and lead to relapse. You might find yourself faced with a choice between sobriety or your friends. Usually, you end up either leaving these old noxious friendships behind and getting better, or maintaining your friendships and potentially giving up to alcoholism.

It is not easy to stop being friends with people. Some, when faced with this situation, just slowly phase out those old friendships. But this can be hard to do. It also helps to talk to your friends and try to make them understand the nature of your condition and why you cannot be around them when they're drinking. This can cause a lot of fights, but in the end your real friends will see you through your recovery and those that only wanted the fun drunk you get phased out.

The important thing to remember is that you need to do what is best for you when you're trying to recover. Friendships are great, but not if they are damaging your health and your body. Being sober trumps good times with your old drinking buddies.
source: associated content


Two Liver Cancer Treatments Better Than One

Survival time rose with combo therapy for advanced disease, study finds

By combining a special type of chemotherapy (TACE) with another treatment called radiofrequency ablation (RFA), Chinese researchers boosted the survival of people with advanced liver cancer by an average of 13 to 15 months compared to either treatment alone.

"Our study demonstrates that combination therapy with TACE and RFA was an effective and safe treatment that may improve long-term survival for patients with hepatocellular carcinoma larger than three centimeters," said Dr. Bao-Quan Cheng, from the Qilu Hospital and Shandong University School of Medicine in Jinan, China.

Results of the study were published in the April 9 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Hepatocellular carcinoma is responsible for as many as 90 percent of all liver cancers, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Cirrhosis of the liver, often caused by hepatitis B or C or alcoholism, is usually at the root of such cancers. Cirrhosis can make treatment for this type of cancer more difficult, because it damages the liver so much that the liver can't process medications effectively. Only 10 percent to 20 percent of these cancers can be successfully treated with surgery.

For those whose tumors can't be removed with surgery, liver transplantation, chemotherapy and radiofrequency ablation are all options. TACE (transarterial chemoembolization) is a special type of chemotherapy that delivers chemotherapy drugs directly to the blood vessels feeding the tumor. Radiofrequency ablation uses electrodes to produce heat and destroy cancerous tissue.

The most commonly used treatment in the United States for advanced liver cancer is transplantation, according to Dr. Milan Kinkhabwala, chief of abdominal transplantation at Montefiore Medical Center in New York City. "If the tumor can't be resected [surgically removed], liver transplantation is the definitive treatment," he said, adding that transplantation might not be as available in China as it is in the United States.

Although TACE and RFA used individually can extend survival, the Chinese researchers hoped that by combining the techniques, they could increase survival times even more.

In a randomized, controlled trial, the researchers used one of three treatment techniques on people with hepatocellular carcinoma larger than 3 centimeters. Ninety-six people were assigned to the TACE-RFA combination, 95 to TACE alone and 100 to RFA alone.

Average survival time was 37 months for the combination therapy group compared to 24 months for TACE alone and 22 months for RFA alone.

The rate of responses lasting for at least six months rose to 54 percent in the combination group, versus 35 percent for the TACE group and 36 percent for the RFA group, the researchers found.

Side effects were similar between the groups, though RFA had the lowest rate of certain side effects, such as a low white blood cell count.

Cheng cautioned that these results may not be as applicable in the Western world, such as the United States or Japan, because the underlying cause of liver cancer in China is hepatitis B, whereas in the Western world, it tends to be hepatitis C or alcohol abuse. He hopes that similar clinical trials will be performed in the United States, Europe or Japan to see if the results are the same.

"Many of us have become aware that the standard approach of attacking a tumor with one modality isn't as good. Multimodal therapy is the new buzzword in cancer treatment," said Kinkhabwala. "It's really a belt-and-suspenders approach. You're targeting the tumor in different ways. This paper is important, because it's the first to look at this combination in a controlled way, and the combo approach does work. This confirms what our expectations were."

Kinkhabwala said he'd also like to see how a combination of these therapies with the new targeted medication, sorafenib (Nexavar), could affect outcomes. "Combining sorafenib with either or these or using all three might give better survival," he said.
source: Health Scout


Link found between anxiety and alcoholism

Researchers at the UIC College of Medicine and the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center have discovered a molecular basis for the link between anxiety and alcoholism. This discovery may help develop a new therapeutic approach for the treatment and control of alcohol addiction.

"The association of anxiety with increased alcohol use is a key factor in the initiation and maintenance of alcohol addiction," said Dr. Subhash Pandey, UIC professor of psychiatry and director of neuroscience alcoholism research, lead author of the study, and "this is the first direct evidence of the molecular processes occurring in the neurons that is responsible for the co-morbidity of anxiety and alcoholism." People with high levels of anxiety are more likely to become addicted to alcohol because alcohol can temporarily decrease anxiety. Also, frequent consumers often feel extreme anxiety during withdrawal of alcohol.

"Alcoholics may feel a need to continue to drink alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate to reduce their anxiety and other unpleasant withdrawal symptoms," explained Pandey. Initial use of alcohol often relieves anxiety, and after repeated exposure to alcohol, people may feel the need to consume alcohol in order to feel normal.

Experimentation with laboratory animals led to the finding of a protein within neurons in the amygdala that affects alcohol withdrawal symptoms. The amygdala is the area of the brain associated with emotion and anxiety. When the shape of these neurons are changed, communication between the neurons is affected which leads to behavior changes.

To communicate, neurons send signals through branches called dendritic spines, and the researchers discovered that short-term alcohol exposure led to an increase of these branches in certain regions of the amygdala. The increase of dendritic spines creates anti-anxiety effects by producing a certain protein called Arc in response to a nerve growth factor called BDNF.

BDNF is stimulated by alcohol exposure. Animals dependent on alcohol eventually developed a tolerance to the lowering of anxiety from alcohol consumption. When alcohol was withheld from these dependent animals they developed high anxiety, and levels of BDNF and Arc were decreased in the amygdala. The researchers eliminated the anxiety by raising BDNF and Arc back to normal levels. Tests showed a relation between lowered levels of BDNF and Arc in the amygdala and increased anxiety.

This discovery "[can] be used to identify new targets for developing medications that alleviate withdrawal-induced anxiety and potentially modify a motivation for drinking," said Antonio Noronha, director of neuroscience and behavior research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

© Copyright 2008 Chicago Flame


Online sale of alcohol to teens proves difficult to control

The Alaska Beverage Council is concerned about teens ordering alcohol online. There are thousands of Web sites, many based in other countries, that allow the online order of any beverage alcohol. Clicking a box that claims you are 21 and a credit card are all that it takes.

The U.S. Supreme Court has made matters worse with its ruling in Rowe v. The New Hampshire Motor Transport Association, which allows for the free flow of tobacco via private shippers such as Federal Express or DHL.

Essentially, the tobacco decision creates the opportunity for minors -- our children -- to go online, order anything -- alcohol, tobacco -- and have it delivered without requiring the delivery person to check IDs when the package is delivered. It's a serious concern that Alaska Beverage Council shares with parents, families, communities and lawmakers across Alaska.

As research proves, teens often don't get their liquor from licensed establishments. Sixty-five percent of minors get their alcohol from parents' liquor cabinets or the family fridge. Another sizable percentage asks older shoppers to go into the liquor store for them. In fact, illegal purchases from retailers only represent 7 percent of the problem thanks to the diligence of our members.

We believe the Supreme Court ruling is not only a step backward but opens the door to future complications. By ruling that the responsibility to verify age cannot be placed on the shipper, how can we ensure the person ordering alcohol online is of legal age?

The responsibility is now on the state Legislature, the Alcohol Beverage Control Board and the industry to figure out how to prevent teens from ordering online. Industry members see state control of alcohol shipments as a key component in preventing alcohol abuse among minors.

The Supreme Court's decision was a wake-up call for us all. As the industry and government work to find a solution to the legal and technical issues, we ask parents, teachers and guardians of Alaska teens to keep an even closer eye out for teens buying alcohol online.

source: Anchorage Daily News


Alcohol Awareness Month: Somber side effects tied to alcohol sales benefits

Longview's three fatal wrecks so far this year involved alcohol, according to Sgt. Buddy Molpus with the Longview Police Department.

With statistics like that, city officials say it is important to crack down on alcohol violations in East Texas and raise awareness about the effects of alcohol.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence designated April as alcohol awareness month in 1987. The organization encourages local communities to focus on and provide information about alcohol-related issues throughout the month.

"We have to change norms. People have so many more options. We have to stand up and be leaders," Lorri Essary, with the city of Longview's Partners in Prevention, said during an alcohol awareness forum on underage drinking in March. Partners in Prevention is a communty partnership of more than 300 organizations and people who work together to prevent substance abuse among youth.

Molpus said Longview has increased its enforcement to crack down on alcohol violations.

Longview Police Sgt. Shaun Pendleton said while the department has not hired additional officers, it has added more DWI officers to its shifts.

"We have our officers being more aggressive in their DWI enforcement," he said. "We are looking harder than what we had in the past. Our officers have just been more aggressive in their enforcement."

Molpus said some of the extra enforcement comes from a STEP grant that pays for overtime for officers to target certain offenses, such as DWIs.

"All law enforcement agencies in Gregg County have recognized that we have an issue here with people driving under the influence of alcohol," he said.

The extra enforcement has resulted in an increase in the number of tickets and arrests made in the city.

Molpus added that the increase in numbers doesn't necessarily mean there is more of an alcohol problem.

"You don't really know what's out there. The problem was out there the whole time, we just weren't making as much contact," he said.

According to Kim Higgins, a Mothers Against Drunk Driving program specialist, more than 17,000 people die in alcohol-related crashes each year nationally. She said 15- to 20-year-olds account for the biggest group in that statistic.

"Alcohol is the No. 1 killer among teens," Higgins said. "There are so many choices out there for teens. We want to educate them and the community. You have to make a better choice for yourself."

Alcohol sellers say they try to help prevent underage drinking.

Food Fast Corp. works closely with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and local law enforcement agencies on prevention programs, said Lewis Oswalt, loss prevention and safety supervisor for the Tyler-based company.

"I think underage children drinking is always a problem. I think we as the retailers have a responsibility to prevent that," he said. "It is actually a dual responsibility. It is the responsibility of the young person; it is the responsibility of the parents; and it is the responsibility of the retailer. It is a team effort to prevent this from happening where we can. We recognize our responsibility to the community to do that."

Alcohol sales contribute to area cities' coffers

Alcohol plays an important role in overall sales and tax revenue, some local business and government leaders owners say.

Alcohol sales contribute between $140,000 to $150,000 to Longview's annual budget, says Jill Laffitte, budget manager, and added "it really just depends on consumption."

Laffitte said 14 percent of vendors' mixed beverage sales is sent to the state. Vendors include stores, restaurants and any business that sells mixed beverages, she said.

According to one local business owner, sales tend to increase in April because "it's also beer season."

"Beer is what people prefer this time of year," said Charles Adams, owner of Adams Package Co. in Easton.

Adams says people are responsible for their actions when they consume alcohol, adding that his store encourages people to drink responsibly.

"We are very careful about how we distribute alcohol," he said. "I don't sell to minors. We thoroughly check IDs. When people come in here, we think they are even a little intoxicated, we don't sell to them."

Food Fast Corp. takes a strong position against selling to minors, said Lewis Oswalt, loss prevention and safety supervisor for the Tyler-based company.

"One of our priority goals is that we do not sell alcohol to minors," Oswalt said.

"We work with not only beer distributors but with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission and other crime organizations."

Oswalt said all supervisors go through training and seminars, and clerks cannot sell alcohol until they are certified to do so. Those measures are taken to help ensure that alcohol is not sold to minors, he added.

"We follow even stronger policy than is recommended. If a person appears to be 30 years old or younger, we ID them," he said. "In addition, each store is equipped with special scanners to check the license and get a proper age on each person."

source: Longview News-Journal


Teen drinking a key focus of Governor's Alcohol Awareness Month decree

Alcohol abuse and underage drinking continue to plague Oregon, and the health and social consequences are serious, sometimes fatal, according to the Oregon Department of Human Services Addictions and Mental Health Division.

Drinking starts young in this state. Thirty-one percent of Oregon's eighth graders and half the 11th graders reported regular alcohol use last year, approximately 38,000 youngsters have a serious alcohol problem, and it's the leading cause of death among youth here. That's why Gov. Ted Kulongoski has proclaimed April as Alcohol Awareness Month in Oregon.

As noted in the proclamation, alcohol contributes to adolescent motor vehicle crashes, traumatic injuries, poor school performance, and health and safety problems. Research shows that the younger individuals are when they start to drink, the more likely they are to become alcoholic. And alcohol, not methamphetamine or marijuana, is the most frequently used drug among Oregon high school students.

Alcohol causes big problems for adults too, according to DHS statistics. In Oregon, approximately 66 percent of men and 50 percent of women drink. Nearly six percent of older adults and 20 percent of 18- to 25-year-olds abuse or are dependent on alcohol and need treatment. Each year there are more than 1,000 alcohol-related deaths in Oregon. About one-third of all motor vehicle fatalities involve alcohol.

"Alcohol Awareness Month is a great opportunity to get people involved in solving some of the problems associated with drinking," said Rick Cady, prevention manager of DHS' Addictions and Mental Health Division. "April is just a starting point. Underage drinking and alcohol abuse have such life-shattering consequences that we must be vigilant about it year around."

Cady recently joined DHS in the newly created position and is nationally recognized for his leadership and consultation work in the field of alcohol and drug abuse prevention.

Cady said DHS works with the Governor's Council on Drug and Alcohol Abuse Programs, the Oregon Department of Transportation, Oregon Liquor Control Commission, Oregon Partnership, and other groups and community providers to broaden its alcohol prevention outreach mission.

One new partner in the fight against underage drinking is the Statewide Leadership Team for Alcohol-Free Kids, chaired by Oregon Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson (D-Gresham).

The Governor called for creation of the team to develop a wide-ranging set of youth alcohol prevention strategies, recommendations, and a five-year action plan for consideration by the 2009 Legislature. Areas of focus are:

• Strengthening community mobilization and leadership;
• Implementing research-based school and family prevention curricula;
• Enhancing support for enforcement and adjudication efforts;
• Creating targeted and consistent statewide public education efforts; and
• Improving data collection to monitor programs and inform policy decisions.

Underage drinking must be addressed on "multiple fronts with multiple strategies," with collaboration among state and local agencies, community partners, researchers, health care entities, business leaders and elected officials. And all segments of the public must be willing to adopt recommendations for change to occur, said the Governor in calling for the Alcohol-Free Kids team.

"I'm excited about the work of this leadership team, because we're looking at solving underage drinking problems in a multi-disciplinary way," said Monnes Anderson. "If changes in laws are needed, then we'll propose legislation. We can work with police and courts on enforcement and judicial issues, or if a treatment option is needed, then we'll go for that. We're bringing a lot of different partners to the table."

Cady said it will take the support of all Oregonians to cut the underage drinking rate, especially the support of parents, who are the critical "ounce of prevention."

"Parents play a stronger role than they might think in influencing their kids not to drink," said Cady. "Parents must talk about the issue, set some boundaries and get kids thinking about alcohol's consequences. And all of us, really, should be concerned about those consequences."

source: Bend Weekly News


Bottomless Drinking Ban on College Campuses

College is a time of great pride and happiness for most kids and parents. Parents are excited that their children have gotten into a university and the teens are excited to embark on their first adventure away from the nest. College gives teens the freedom they have been craving and gives parents that sense of self satisfaction that they raised a child on the path to success. The four glorious years of college are supposed to mold our children to become the future of our country. But not one cocktail at a time!

Nationally, college has come to symbolize frat parties and underage drinking. After many recent deaths from alcohol poisoning at several universities, Minnesota is the first state to ban limitless drinking at college bars. The state may be the pioneer we need to prevent our children from drinking themselves into destruction.

Move over “land of 10,000 lakes,” because Minnesota’s new nickname is going to be a lot dryer than that! A new law, which went into effect January 1 of this year, has effectively eliminated all “bottomless drinking” specials at bars, as well as all drinking specials after 11 p.m. That means that no longer can bars offer $20 all you can drink for the entire night, encouraging kids to drink. After the deaths of three college students linked to alcohol in the past four months, Minnesota has put its collective foot down. Minnesota Congressman Lanning said, “All kinds of bad things happen to students as a result of binge drinking.” Duh!

Bar owners disagree with this policy — not a shock-tail considering the business they have to lose. They responded by saying the ban is actually a bad thing. “You’re just going to be pushing them to the house parties, the “keggers,” to a totally unsupervised area,” stated a Minnesota bar owner. While they do have a point, this mother of two still thinks their financial interests may outweigh their true concern for our childrens’ safety.

But don’t worry folks, bar owners have found ways around the bottomless drinking ban. Bars now simply offer $1 beers or $2 mixed drinks before 11 p.m. — effectively allowing students on a short budget to still drink like fish. Many are even worried that these restrictions may even encourage MORE drinking, in part because students are going to want to drink as much as they can before the deals end. So, is there a solution to our children’s binge drinking problem? It doesn’t look like frat parties will be serving Shirley Temples anytime soon.

You may be surprised to hear about a new study showed that Minnesota is home to more binge drinkers than almost anywhere in the nation, other states are not far behind. Nationally, a Harvard School of Public Health study found that 44 percent of collegians binge drink. The study also found that college may be the catalyst in these children’s chain reaction into drinking so heavily. The college graduation age, 21, has even been found to be the peak age for binge drinking across the country. To show how startling the college binge drinking epidemic is, would you be surprised to learn that 12,000,000 undergraduates drink four billion cans of beer every year? I sure was!

The long term risks of alcohol include everything from liver damage, to pancreatitis, to certain cancers, and even literal shrinkage of the brain. Not to mention the short term effects, alcohol poisoning and immediate death! Three Minnesota college students found out the hard way. In a $115 billion industry in the United States alone, it’s not unusual for us parents to feel like its David vs. Goliath. Don’t panic though, because we can help!

Although parents cannot physically be there every time our child is offered a drink, we can help to shape their decision making process. Parents are responsible for their children’s upbringing up until they are 18, or go to college. The pressures to binge drinking can be avoided somewhat if we educate our children. Actively educating our children on the detrimental effects of alcohol could lead to a healthier, and hopefully dryer, solution.

And alcohol should not be some secret, mysterious thing that adults get to do! Something we don’t talk about. Parents, your teens (even the honor students) have probably at least had an opportunity to try alcohol. Teaching kids about sex educates them about the consequences — alcohol-Ed if you will — should eliminate the mystery of drinking, and teach them the consequences of that choice.

Explaining to our children the dangers of alcohol in an accurate, caring, and unbiased way, could alleviate at least some of our worries. So, when talking to your kids be honest, be informative, and be straightforward. After all, binge drinking and college are not a good mix.

source: FOX News


Alcohol Ad Ban Reversed

From staff reports
Posted on April 3, 2008

Alcohol ads will now be featured in UVA’s Cavalier Daily and Va. Tech’s Collegiate Times after a judge ruled that it was hindering ad sales and that the ads did not persuade students to drink illegally.

The American Civil Liberties Union represented the two papers in the case against the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.

ABC regulations stated that a college newspaper is not permitted to advertise beer, wine or mixed beverages except in reference to a dining establishment. However, it was seen in court as a violation of the First Amendment.

The Amendment states that the government cannot solve a problem by restricting free speech unless it can prove that the restriction can or has solved the problem.

The restriction has been in other related alcohol sayings.

ABC banned the running of the ads so that students would not be influenced to drink based on the promotional ads supporting alcohol consumption. However, part of ACLU’s argument was that half of the students reading the newspapers were of age.

The papers will begin publishing those ads once the schools receive an injunction.

source: http://www.thebreeze.org


Brain DNA 'Remodeled' in Alcoholism

Reshaping of the DNA scaffolding that supports and controls the expression of genes in the brain may play a major role in the alcohol withdrawal symptoms, particularly anxiety, that make it so difficult for alcoholics to stop using alcohol.

The finding is reported by researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago and the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in the April 2 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience.

DNA can undergo changes in function without any changes in inheritance or coded sequence. These "epigenetic" changes are minor chemical modifications of chromatin -- dense bundles of DNA and proteins called histones.

"This is the first time anyone has looked for epigenetic changes related to chromatin remodeling in the brain during alcohol addiction," said Dr. Subhash C. Pandey, professor and director of neuroscience alcoholism research at the UIC College of Medicine and the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in Chicago, the lead author of the study.

Chemical modification of histones can change the way DNA and histones are wound up together. Histone acetyltransferases (HATs) are enzymes that add acetyl groups to histones and loosen the packing, promoting gene expression. On the other hand, histone deacetylases (HDACs) remove acetyl groups from histones, causing them to wrap with DNA more tightly, decreasing gene expression.

The UIC researchers had previously shown in an animal model that levels of neuropeptide Y in the amygdala modulate anxiety and alcohol-drinking behavior. In the new study, they looked at the HDAC activity, acetylation of histones, and expression of the genes for NPY in the amygdala and the anxiety-like behaviors associated with withdrawal from chronic alcohol use.

Pandey and his colleagues found that acute exposure to alcohol decreases HDAC activity; increases the acetylation histones; increases levels of NPY -- and reduced anxiety in the animals.

Conversely, anxiety-like behaviors during withdrawal in animals with chronic alcohol exposure was associated with an increase in HDAC activity and decrease in histones acetylation and NPY levels.

Importantly, blocking the observed increase in HDAC activity using an HDAC inhibitor during alcohol withdrawal brought up histone acetylation and NPY expression levels in the amygdala and prevented the development of anxiety-like behaviors.

"Our findings suggest that HDAC inhibitors may have potential as therapeutic agents in treating alcoholism," Pandey said.

The researchers also found that levels of a protein known as CREB binding protein, which has HAT enzymatic activity, were increased by acute alcohol but were decreased during ethanol withdrawal.

They concluded that the enzymes that are involved in remodeling of chromatin play an important role in the anxiety that accompanies alcohol withdrawal as well as in the anti-anxiety effects of acute alcohol use.

"We need new strategies to treat alcoholism that are directed toward the prevention of withdrawal symptoms," Pandey said. "Anxiety associated with withdrawal from alcohol abuse is a key factor in the maintenance of alcohol addiction."

The research was supported by grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the Department of Veteran Affairs. Rajesh Ugale, Huaibo Zhang, Lei Tang and Anand Prakash of UIC and the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center also contributed to the study.

source: University of Illinois at Chicago