Turkey and youth drinking

When you think of Thanksgiving, turkey, football games and getting together with family usually comes to mind. But what also happens at Thanksgiving is an excess of youth drinking.

Officer Phil Powers, Hopkinton's school resource officer, said that in his 21 years on the police force he has found that the Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving is the busiest drinking night of the year for youth. It's busier than New Years Eve or graduation. And the problem is both with underage drinkers, many home from college for the first time, and with young legal drinkers in their twenties who are getting together with old high school friends and end up drinking to excess. Unfortunately, in too many cases these young people also get in a car and drive.

As parents, we all want to keep our kids safe. So what can you do?

# For kids under 21, have a conversation with them about your expectations about drinking; be clear that the law is no drinking until 21 and that you expect that they will follow it. This is critically important for kids who are coming home from college where there may be a different level of tolerance for underage drinking. Know where they are going and be there to check in with them when they get home. And never provide alcohol to anyone under 21; it's against the law.

# For kids over 21, talk to them about responsible drinking and the dangers of drinking till you are intoxicated when poor decisions are made about everything from driving to sexual activity. Reinforce the importance of identifying a designated driver before anyone starts drinking. Be sure they understand that it is illegal to buy liquor for anyone under 21 and that they can be criminally and civilly prosecuted if a problem occurs.

# For all kids, let them know that if they encounter a problem and can't get home safely, then you are always willing to come get them. Traffic crashes are the number one killer of teens and over one third of teen traffic deaths are alcohol related. Be a positive role model in your own use of alcohol. Kids listen to what you say but they also are influenced strongly by how you behave.

To help bring awareness to this problem, the beFREE! Project held a Sticker Shock campaign this past Wednesday in two retail stores, Colella's Supermarket and Hopkinton Wine and Spirits. BeFREE! youth with adult chaperones placed stickers on multi-packs of beer, wine coolers, and other alcoholic beverages that appeal to young drinkers. The stickers read "Hey You!! It is illegal to provide alcohol to people under 21!" Preventing underage drinking is everyone's responsibility and we need to work together to reduce underage access to alcohol and to teach young adults over 21 how to drink responsibly, if they choose to drink.

Studies show that talking to your kids about alcohol does make a difference in their behavior. So take a few minutes before this holiday to let your kids know your expectations, even if you have said it before. They need a reminder!
SOURCE: MetroWest Daily News


Genetic Trait Linked to Alcoholism

Variations in the genetic makeup of alcoholics may affect how much they drink, a new study suggests. And the key might be the brain's control of serotonin, a mood-influencing neurological chemical.

The research could potentially help doctors understand who might be at highest risk of becoming an alcoholic, and then treat that person, said study co-author Ming D. Li, head of neurobiology at the University of Virginia.

Li added that the research is unique, because it shows that a single gene variation is connected to a kind of behavior -- alcoholism.

The genetic blueprint that people inherit from their parents accounts for an estimated 40 percent to 50 percent of a person's risk of becoming alcoholic, said Dr. Robert Philibert, director of the Laboratory of Psychiatric Genetics at the University of Iowa.

The interplay between genetic makeup and environmental factors is responsible for the rest of the risk, said Philibert, who's familiar with the new study's findings.

"This study really takes the next step down the line," he said, in understanding the role that genes play in alcoholism.

For the study, the researchers looked at the DNA of 275 alcoholics who had sought treatment. Almost 80 percent were men, and all were of European descent. The researchers found that differences in the genes that affect serotonin levels in the brain coincided with the amount of alcohol consumed by the drinkers.

The findings were published online Nov. 20 and were expected to be in the February 2009 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Scientists think serotonin, a neurotransmitter, is crucial to human moods and emotions as well as things like sleep. Low levels of serotonin can lead to depression; some antidepressants aim to help the brain do a better job of processing serotonin.

"We know that serotonin is critical to maintaining a positive sense of self and for controlling our anxiety," Philibert said. That could explain a possible connection between serotonin levels and alcoholism, he added.

Li cautioned, however, that it's unlikely that a single genetic trait by itself would make someone more susceptible to alcoholism. It's more likely that a genetic variation works with other genes to raise the risk, he said.

Philibert said research might lead to a day when doctors could look at an alcoholic's genetic traits and discover whether antidepressants could help that person.
source: U.S.News & World Report


Grants to help tackle binge drinking

Nineteen communities across Australia will share $3.6 million from the federal government to tackle binge drinking.

The first round of community grants to fight excessive drinking was part of a $53 million government initiative, Health Minister Nicola Roxon said on Monday.

The grants went to grassroots projects including programs that offered alternative activities to pubs, a safe party initiative and a post-formal mystery tour for high school students.

"We in the Rudd government do understand that binge drinking is a problem," Ms Roxon said.

Ms Roxon said 10 per cent of 12-17 year olds were binge drinking every week.

The number of young women aged 18-24 who were hospitalised because of alcohol had doubled in the last eight years, and more than 750,000 Australians were physically abused last year by people under the influence.

"Not only does it hurt our society it hurts the economy as well," Ms Roxon said, adding the social cost of alcohol misuse was estimated at $15 billion each year.

Labor has committed $14.4 million to grassroots grants, as well as $19 million for early intervention and $20 million for an advertising campaign.

Ms Roxon said the states needed to agree on rules for the responsible service of alcohol and pub and hotel lockouts.

"There are different rules that apply across the states and territories," she said.

"We believe this is a national problem and the community would be better served by there being national consistency.

"But that involves health ministers and police ministers, it involves each jurisdiction, (and) some are very wedded to theirs being the most successful one, others want to see the evidence that's coming in from the different states and territories that have been trialling their lockouts," she said.
source: The Age


Study: Drinking alcohol shrinks brain size

A recent study shows that alcohol consumption, even in moderation, might shrink brain size.

The study, conducted by Carol Ann Paul at the Boston University School of Public Heath, tested 1,839 people ranging in age from 33 to 88. The participants were asked how much they drank per week and underwent an MRI procedure to measure their brain volume.

Results show a 1.5 percent difference in the total brain volume of a non-drinker to that of a heavy drinker. Heavy drinkers were defined as those who consumed 14 or more drinks a week.

Moderate drinking, which includes the amounts that have been shown to prevent heart disease, also resulted in a smaller brain volume than that of a non-drinker.

"There was a significant negative linear relationship between alcohol consumption and total cerebral brain volume," the authors of the study wrote.

"I don't think it is going to change [what I do]," said Bryant Kubik, a junior in communications. "As you get older, your brain capacity is going to shrink anyway."

Research shows that as people age, the brain sees a small amount of natural brain shrinkage, about 2 percent for every 10 years, but greater amounts of shrinkage in certain areas of the brain have been linked to diseases such as dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Kubik said he was not surprised by the results of the study. "If you drink a case of Natty Light a day, you're probably not going to be doing too good," he said.

Kubik and Ben Fox, a senior in theater, agreed that this information was not going to have much of an effect on college life.

"In a college atmosphere they're still going to do what they do," Fox said. "They'll still party and jump in Mirror Lake on Michigan Week and I'll probably be one of them."

Seventy-one percent of OSU students drink once a week or less, according to statistics from the Student Wellness Center.

Participants in the study reported low overall alcohol consumption and that men were more likely to be moderate or heavy drinkers than women.

Despite men being more likely to drink, the association between drinking and brain shrinkage was stronger among women.

The findings are published in the October issue of Archives of Neurology.
source: http://www.thelantern.com


Alcohol still the curse of the Cape

Alcohol is by far the most widely abused substance in the province and also accounts for 57 percent of road accidents, far higher than the rest of the country.

These figures were part of a collaborative report by the Medical Research Council, the Humans Sciences Research Council, and the University of Cape Town on substance abuse trends in the Western Cape, which reviewed studies conducted since 2000.

Professor Charles Parry of the MRC said Friday urgent intervention was needed to curb the misuse of alcohol.

"We need to counter advertising by the industry. Alcohol ads have to be restricted to late night when children are not watching TV, there must be signage at the point of sale on the harm caused by abusing alcohol, communities need to enforce the closure times of outlets in their areas, including shebeens, and there should be an absolute ban on novice drivers drinking and driving for at least three years."

Parry said the trauma units should steer drunken patients to intervention programmes.

He also wants to see the establishment of an alcohol health promotion foundation, to be funded by the liquor industry.

It could send messages on the harmful effects of alcohol misuse, offer alternative enterprises to shebeen owners, and run intervention programmes in communities.

The collaborative report was presented recently at a substance-abuse conference hosted in Cape Town by the provincial departments of health and social development.

It showed that alcohol remained a significant substance of abuse in the province but was not often a key focal point for prevention and treatment services.

This was despite the fact that alcohol abuse placed a tremendous burden on the health and social welfare sectors in both urban and rural areas.

Studies, including an HSRC household survey, pointed to higher levels of problem drinking among coloured communities. The research council said 18 percent of coloureds abuse alcohol compared to 11 percent of blacks, 7 percent of whites and 1 percent of Indians.

Cape Town has more alcohol-related violent deaths than other metros in the country, according to the latest National Injury Mortality Surveillance System report. Drunkenness was responsible for 59 percent of violent deaths in the city, compared to 47 percent of violent deaths in Durban and Johannesburg, and 51 percent in Pretoria.

Cape Town also has the dubious distinction of being the city with the highest number of alcohol-related road deaths. A staggering 59 percent of road accidents were due to alcohol, compared to 47 percent of road deaths in both Durban and Pretoria.

According to the report, alcohol use is also strongly associated with risky sexual risk behaviour. The outcomes of studies conducted on HIV prevalence, substance abuse and associated high-risk practices over the past eight years, all echo the same concerns: the need for interventions to address the growing substance abuse problem and its links to risky sexual behaviour.

The report says there are not enough treatment centres for women, blacks, rural dwellers and poor people.

"With increasing pressure to treat young methamphetamine-using clients, it is highly likely that access to treatment for older alcohol-dependent persons has become increasingly difficult in the Western Cape," the reports says.

The Demographic and Health Survey reported that binge drinking at weekends was higher among women than men, but 25 percent of men and 6 percent of women in the Western Cape consumed alcohol in a "hazardous or harmful manner".

The Western Cape has one of the highest rates of foetal alcohol syndrome in the world.

source: Saturday Argus


Alcohol Abuse Can Damage Bones

Alcohol disrupts genes needed to maintain healthy bones, which can lead to a decrease in bone mass and bone strength, a new study says.

In previous research, the study authors, from Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine in Chicago, showed that giving rats large amounts of alcohol caused significant decreases in bone density and bone strength, but the mechanisms responsible for these effects weren't clear.

In this new study, rats were injected with an amount of alcohol equivalent to binge drinking for three days or chronic alcohol abuse for four weeks in humans. When they examined genes responsible for bone health, the researchers found that alcohol affected the amounts of RNA associated with these genes. RNA acts as the template for making proteins, the building blocks of bones and other tissue.

Alcohol increased the amount of RNA associated with some genes and decreased the amount of RNA associated with other genes. These changes in RNA disrupted two molecular pathways -- the Wnt signaling pathway and the Intergrin signaling pathway -- responsible for normal bone metabolism and bone mass maintenance, the researchers said.

The findings, published recently in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, could help in the development of new drugs to minimize bone loss in people who abuse alcohol. Such drugs also might help people at risk for osteoporosis.

"Of course, the best way to prevent alcohol-induced bone loss is to not drink or to drink moderately. But when prevention doesn't work, we need other strategies to limit the damage," study co-author and bone biologist John Callaci, as assistant professor in the department of orthopedic surgery and rehabilitation, said in a Loyola news release.
source: Health Day News


Nurse-led alcohol service praised for cutting costs through better care

An alcohol specialist nurse service has been praised by the government's financial watchdog for making significant cost savings through improvements in care.

The Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen and University Hospitals Trust's specialist nurse service was singled out by the National Audit Office in a report calling for improvements to alcohol services.

Under the Liverpool initiative, patients identified by either a nurse or doctor as having an alcohol-related problem are referred to the ASN service.

They are then screened with a special questionnaire and given advice where appropriate.

The alcohol specialist nurse can also liaise with other medical staff, prescribe medication for acute alcohol withdrawal and develop follow-up pathways so patients can be managed in primary care.

Originally set up in 2004, the service has expanded to include four nurses, one funded by the hospital, with the others funded by Liverpool PCT.

The ASN service has reduced average alcohol consumption in patients treated, reduced re-admission and saved £175,000 in a 20-month period through earlier discharges.

Lynn Owens, nurse consultant at the PCT and one of the nurses who runs the service, said similar clinics could help other hospitals save money and improve patient care.

She told NT: 'It reduces the necessity to stay in hospital when patients come in with other co-morbidities and conditions. We are also better able to treat them in their own homes.

'There is no waiting list, [patients] get treatment when they need it, with dignity and compassion,' she added.

The NAO's report, Reducing Alcohol Harm: Health Services in England, surveyed all PCTs in the country and found that one-quarter had not fully assessed alcohol problems in their areas. It also found that 42% had no alcohol strategy and 31% could not provide details of expenditure on alcohol services.

'There is scope to secure better value for money from PCT expenditure on alcohol services, which is not usually based on a clear picture of need,' the report concluded.
source: Nursing Times


Drinking goes back and forth

There’s a common misconception about alcoholism that an alcoholic is one who can’t stop drinking once he or she starts.

This is false.

Alcoholics can stop drinking; they do it all the time. Alcoholics are people whose illness creates a mental environment that justifies starting again. The starting and stopping makes the drinker believe he can stop at will.

A guy we’ll call Don showed up recently to talk about his anger and anxiety. There was no question that Don was anxious, but did he have an anxiety disorder? They are two very different things.

His position was that he only had a drinking “issue” when he had too much stress or when unfortunate circumstances conspired to cause him emotional pain. He maintained that when the stress subsided, his drinking decreased and so, it became a non-issue. He was, incidentally, referred for smelling like alcohol at work and as it turned out, had been warned several times before.

What Don and his anger management and anxiety counselor didn’t adequately understand was that Don’s drinking had helped to create the very circumstances he became angry and anxious about and that he categorized as “stress.”

Periodically, Don couldn’t keep up with his body’s demand for more alcohol and would quit, cold-turkey, albeit not without several days of shaky hands, sleepless nights and sweaty palms.

Usually, within a week of “quitting,” Don’s disease convinced him he was healthy enough to “handle it this time,” and the cycle would continue. The only change was that the drinking increased and the consequences became more severe.

Don’s story is considerably more common than many of us are aware. Thanks to Don’s employer, he’ll start getting the help that he needs and maybe this time it really can be different.
source: Illinois Northwest Herald