alcohol Addiction Web

alcohol Addiction Web

promoting alcohol harm reduction


“Drinking Mindfully During The Holidays” – Guide

Christmas and New Year’s Eve are arriving so we have created a guide to help you drink and act more safely during these festive times.

Important alcohol rules to live by, indefinitely: never serve alcohol to minors, never drink and drive, and never let anyone drink and drive. This will cost you money, your reputation, and even your job and life.

1. Eat some food and drink water before you start consuming alcohol. Take an aspirin if needed.
2. Drink slowly and mindfully.
3. Stick to one type of alcoholic drink: beer, wine, or liquor. Do not mix.
4. Do not feel pressure to drink or drink too much. Also, do not push alcohol onto others.
5. Leave the festivities at a decent time versus 2AM in the morning.
6. Think about the New Year and all its possibilities.
7. Think about the headache you will have the next day: do you really want to bring in the new year that way?
It has always perplexed me how people like to get drunk on New Year’s Eve (NYE) — how is this a good way to start a new year? Maybe do it the evening before NYE and enjoy NYE and January 1 for a change.
8. Always have a designed driver who has not been drinking and make sure he or she is available for you. Determine this before you start drinking alcohol.



Alcohol releases the beast within

Often, research findings reflect the scientist’s and the public’s expectations.  Sometimes, they come close.  Other times, research results simply astound everyon and this might be the case with this alcohol and spirituality research.

Alcohol releases the beast within—that animal and instinctual part within us.

What one resists, persists.

Case in point is the recent research of Professor Peter R. Giancola of the psychology department of the University of Kentucky College of Arts and Sciences. He, and his former graduate student, Aaron Duke, have found an unexpected relation between spiritual beliefs, violence and alcohol consumption.

“Oversimplifying — in many cases the more religious someone is, the more aggressive they will become after drinking alcohol,” Giancola said.

The researcher defined religiosity as someone who “finds meaning in the sacred,” regardless of the doctrine they follow.

Pointing out that his findings are preliminary and require more study, Giancola said that he was originally trying to create a profile of risk factors to predict alcohol-related violence.

This preliminary study contained 520 subjects ranging in age from 21-35 from the Lexington and Central Kentucky region. After determining each individual’s degree of spiritual belief, subjects received an alcohol or non-alcohol beverage.

As would be expected, results of the study indicated that violence decreased as spirituality increased in persons who received the non-alcohol beverage. However, quite unexpectedly, violence actually increased as spirituality increased in persons who received the alcohol beverage.

These counter-intuitive findings clearly require replication, Giancola said, however, they indicate that alcohol “releases the beast within” in highly spiritual persons, though the reasons for this still remain unknown.


Energy drinks plus alcohol poses higher risk of using more alcohol on same occasion

Published in the current issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health, the study was conducted by Megan Patrick of the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research and Jennifer Maggs of Penn State University.

“We found that college students tended to drink more heavily and become more intoxicated on days they used both energy drinks and alcohol, compared to days they only used alcohol,” said Patrick, lead author of the study.

While the U.S. no longer permits manufacturers to premix high-caffeine products with alcohol, mixed drinks such as vodka Red Bulls and Jäger bombs, made by dropping a shot of Jägermeister liquor into a glass of Red Bull, are becoming increasingly popular.

According to the researchers, the public health implications include not only physical risks to individuals from blacking out and alcohol poisoning, for example, but also exposing the community to dangerous situations in which young adults may be “wide awake drunk” after a night of partying.

Patrick and Maggs analyzed data on 652 college students over a period of four semesters. During four two-week periods, the students answered questions every day about their consumption of energy drinks and alcohol, and about any negative consequences they experienced as a result — from having a hangover to getting into trouble.

“Our findings suggest that the use of energy drinks and alcohol together may lead to heavier drinking and more serious alcohol-related problems,” Patrick said. “As energy drinks become more and more popular, we should think about prevention strategies for reducing the negative consequences of using energy drinks and of combining energy drinks with alcohol.”


Patrick, M. E., Maggs, J. L. (2013). Energy Drinks and Alcohol: Links to Alcohol Behaviors and Consequences Across 56 Days. Journal of Adolescent Health. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2013.09.013


Driving under the influence of alcohol

Getting caught driving while intoxicated, drunk, you name it, will cost you a lot of money.  We are talking about anywhere from $9000 to $20,000 (in some states).  It will also cost you a lot of time, effort, and sometimes friends, a job, or a way of living.  Of course, when you are driving drunk you are not thinking straight.  Most of the time other drivers can see you driving unstably and some of those drivers are cops.  The thing too is that you are probably overdoing certain driving tasks (leaving your indicator light on too long, and so on).  The best decision you can make is to decide beforehand how you will get home.  You must do this in order to 1) avoid jail, 2) harm yourself and others, 3) avoid huge expenses.  You will have to plan this before you touch a drink.  If you do not do this it will be late.   Your judgment is almost immediately impaired as far as making good decisions.


Are you really an alcoholic self test

Are you wondering if you have an addiction to alcohol?

Are you concerned about the role alcohol plays in your life?  With 26 questions, this simple self-test is intended to help you determine if you or someone you know needs to find out more about alcoholism.

Directions:  The questions below are part of a self-test to help your review the role that alcohol plays in your life.

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD) Self-Test (Click Here)

Carefully read each statement. When preparing each response, take into consideration your actions over the course of the past 12 months.

Yes or No: Decide whether your answer is YES or NO and then check the appropriate space. Please be sure to answer every question.


Phone app helps support recovery after treatment for alcoholism

A smartphone application appears to help patients with alcohol use disorder (AUD) reduce risky drinking days compared to patients who received usual care after leaving treatment in a residential program. Alcohol dependence is a lifetime psychiatric diagnosis with relapse rates similar to other chronic illnesses. Continuing care for AUDs has been associated with better outcomes, but patients leaving treatment for AUDs typically are not offered aftercare.

Alcohol dependence is a lifetime psychiatric diagnosis with relapse rates similar to other chronic illnesses. Continuing care for AUDs has been associated with better outcomes, but patients leaving treatment for AUDs typically are not offered aftercare.

The authors randomized 349 patients with alcohol dependence leaving three residential programs to treatment as usual (n=179) for a year or treatment plus a smartphone (n=170) with the Addiction-Comprehensive Health Enhancement Support System (A-CHESS) application.

The application featured audio-guided relaxation and alerts if patients neared a high-risk location, such as a bar they used to frequent.  Patients who use the smartphone application report fewer risky drinking days.

Patients who used the smartphone application reported fewer risky drinking days (when a patient’s drinking in a two-hour period exceeded four standard drinks for men and three for women) compared with controls (an average 1.37 fewer risky drinking days in the smartphone application group). A standard drink is a 12-ounce beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits. Patients using the smartphone application also had a higher likelihood of consistent abstinence from alcohol.

“The promising results of this trial in continuing care for AUDs point to the possible value of a smartphone intervention for treating AUDs and perhaps other chronic illnesses.”

Reference: David H. Gustafson, Fiona M. McTavish, Ming-Yuan Chih, Amy K. Atwood, Roberta A. Johnson, Michael G. Boyle, Michael S. Levy, Hilary Driscoll, Steven M. Chisholm, Lisa Dillenburg, Andrew Isham, Dhavan Shah. A Smartphone Application to Support Recovery From AlcoholismJAMA Psychiatry, 2014; DOI: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2013.4642


Alcohol starts with an overcorrection in the brain

A trio of new studies show how the brain overcorrects to drugs and alcohol in a way that suppresses dopamine long-term, leading to withdrawal symptoms. “Addiction is a brain disease that could be treated like any other disease,” one researcher said. “I wouldn’t be as motivated to do this research, or as passionate about the work, if I didn’t think a cure was possible.”

The National Institutes of Health has turned to neuroscientists at the nation’s most “Stone Cold Sober” university for help finding ways to treat drug and alcohol addiction.

Brigham Young University professor Scott Steffensen and his collaborators have published three new scientific papers that detail the brain mechanisms involved with addictive substances. And the NIH thinks Steffensen’s on the right track, as evidenced by a $2-million grant that will help fund projects in his BYU lab for the next five years.

“Addiction is a brain disease that could be treated like any other disease,” Steffensen said. “I wouldn’t be as motivated to do this research, or as passionate about the work, if I didn’t think a cure was possible.”

Steffensen’s research suggests that the process of a brain becoming addicted is similar to a driver overcorrecting a vehicle. When drugs and alcohol release unnaturally high levels of dopamine in the brain’s pleasure system, oxidative stress occurs in the brain.

Steffensen and his collaborators have found that the brain responds by generating a protein called BDNF (brain derived neurotrophic factor). This correction suppresses the brain’s normal production of dopamine long after someone comes down from a high. Not having enough dopamine is what causes the pains, distress and anxiety of withdrawal.

“The body attempts to compensate for unnatural levels of dopamine, but a pathological process occurs,” Steffensen said. “We think it all centers around a subset of neurons that ordinarily put the brakes on dopamine release.”

A group of undergraduate students work in Steffensen’s lab along with post-doctoral fellows and graduate students. Jennifer Blanchard Mabey, a graduate student in neuroscience, co-authored a paper about withdrawal that is in the current issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

“It’s rewarding to see that your research efforts place another small piece in the enormous addiction puzzle,” said Mabey.

A separate study, co-authored by Steffensen and Ph.D. candidates Nathan Schilaty and David Hedges, explains how nicotine and alcohol interact in the brain.

“Addiction is a huge concern in our society and is very misunderstood,” Schilaty said. “Our research is helping us to formulate ideas on how we can better help these individuals through non-invasive and non-pharmacological means.”

Eun Young Jang, a post-doctoral fellow in Steffensen’s lab, authored a third paper forAddiction Biology describing the effects of cocaine addiction on the brain’s reward circuitry.

In these three research papers, dopamine is the common thread.

“I am optimistic that in the near future medical science will be able to reverse the brain changes in dopamine transmission that occur with drug dependence and return an ‘addict’ to a relatively normal state,” Steffensen said. “Then the addict will be in a better position to make rational decisions regarding their behavior and will be empowered to remain drug free.”

Reference: H. Vargas-Perez, A. Bahi, M. R. Bufalino, R. Ting-A-Kee, G. Maal-Bared, J. Lam, A. Fahmy, L. Clarke, J. K. Blanchard, B. R. Larsen, S. Steffensen, J.-L. Dreyer, D. van der Kooy. BDNF Signaling in the VTA Links the Drug-Dependent State to Drug Withdrawal AversionsJournal of Neuroscience, 2014; 34 (23): 7899 DOI:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3776-13.2014


Ten step approach to reducing the harms of alcohol

Much the same way individuals are encouraged to know their blood pressure and cholesterol numbers to maintain a healthy lifestyle, a new editorial in the Journal of Psychopharmacology urges the public to know and monitor their alcohol intake number using a simple 10 point plan.

Scientists Jürgen Rehm from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto, Canada, and David Nutt, Neuropsychopharmacologist from Imperial College London and Vice President of the European Brain Council, have created an integrated set of evidence-based strategies focusing on what individuals and governments can do to reduce the personal and public costs of alcohol.

“Alcohol is one of the leading causes of disease and disability in the UK and Europe, says Jürgen Rehm. “And the harm attributable to alcohol could be easily reduced.”

The first four points focus on personal health behavior. Nutt and Rehm suggest:

  • Monitoring alcohol intake = know your number. In much the same way you would know your blood pressure, cholesterol level or calorie intake.
  • Limiting consumption to 20 grams (about 2.5 drinks based on UK drink size, but less than 2 drinks in most other EU countries) per day for men and 15 (about 2 drinks in the UK and between 1 and 2 in other countries) grams per day for women.
  • Less is more. As with lower blood pressure and cholesterol, lower amounts of alcohol consumption lead to greater health and longevity.
  • Take a day off. Not drinking for one or two days a week can help the liver recover from the effects of alcohol and reduce the risk of liver complications.

The next six points focus on government intervention:

  • Minimum pricing of alcohol would reduce consumption of cheap alcohol, especially in young people.
  • Labeling the amount of alcohol grams, much like food labeling, would allow consumers to track the exact amount of alcohol they are consuming.
  • Limiting the times and places alcohol can be purchased will make impulse buying, particularly when drunk, much harder and make it easier for people with alcohol-use problems to avoid contact with alcohol in shops and supermarkets.
  • Providing treatment can provide significant health benefits to individuals and society and should be offered to all people with an alcohol dependence problem.
  • Investing in research can develop new approaches to addiction. Techniques using genetics and neuroimaging will optimize and build on current research. Pharmaceutical investment in alcohol treatments is minimal and should be revitalized by government incentives.
  • Developing alternatives to alcohol by investigating the possibility of new drugs that mimic the milder effects of alcohol. An alternative substance that could simulate relaxation without the negative side effects would reduce public health and social costs from alcohol-related damage.

“It is important to create a climate where the risks of alcohol are known, and where governments take their responsibility to reduce problems caused by alcohol,” says Nutt. “But our method also involves education and self-monitoring approaches of individuals that have already proven effective in relation to cholesterol and blood pressure. The combination of individual and societal approaches would likely have major beneficial impact on health effect and social harms due to alcohol, and reduce alcohol-attributable mortality especially in younger ages. The proposed approach would also reduce the stigma currently associated with alcohol use disorders and thus enable earlier and more interventions.”

Source: D. J. Nutt, J. Rehm. Doing it by numbers: A simple approach to reducing the harms of alcoholJournal of Psychopharmacology, 2014; 28 (1): 3. doi:10.1177/0269881113512038