To support the free and open dissemination of research findings and information on alcoholism and alcohol-related problems. To encourage open access to peer-reviewed articles free for all to view.

For full versions of posted research articles readers are encouraged to email requests for "electronic reprints" (text file, PDF files, FAX copies) to the corresponding or lead author, who is highlighted in the posting.


Saturday, July 28, 2012

Alcohol Policy 16 - Building Blocks for Sound Alcohol Policies

Wednesday - Friday
April 3-5, 2013

Renaissance Arlington Capital View Hotel
Washington DC USA

This 16th conference in the Alcohol Policy series will explore progress in advancing sound alcohol policies at the local, regional, national, and international levels. Since 1981, when the first in this series of alcohol policy conferences took place, experiences in alcohol policy research, development, implementation, enforcement, and evaluation at all four levels have acted as building blocks to identify and promote evidence-based strategies, and to bring focus to the need for alcohol policy reform. The 2010 Alcohol Policy 15 conference stimulated renewed interest in alcohol policy, resulting in a number of regional alcohol policy conferences across the country. > > > > Read More

Friday, July 27, 2012

Statistical models for longitudinal zero-inflated count data with applications to the substance abuse field

This study fills in the current knowledge gaps in statistical analysis of longitudinal zero-inflated count data by providing a comprehensive review and comparison of the hurdle and zero-inflated Poisson models in terms of the conceptual framework, computational advantage, and performance under different real data situations.

The design of simulations represents the special features of a well-known longitudinal study of alcoholism
so that the results can be generalizable to the substance abuse field.

When the hurdle model is more natural under the conceptual framework of the data, the zero-inflated Poisson model tends to produce inaccurate estimates.

Model performance improves with larger sample sizes, lower proportions of missing data, and lower correlations between covariates. The simulation also shows that the computational strength of the hurdle model disappears when random effects are included.

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Penalized likelihood estimation for semiparametric mixed models, with application to alcohol treatment research

In this article, we implement a practical computational method for various semiparametric mixed effects models, estimating nonlinear functions by penalized splines.

We approximate the integration of the penalized likelihood with respect to random effects with the use of adaptive Gaussian quadrature, which we can conveniently implement in SAS procedure NLMIXED.
We carry out the selection of smoothing parameters through approximated generalized cross-validation scores.

Our method has two advantages: (1) the estimation is more accurate than the current available quasi-likelihood method for sparse data, for example, binary data; and (2) it can be used in fitting more sophisticated models.

We show the performance of our approach in simulation studies with longitudinal outcomes from three settings: binary, normal data after Box–Cox transformation, and count data with log-Gamma random effects.

We also develop an estimation method for a longitudinal two-part nonparametric random effects model and apply it to analyze repeated measures of semicontinuous daily drinking records in a randomized controlled trial of topiramate.

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Detecting Substance Use Problems Before Addiction Develops

Preventing the development of substance use disorders is fundamental to the Obama Administration’s approach to drug policy. If problematic substance use can be detected, interrupted, and treated before it reaches the “tipping point” to become a serious health problem, then the consequences of substance dependence can be avoided. By intervening early, we can reduce the harmful consequences of substance use.

This common-sense approach is the principle behind Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT), an innovative program supported by grants from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).The goal of the program is to deliver early intervention and treatment services in traditional healthcare settings to people with, or at risk of developing, substance use disorders.

With today’s announcement of $22 million in new SAMHSA funding to expand the program, the promise of SBIRT to prevent substance use disorders moved closer to reality for many Americans. The awards went to three states – New Jersey, Arizona, and Iowa – each of which will receive up to $7.5 million for as many as 5 years to implement SBIRT. > > > > Read More

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Posttreatment Low-Risk Drinking as a Predictor of Future Drinking and Problem Outcomes Among Individuals with Alcohol Use Disorders

Treatment for alcohol disorders has traditionally been abstinence-oriented, but evaluating the merits of a low-risk drinking outcome as part of a primary treatment endpoint is a timely issue given new pertinent regulatory guidelines. This study explores a posttreatment low-risk drinking outcome as a predictor of future drinking and problem severity outcomes among individuals with alcohol use disorders in a large private, not for profit, integrated care health plan.

Study participants include adults with alcohol use disorders at 6 months (N = 995) from 2 large randomized studies. Logistic regression models were used to explore the relationship between past 30-day drinker status at 6 months posttreatment (abstinent [66%], low-risk drinking [14%] defined as nonabstinence and no days of 5+ drinking, and heavy drinking [20%] defined as 1 or more days of 5+ drinking) and 12-month outcomes, including drinking status and Addiction Severity Index measures of medical, psychiatric, family/social, and employment severity, controlling for baseline covariates.

Compared to heavy drinkers, abstinent individuals and low-risk drinkers at 6 months were more likely to be abstinent or low-risk drinkers at 12 months (adj. ORs = 16.7 and 3.4, respectively; p < 0.0001); though, the benefit of abstinence was much greater than that of low-risk drinking. Compared to heavy drinkers, abstinent and low-risk drinkers were similarly associated with lower 12-month psychiatric severity (adj. ORs = 1.8 and 2.2, respectively, p < 0.01) and family/social problem severity (adj. OR = 2.2; p < 0.01). While abstinent individuals had lower 12-month employment severity than heavy drinkers (adj. OR = 1.9; p < 0.01), low-risk drinkers did not differ from heavy drinkers. The drinking groups did not differ on 12-month medical problem severity.

Compared to heavy drinkers, low-risk drinkers did as well as abstinent individuals for many of the outcomes important to health and addiction policy. Thus, an endpoint that allows low-risk drinking may be tenable for individuals undergoing alcohol specialty treatment.

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California - Health Profiles 2009

Need a quick health statistic on your county? Click on the links below to get printable, easy-to-use "Health Profiles" of the most common health statistics for adults, children and teenagers in all of California's counties, as well as a "Statewide Health Profile," examining 10 year trends in health throughout California. > > > > Read More

Includes binge drinking defined as consuming four or more alcoholic drinks on one or more occasion for women and five or more drinks on one or more occasion for men at any point in the last year

Antisocial Symptoms Decrease to Normal Levels in Long-Term Abstinence

We have previously shown highly elevated antisocial symptoms and measures of social deviance proneness and antisocial disposition in long-term abstinent alcohol dependence versus non-substance-abusing controls (NSAC). Current antisocial symptoms were reduced to subdiagnostic levels in long-term abstinence; however, the number of current symptoms was not measured beyond its being subdiagnostic.

Here we measured social deviance proneness, antisocial disposition, and both lifetime and current antisocial symptoms in short-term and long-term abstinent substance-dependent and NSAC samples.

Lifetime antisocial symptoms (and diagnoses) and social deviance proneness and antisocial disposition were highly elevated in both short- and long-term abstinence, replicating earlier findings. Current antisocial symptoms were dramatically reduced in long-term versus short-term abstinent samples, close to levels in controls. In contrast, social deviance proneness and antisocial disposition remain highly elevated in long-term abstinence.

These findings suggest that antisocial behavior is reduced in extended abstinence, despite continued elevated social deviance proneness an antisocial disposition. This suggests a top-down model in extended abstinence, whereby executive control inhibits deviance-prone tendencies.

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ndividual Differences in Voluntary Ethanol Consumption Lead to Differential Activation of the Central Amygdala in Rats: Relationship to the Anxiolytic

Although alcohol use disorders and anxiety disorders are highly comorbid, the relationship between these 2 disorders is not fully understood. Previous work from our laboratory shows that anxiety-like behavior is highly variable in outbred Long-Evans rats and is related to the level of voluntary ethanol (EtOH) consumption, suggesting that basal anxiety state influences EtOH intake. To further examine the relationship between the acquisition of EtOH consumption and anxiety phenotype, Long-Evans rats were assessed for anxiety-like behavior and neuronal activation following voluntary EtOH consumption in a limited access drinking paradigm.

Rats were allowed to self-administer EtOH (6% v/v) for 4 days using a limited access drinking in the dark paradigm and divided into high- and low-drinking groups based on a median split of average daily EtOH intake. Immediately following the fourth drinking session, animals were tested on the elevated plus maze and evaluated for anxiety-like behaviors. Fos immunoreactivity was assessed in the central and basolateral amygdala, as well as the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis.

High EtOH drinkers spent significantly more time on the open arms of the plus maze than low EtOH drinkers. High EtOH drinkers also had increased locomotor activity as compared to both low EtOH drinkers and water drinkers. Fos immunoreactivity was positively correlated with EtOH consumption in all brain regions examined, although Fos-positive cell counts were only significantly different between high and low EtOH drinkers in the central amygdala (CeA).

Our findings demonstrate that outbred rats will voluntarily consume behaviorally effective doses of EtOH in a short-term access model and EtOH consumption is positively correlated with increased neuronal activation in the CeA.

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A Meta-Analysis on the Impact of Alcohol Dependence on Short-Term Resting-State Heart Rate Variability: Implications for Cardiovascular Risk

Alcohol dependence is associated with an increased likelihood of cardiac events. Reductions in heart rate variability (HRV) may be one mechanism linking dependence with these events. HRV may also be related to poor social functioning and the lack of impulse control commonly observed in alcohol-dependent individuals. However, prior studies on the impact of alcohol dependence on HRV have reported contradictory findings highlighting the need for a meta-analysis.

Studies comparing short-term HRV in alcohol-dependent populations and healthy controls who were nondependent were considered for meta-analysis. Only studies reporting findings from participants without cardiovascular disease were included in the analysis.

Meta-analyses were based on 6 articles that fulfilled inclusion criteria, comprising a total of 177 alcohol-dependent participants and 216 nondependent participants. Alcohol-dependent participants displayed reduced HRV (Hedges' g = −0.6, p > 0.001) in comparison with nondependent participants. No differences were observed between the summary effect sizes obtained from different HRV domains (Q = 1.19,p = 0.55).

Alcohol dependence is associated with reduced HRV, an effect associated with a medium effect size. Findings highlight the importance of monitoring alcohol-dependent patients for cardiac disease and emphasize the need for cardiovascular risk reduction strategies in these patients.

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Commentary on Fitzpatrick and Colleagues (2012): Forecasting the Effect of the Amethyst Initiative on College Drinking

There is considerable evidence that heavy episodic drinking (HED) is a serious problem among college students. Concern with this problem has led 135 college presidents to endorse the Amethyst Initiative, which promotes the lowering of the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA) from 21 to 18. The Amethyst Initiative claims that the current MLDA of 21 encourages underage college students to drink in unsupervised locations where they adopt misconceptions regarding the normative level of student drinking that leads to excessive consumption or HED. The study by Fitzpatrick and colleagues (2012) in this issue challenges this hypothesis by contrasting the potential reduction in misapprehension of the drinking norm against the increase in consumption that would be expected if the MLDA was lowered to 18.

This commentary places the Fitzpatrick study within the larger context of the MLDA, noting that full consideration of the lowering the MLDA requires the inclusion of 18- to 20-year-old noncollege youths in the work force and 15- to 17-year-old high school students who will have increased access to alcohol through their 18-year-old peers.

Research suggests that alcohol consumption and its associated problems will increase for 15- to 20-year-olds if the MLDA was lowered. This commentary also identifies alternative strategies for reducing college student HED that do not require lowering the MLDA.

Although college binge drinking is a significant problem, reducing the drinking age is unlikely to be effective. Instead, it will increase the risk of alcohol problems faced by even younger high school students.

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News Release - Colleges and communities can reduce alcohol-related harm to students

Coordinated strategies that address alcohol availability, alcohol policy enforcement and drinking norms can help colleges and their communities protect students from the harms of high-risk drinking, according to a new study supported by the National Institutes of Health.

In the Study to Prevent Alcohol Related Consequences (SPARC), researchers found that a comprehensive environmental intervention implemented by campus-community coalitions reduced students’ scores on an index of severe consequences of college drinking. The index included items such as car accidents, DUIs/DWIs, the need for medical treatment as a result of drinking, physical fights and sexual assaults.

Benefits of the intervention extended campus-wide, affecting not only the drinkers themselves but also those around them. Alcohol-related injuries caused by students decreased by 50 percent on participating campuses. > > > > Read More

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dopamine, Corticostriatal Connectivity, and Intertemporal Choice

Value-based decisions optimize behavioral outcomes. Because delayed rewards are discounted, an increased tendency to choose smaller, immediate rewards can lead to suboptimal choice.

Steep discounting of delayed rewards (impulsivity) characterizes subjects with frontal lobe damage and behavioral disorders including
substance abuse.

Correspondingly, animal studies and indirect evidence in humans suggest that lower dopamine in the frontal cortex contributes to steeper discounting by impairing corticostriatal function.

To test this hypothesis directly, we performed a randomized, double-blind, counterbalanced, placebo-controlled study in which we administered the brain penetrant catechol-O-methyltransferase inhibitor tolcapone or placebo to healthy subjects performing a delay discounting task.

Tolcapone significantly increased choice of delayed monetary rewards, and this tolcapone-induced increase covaried with increased BOLD activity in the left ventral putamen and anterior insula. Tolcapone also changed corticostriatal connectivity: specifically, by inducing a decrease in the coherence between ventral putamen and pregenual cingulate cortex.

These results indicate that raising cortical dopamine levels attenuates impulsive choice by changing corticostriatal function.

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Association of risky alcohol consumption and accreditation in the ‘Good Sports’ alcohol management programme

Involvement in community sports clubs is often associated with high levels of risky alcohol consumption; however, developing prevention-focused interventions in these settings can be complex. We examined the association of reduced risky alcohol consumption with the implementation of the Good Sports Programme (GSP)—a programme that accredits clubs in three stages, on the basis of their implementation of alcohol-related harm reduction strategies.

Using a cross section of football and cricket clubs, consumption was compared between clubs accredited at level 1, 2 or 3 of the GSP and clubs not accredited (92 clubs; 1924 individuals). Drinking above Australian guidelines for short-term risk (more than four standard drinks) on the last playing day prior to the survey and drinking at the club over the last 12 months at average levels exceeding short- and long-term risk (more than two standard drinks) guidelines were also examined.

Multilevel modelling indicated that higher accreditation stage (0, 1, 2, 3) was associated with a 0.79 reduction in the odds of risky consumption on the playing day; a 0.85 reduction in the odds for short-term risky drinking, and a 0.86 reduction in long-term risky drinking.

The findings suggest that higher accreditation in the GSP is associated with reduced rates of risky alcohol use at a population level.

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Introducing a minimum unit price for alcohol in Scotland: considerations under European Law and the implications for European public health

Scotland has amongst the highest rates of alcohol-related harms in Western Europe and over the last three decades has observed an approximate 3-fold increase in alcohol-related mortality.

The Scottish Government has identified the affordability of alcohol as a key component for an effective strategy in addressing these harms. While increases in alcohol duty can be used to reduce affordability, responsibility for determining alcohol duty lies with the UK rather than Scottish Parliament so the introduction of a minimum unit price (MUP) is being considered as a more targeted alternative.

Its potential introduction raises a number of important legal considerations that bear relevance to future public health legislative measures across the European Union.

In this article, we outline some of the main considerations as illustrated by the case study of MUP in Scotland and discuss the implications for countries across Europe and other areas of public health policy.

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Social Factors Associated with Alcohol Consumption in the Former Soviet Union: A Systematic Review

Alcohol consumption is a major cause of premature mortality in countries of the former Soviet Union (fSU). Despite the unique social profile of the region, we could find no published systematic review of studies of social factors and alcohol consumption in formerly Soviet countries. We aim to critically review the current evidence for social factors associated with alcohol consumption in the fSU and to identify key gaps in the literature.

We searched MEDLINE, EMBASE and Global Health databases for cross-sectional, case–control, longitudinal or qualitative studies of demographic, socio-economic, psycho-social and contextual factors associated with alcohol consumption, in any language, published from 1991 until 16 December 2011. Additional studies were identified from the references of selected papers and expert consultation. Our review followed PRISMA guidelines for the reporting of systematic reviews.

Our search strategy resulted in 26 articles for review. Although there is strong evidence in the literature that males and smokers in the fSU are more likely to engage in hazardous alcohol consumption, findings regarding other social factors were mixed and there were almost no data on the association of contextual factors and alcohol consumption in this region.

This review highlights the extremely limited amount of evidence for social factors associated with heavy alcohol consumption in the fSU. Given the unique social environment of countries of the fSU, future research should take these factors into account in order to effectively address the high levels of alcohol-related mortality in this region.

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Association Between Frequency of Heavy Episodic Drinking and Self-reported Consequences: A Cross-sectional Study in a Swedish Population

To describe perceived negative consequences (PNCs) of alcohol consumption related to the frequency of heavy episodic drinking (HED) in a Swedish population attending primary health care (PHC).

Data from a computer-based assessment, including questions about alcohol consumption and PNC, were collected from 28 PHC centres in Sweden. The analysis included 4559 responders. Risk ratios concerning PNC for different frequencies of HED were calculated.

Engaging in HED once a month for women and two to three times a month for men significantly raised the proportion of individuals reporting PNC, compared with engaging in HED less than once a month. The men reported PNC of alcohol consumption to a higher degree than the women, and in general, the proportion of individuals reporting PNC was associated with the frequency of HED.

Engaging in HED once a month for women and two to three times a month for men are critical levels regarding PNC of alcohol consumption. To identify a cut-off value for categorizing individuals as hazardous alcohol consumers due to the frequency of HED, further studies are needed.

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Effects of Chronic Ethanol Consumption in Experimental Sepsis

To evaluate the effects of chronic ethanol consumption on the development and the pathophysiology of sepsis, using an experimental model of polymicrobial peritonitis by feces i.p. injection.

Forty-day-old male Wistar rats were divided into groups for two experiments: A and B. Experiment A was performed for determination of mortality rates, while experiment B was designed for biochemical analysis and measurement of cytokines before and after sepsis. In both the experiments, treated animals were exposed to a 10% ethanol solution as the single drinking source for 4 weeks, while untreated animals were exposed to tap water over the same period. Food was provided ad libitum. After this period, the animals underwent i.p. fecal injection for induction of sepsis.

Experiment A showed that higher doses of ethanol resulted in early mortality from sepsis that was correlated with the alcohol consumption (high dose = 85.7%, low dose = 14.3%, P = 0.027). In experiment B, cytokine analysis demonstrated important changes resulting from sepsis, which were further affected by ethanol exposure. In addition, glucose and creatinine levels decreased and increased, respectively, after sepsis, but a significant change occurred only in the ethanol group (P < 0.003 glucose, P < 0.01 creatinine). The levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines, interleukin-6 and tumor necrosis factor-α, increased after sepsis, but were less evident after ethanol exposure.

These differences may be the result of either early mortality or an increase in the severity of the septic process. Taking into account the high mortality rate and the extreme severity of sepsis after alcohol consumption, often encouraged by advertising, a caution should be given to patients with severe infections and a history of alcohol abuse.

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Drinkaware 'in:tuition' schools programme pilot update - an effective educational approach?

In 2011 Drinkaware launched an interactive life-skills programme in:tuition to support school-aged children, their teachers and parents.

The on-line resource was designed to support 9-14 year olds develop a range of skills to deal with responding to alcohol. It encourages young people to explore their attitudes, behaviour and decision-making by looking at issues such as peer pressure, self-confidence and goal setting. >: > > > Read More

Alcohol News - 30/2012

YLE News (Finland) - Seniors also get rowdy at summer events
The summer concert season has its fair share of rowdy conduct. Uncouth deportment by senior festival patrons often outstrips that of their younger counterparts.
The (Sweden) - Ikea uncaps new beer: no assembly required
Swedish furniture giant Ikea has released a new addition to its global product range - light and dark own-brand beer - though shoppers in Sweden will have to wait before they can have a taste due to the country's liquor laws.
The (Sweden) - Police told not to 'waste' bootleg booze
Police in western Sweden have been ordered to cease pouring seized alcoholic drinks down the drain due to the risk of poisoning the local water supply.
Businessweek - Alcohol Harms Thinking in Older Adults, Researchers Say
Certain types of alcohol use after age 65 may affect memory and thinking, according to two studies that raise new questions about earlier research that suggested drinking may stymie cognitive decline.
CBS News (USA) - 1 in 13 pregnant women drink alcohol, CDC says
Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of birth defects and developmental disabilities in children, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Wall Street Journal (South Korea) - No More Tolerance For Alcohol-fuelled Crime
A social consensus has been reached – finally – to change South Korea’s drinking culture. Hite-Jinro Group, the biggest maker of alcohol drinks with a 48% of market share, since last week has been labeling four kinds of soju and beer with a message that says, “No more drunken violence! Let’s improve wrong drinking culture.” (Scotland) - Alcohol ban on Scotland’s trains between 9pm and 10am comes into force
A ban on consuming alcohol on board Scotland’s trains in the mornings and evenings has come into force.
U.S. News & World Report - Alcohol Poses Serious Risks for Those With Diabetes
People who have certain chronic medical conditions, such as type 1 diabetes, are even more susceptible than most to the ill effects of alcohol, though they may not be aware of how potentially dangerous alcohol can be.
BBC News (UK) - Tougher alcohol marketing rules 'may be needed'
Tougher rules on alcohol marketing may be needed, including possibly a ban on sports sponsorship, MPs say.
Fife Today (Scotland) - Government to defend alcohol price
The Scottish Government will vigorously defend minimum pricing for alcohol against the legal challenge from the drinks industry, the Health Secretary has said.
BBC News (Scotland) - Quarter of intensive care patients 'have drink problem'
A quarter of patients who end up in intensive care in Scotland have drink problems, most with chronic alcohol disease, a survey has said.
Al-Arabiya (Egypt) - Alcohol strictly prohibited in Egypt’s 4 major Islamic holidays beyond Ramadan: minister
Egyptians won’t be able to purchase alcoholic beverages during the month of Ramadan as well as the four major Islamic holidays, an Egyptian daily reported on Sunday citing a new decision by the Tourism Minister.
ABC Online (Australia) - Alcohol Fuelled Violence - Dr. Anthony Lynham
I want to take you inside Monday morning in a major Brisbane hospital. This morning is normally the morning from hell. Alcohol fueled violence is on the increase, and it's putting a huge drain on our health system.
Men's Fitness - Even Moderate Alcohol Consumption Has Dementia Risk
A new study questions the benefits of alcohol for the brain, with even 7 to 14 drinks a week linked to symptoms of dementia in elderly.
Reuters (Russia) - Russian upper house backs alcohol advertising ban
Russia's upper house of parliament backed a bill banning Internet advertising of alcohol as part of the Russian government's drive to curb alcohol abuse in the country.
Irish Times (Ireland) - Alcohol action plan talks deferred
THE CABINET has deferred discussion on the Government’s action plan on alcohol until September amid disagreement between Fine Gael and Labour over how strong its measures should be.
Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) - Get tough on alcohol ads and labels: AMA
The federal government should finally crack down on alcohol advertising and require warning labels on booze after the bashing death of Thomas Kelly, the head of the Australian Medical Association says.
RedOrbit - Pregnant Women Continue To Drink Alcohol Despite The Risks
It has long been known that drinking alcohol during pregnancy can hinder fetal brain development, and now a government health survey has found that one in 13 women (7.6 percent) drink when they are carrying and some even go on binges, further risking the development of their unborn child.
Health policy solutions - Opinion: Any alcohol during pregnancy is a risk
Most pregnant women across the United States listen to and rely on sound medical advice from their doctors and other health experts when determining how to protect the health of their unborn babies. “Don’t drink during pregnancy” is a message based on evidence that resonates with most expectant mothers and contributes to the health of future generations.
The Guardian (UK) - NHS needs support from local authorities to tackle alcohol problems
The health select committee's report on the government's alcohol strategy rightly identified that the government should give more emphasis to the health impact of chronic alcohol misuse, which causes more than 6,000 deaths and costs the NHS over £3bn a year.
Independent Online (South Africa) - ‘Pupils use drugs and alcohol at 13’
Pupils in Gauteng high schools use drugs to enhance their performance. And the majority of pupils who abuse drugs are in Grade 12.
San Francisco Chronicle (USA) - DUI fatalities drop sharply after interlock law
Preliminary results show alcohol-related traffic fatalities dropped in the year since the state began requiring an ignition interlock for those convicted of drunken driving. (New Zealand) - Children with Foetal Alcohol more likely to end up in prison
The Health Select Committee should take seriously Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills concerns about the increase of children with Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders(FADS), says Kim Workman, Director of Rethinking Crime and Punishment. FASD is an umbrella term describing the range of effects that can occur in an individual prenatally exposed to alcohol.

WSU neuroscience researcher to receive Presidential award

Washington State University Department of Psychology neuroscience researcher Brendan Walker has been selected to receive the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE), which is the highest honor the federal government awards scientists and engineers who have recently initiated independent research careers.

Walker was selected for his work in developing new therapies for alcohol addiction. The Presidential Awards are intended to recognize and nurture some of the finest scientists and engineers who, while early in their research careers, show exceptional potential for leadership at the frontiers of scientific knowledge during the twenty-first century.

"This is a tremendous honor,” said Walker. "It is wonderful to see this area of research recognized for its importance at the highest levels.”

Walker’s goal is to develop new drug therapies that will support patient treatment compliance and long-term recovery by focusing on a neuropeptide in the brain known as dynorphin. This peptide is increased by long-term alcohol exposure and appears to produce many of the negative mood states that accompany alcohol withdrawal. By blocking this system, the depression and anxiety that occurs when someone tries to stop drinking alcohol can be reduced, while chances for full recovery are greatly enhanced. > > > > Read More

Research Project Information

Monday, July 23, 2012

Continuous Objective Monitoring of Alcohol Use: Twenty-First Century Measurement Using Transdermal Sensors

Transdermal alcohol sensors continuously collect reliable and valid data on alcohol consumption in vivo over the course of hours to weeks. Transdermal alcohol readings are highly correlated with breath alcohol measurements, but transdermal alcohol levels lag behind breath alcohol levels by one or more hours owing to the longer time required for alcohol to be expelled through perspiration. By providing objective information about alcohol consumption, transdermal alcohol sensors can validate self-report and provide important information not previously available.

In this article, we describe the development and evaluation of currently available transdermal alcohol sensors, present the strengths and limitations of the technology, and give examples of recent research using the sensors.

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Perceived Access to Reinforcers as a Function of Alcohol Consumption Among One First Nation Group

Spillane and Smith (2007, Psychol Bull 133:395–418) postulated that high levels of problem drinking in some First Nation (FN) communities resulted in part from the perception that there is low access to alternative reinforcers (e.g., jobs, friendships, family relationships, and financial security), that many alternative reinforcers are less contingent on sobriety, and that others are available regardless of drinking status for reserve-dwelling FN members.

This study examined perceptions of access to alternative reinforcers and the extent to which access varied as a function of drinking in 211 FN members living on 1 reserve in Canada, 138 middle socioeconomic status Caucasians (MCCs), and 98 low socioeconomic status Caucasians (LCCs).

The FN group expected less access to employment, quality family and friend relationships, and financial security compared with the MCC group. After controlling for perceived access in general, gender, and age, the FN group reported that drinking would not cause a decrease in access to employment, family relationships, friendships, and finances as compared to the MCC group. The FN group did not differ from the LCC group in the degree to which they expected drinking to cost access to family relationships or finances, but the LCC group expected drinking to have less of an impact on access to jobs and friendships as compared to the FN group.

The results provide initial support for the Spillane and Smith theory of problem drinking among this 1 FN group. The results suggest that increasing access to these reinforcers may reduce problematic drinking in this FN group.

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Age- and Ethanol Concentration-Dependent Effects of Acute Binge Drinking in the HIV-1 Transgenic Rat

Binge drinking is common in young people. Alcoholic beverages vary significantly in their ethanol (EtOH) concentration (alcohol by volume). We previously showed EtOH concentration-dependent activation of the hypothalamic supraoptic nucleus. In the HIV-infected population, incidence of alcohol abuse is close to 50%. We found age-dependent expression of HIV-1 viral proteins in the HIV-1 transgenic (HIV-1Tg) rat. Thus, we hypothesized that there are age- and EtOH concentration-dependent effects of binge drinking in HIV-1-positive individuals.

Blood ethanol concentration was measured in adult F344 rats after gavage (i.g.) administration of water, 20% EtOH, or 52% EtOH. We also compared expression of the HIV-1 viral protein Tat in the brain, spleen, and liver of adult and adolescent HIV-1Tg rats following binge i.g. administration of water, 20% EtOH, or 52% EtOH for 3 days (4.8 g/kg/d) using absolute quantitative real-time reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction. In a parallel study, we assessed age-dependent motor function in the HIV-1Tg rats 1 day after exposure to 20% EtOH using the open-field test.

Blood ethanol concentration was significantly higher in the 52% EtOH-treated F344 rats compared to the 20% EtOH animals at 90 minutes posttreatment. In the adult HIV-1Tg rats, HIV-1 Tat expression (copies per microgram of total RNA) was significantly increased in the brain, liver, and spleen of the 52% EtOH group, but not in the 20% EtOH group. However, in the adolescent animals, HIV-1 Tat expression in the 52% EtOH group was increased in the brain and liver, but not in the spleen. A significant reduction in locomotor activity occurred in 20% EtOH-treated adult HIV-1Tg rats compared to the water control, although no difference was observed in the adolescent HIV-1Tg animals.

Our data indicate that binge alcohol drinking can have age- and EtOH concentration-dependent effects in the presence of HIV-1 infection.

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Glutamatergic Input to the Lateral Hypothalamus Stimulates Ethanol Intake: Role of Orexin and Melanin-Concentrating Hormone

Glutamate (GLUT) in the lateral hypothalamus (LH) has been suggested to mediate reward behaviors and may promote the ingestion of drugs of abuse. This study tested the hypothesis that GLUT in the LH stimulates consumption of ethanol (EtOH) and that this effect occurs, in part, via its interaction with local peptides, hypocretin/orexin (OX), and melanin-concentrating hormone (MCH).

In Experiments 1 and 2, male Sprague-Dawley rats, after being trained to drink 9% EtOH, were microinjected in the LH with N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) or its antagonist, D-AP5, or with alpha-amino-5-methyl-3-hydroxy-4-isoxazole propionic acid (AMPA) or its antagonist, CNQX-ds. Consumption of EtOH, chow, and water was then measured. To provide an anatomical control, a separate set of rats was injected 2 mm dorsal to the LH. In Experiment 3, the effect of LH injection of NMDA and AMPA on the expression of OX and MCH was measured using radiolabeled in situ hybridization (ISH) and also using digoxigenin-labeled ISH, to distinguish effects on OX and MCH cells in the LH and the nearby perifornical area (PF) and zona incerta (ZI).

When injected into the LH, NMDA and AMPA both significantly increased EtOH intake while having no effect on chow or water intake. The GLUT receptor antagonists had the opposite effect, significantly reducing EtOH consumption. No effects were observed with injections 2 mm dorsal to the LH. In addition to these behavioral effects, LH injection of NMDA significantly stimulated expression of OX in both the LH and PF while reducing MCH in the ZI, whereas AMPA increased OX only in the LH and had no effect on MCH.

Glutamatergic inputs to the LH, acting through NMDA and AMPA receptors, appear to have a stimulatory effect on EtOH consumption, mediated in part by increased OX in LH and PF and reduced MCH in ZI.

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