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.


Friday, September 21, 2012

Glass Shape Influences Consumption Rate for Alcoholic Beverages

High levels of alcohol consumption and increases in heavy episodic drinking (binge drinking) are a growing public concern, due to their association with increased risk of personal and societal harm. Alcohol consumption has been shown to be sensitive to factors such as price and availability. The aim of this study was to explore the influence of glass shape on the rate of consumption of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

This was an experimental design with beverage (lager, soft drink), glass (straight, curved) and quantity (6 fl oz, 12 fl oz) as between-subjects factors. Social male and female alcohol consumers (n = 159) attended two experimental sessions, and were randomised to drink either lager or a soft drink from either a curved or straight-sided glass, and complete a computerised task identifying perceived midpoint of the two glasses (order counterbalanced). Ethical approval was granted by the Faculty of Science Research Ethics Committee at the University of Bristol. The primary outcome measures were total drinking time of an alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverage, and perceptual judgement of the half-way point of a straight and curved glass.

Participants were 60% slower to consume an alcoholic beverage from a straight glass compared to a curved glass. This effect was only observed for a full glass and not a half-full glass, and was not observed for a non-alcoholic beverage. Participants also misjudged the half-way point of a curved glass to a greater degree than that of a straight glass, and there was a trend towards a positive association between the degree of error and total drinking time.

Glass shape appears to influence the rate of drinking of alcoholic beverages. This may represent a modifiable target for public health interventions.

Read Full Article    (PDF)

Alcohol Industry Influence on Public Policy: A Case Study of Pricing and Promotions Policy in the UK

In the field of health policy, much attention has been paid to attempts by Transnational Tobacco Corporations (TTCs) to stymie regulation of their industry (Holden and Lee 2009). Relatively little research has been conducted on alcohol industry actors and their attempts to influence policies to reduce alcohol related harm. This is surprising given the rising burden of disease in many countries associated with harmful and hazardous levels of alcohol consumption. In the UK, increasing levels of alcohol consumption – and the associated harms – over recent decades have coincided with the increased availability and affordability of alcohol. There has been a trend away from consuming alcohol in licensed premises towards the purchase of cheaper alcohol from the off-sales sector for consumption at home (Foster and Ferguson 2012). In particular, significant volumes of alcohol are now sold through the ‘big four’ supermarkets, which wield significant political power (Seth and Randall 1999). On the production side, the UK alcohol market has become increasingly dominated by a small number of large, multi-national corporations (Jernigan 2009).

Alcohol policy under New Labour followed an agenda closely aligned with that advocated by alcohol industry actors (Cabinet Office 2004; Department of Health 2007). Policies targeted interventions on those sections of the public seen to be at greatest risk of harm, placing education, public information, health and treatment services, crime and disorder at the centre of the strategy. Particular emphasis was given to the role of the alcohol industry as a key partner in achieving policy goals through a system of voluntary self-regulation (see Portman Group 1996; Advertising Standards Agency et al. 2005).The thrust of this policy stands in stark contrast to the policy prescriptions advocated by public health researchers and campaigners , who favoured ‘whole population’ measures to restrict the availability and price of alcohol, which were supported by a significant evidence base (Babor et al. 2010).
> > > >  Read More

Global Actions September 20, 2012

Key Recent Milestones:

· China: ICAP President Marcus Grant and Senior Vice President Brett Bivans met with Global Actions partners in Beijing from government, health, industry associations, and sponsor companies to review achievements in the three initiatives being implemented in China and to discuss initial plans for continued activities in 2013.

Global Actions in Focus: Nigeria Alcohol Marketing Summit

The self-regulation summit “Management of the Potential Impact of Alcohol Beverage Marketing and Marketing Communications on Society” organized by ICAP, the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON), and the Beer Sector Group of the Manufacturing Association of Nigeria (MAN) took place on September 18, 2012 in Lagos, Nigeria.
nigera1small.jpgThe invitation-only event brought together beverage alcohol producers, marketers, advertisers, and regulators to discuss issues regarding the potential impact of unrestricted marketing and advertising on public perceptions of the product.
“The forum addressed ethical issues in marketing and marketing communications practice as they affect the alcohol industry from all stakeholders’ perspectives,” said Global Actions Nigeria Country Manager Lanre Onigbogi. “The summit was successful with the agreement of all parties to comply with freshly agreed details.”
Managing Director of the World Federation of Advertisers (WFA) Stephen Loerke delivered a keynote address. Loerke’s presentation focused on how self-regulation could work in the framework of overall regulation that allows for parties to respect the code agreed on and also provide a mechanism for address.

What’s Happening Next:

· Colombia: Global Actions will meet with Quibdo Mayor's Office and the Secretaries of Health and Transit on September 18 and 19, 2012 to plan joint work on drink driving enforcement and public awareness. On September 21, Global Actions Colombia will observe and evaluate sobriety checkpoints in the city of Chia to continue phase two of "Project Patrullero." 

Rodent models of alcoholic liver disease: Of mice and men

Alcoholic liver disease (ALD) is a major cause of acute and chronic liver disease worldwide. The progressive nature of ALD is well described; however, the complex interactions under which these pathologies evolve remain to be fully elucidated. 

Clinically there are no clear biomarkers or universally accepted, effective treatment strategies for ALD. Experimental models of ALD are an important component in identifying underlying mechanisms of alcohol-induced injury to develop better diagnostic markers, predictors of disease progression, and therapeutic targets to manage, halt, or reverse disease progression. Rodents remain the most accessible model for studying ALD pathology.

Effective rodent models must mimic the natural history of ALD while allowing examination of complex interactions between multiple hepatic, and non-hepatic, cell types in the setting of altered metabolic or oxidative/nitrosative stress, inflammatory responses, and sensitivity to cytotoxic stress. 

Additionally, mode and duration of alcohol delivery influence hepatic response and present unique challenges in understanding disease pathology. 

This review provides an overview of rodent models of ALD, their strengths and weaknesses relative to human disease states, and provides insight of the potential to develop novel rodent models to simulate the course of human ALD.

Read Full Abstract

Request Reprint E-Mail:

Assessment of the interoceptive effects of alcohol in rats using short-term training procedures

In the present study, we sought to determine whether the interoceptive effects of alcohol (1 g/kg, IG) could be assessed using a Pavlovian discrimination method, in which the alcohol drug state sets the occasion for which an environmental stimulus (e.g., light) will be followed by a sucrose reward. 

This procedure takes advantage of a naturally occurring behavior (i.e., food-seeking) which can be trained rapidly prior to the initiation of discrimination training. Given that the interoceptive effects of alcohol are routinely assessed using operant drug discrimination methods, another group of rats was trained using standard two-lever operant drug discrimination procedures in an effort to compare the Pavlovian procedure to a known behavioral benchmark. 

The results from this work show that, in addition to operant discrimination procedures, a Pavlovian discrimination task can be used to evaluate the interoceptive effects of alcohol. In addition to the brief behavioral sucrose access training (3 days) required prior to the initiation of the Pavlovian discrimination, the alcohol discrimination was acquired relatively rapidly (i.e., 8 training sessions), shortening the overall duration of the experiment. 

These features of the Pavlovian procedure make it a valuable method by which to assess the interoceptive effects of alcohol if a short experimental time frame is required, such as assessing the interoceptive effects of alcohol during a brief developmental window (e.g., adolescence) or determining the effects of a pretreatment (i.e., chronic stress, chronic drug pretreatment) on the acquisition of the alcohol discrimination. As such, this initial characterization confirms the feasibility of using this Pavlovian discrimination training method as an additional tool by which to assess the interoceptive effects of alcohol, as there may be experimental situations that necessitate short term discrimination training.

Read Full Abstract

Request Reprint E-Mail:


This forum focuses on two globally important themes:

‘Alcohol Education, what works?’ 
The development of lower alcohol beverages, with a spotlight on successful markets and innovations.

Thursday, 18th October 2012

Read Conference Programme

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Early Onset of Drinking and Risk of Heavy Drinking in Young Adulthood—A 13-Year Prospective Study

Prevention programs often aim at preventing early onset of drinking (EOD) on the grounds that this may curb heavy drinking in adulthood. While many studies have shown an association between EOD and adult alcohol use disorders, these findings could be inflated by retrospective reports or insufficient control for confounders. This study examined the association between EOD behavior assessed in early adolescence and heavy drinking in adulthood, controlling for deviant behavior and parental heavy drinking.
Data were collected prospectively over a 13-year period from 1,311 Norwegian school students. At t1 (ages 13 to 14 years), onset of drinking behavior (any drinking and heavy episodic drinking), conduct problems (CP), other problem behaviors, and parental heavy drinking were assessed. At t2 (ages 26 to 27 years), heavy drinking behavior was assessed in terms of heavy episodic drinking frequency and AUDIT score.
EOD behavior was associated with CP, other problem behaviors, and parental heavy drinking in early adolescence. A higher risk of heavy drinking in adulthood was found among those with EOD behavior, yet after control for CP, this association became small and statistically nonsignificant. Among low-risk individuals (i.e., those with no CP at t1), there was no association between EOD behavior and heavy drinking in adulthood, while there was a significant association among those with CP.
EOD behavior appears not per se responsible for heavy drinking in adulthood unless being part of a broader array of problem behaviors.

Request Reprint E-Mail: 

Sensitivity and Specificity of a Brief Personality Screening Instrument in Predicting Future Substance Use, Emotional, and Behavioral Problems: 18-Month Predictive Validity of the Substance Use Risk Profile Scale

This study assessed the validity, sensitivity, and specificity of the Substance Use Risk Profile Scale (SURPS), a measure of personality risk factors for substance use and other behavioral problems in adolescence.

The concurrent and predictive validity of the SURPS was tested in a sample of 1,162 adolescents (mean age: 13.7 years) using linear and logistic regressions, while its sensitivity and specificity were examined using the receiver operating characteristics curve analyses.

Concurrent and predictive validity tests showed that all 4 brief scales—hopelessness (H), anxiety sensitivity (AS), impulsivity (IMP), and sensation seeking (SS)—were related, in theoretically expected ways, to measures of substance use and other behavioral and emotional problems. Results also showed that when using the 4 SURPS subscales to identify adolescents “at risk,” one can identify a high number of those who developed problems (high sensitivity scores ranging from 72 to 91%). And, as predicted, because each scale is related to specific substance and mental health problems, good specificity was obtained when using the individual personality subscales (e.g., most adolescents identified at high risk by the IMP scale developed conduct or drug use problems within the next 18 months [a high specificity score of 70 to 80%]).

The SURPS is a valuable tool for identifying adolescents at high risk for substance misuse and other emotional and behavioral problems. Implications of findings for the use of this measure in future research and prevention interventions are discussed.

Read Full Abstract

Request Reprint E-Mail:

A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Alcohol Consumption and Injury Risk as a Function of Study Design and Recall Period

It is well established that alcohol consumption is associated with an increased risk of injury. This systematic review and meta-analysis addresses important methodological issues commonly encountered in the alcohol and injury field by delineating the effect of study design and alcohol consumption recall period on effect size magnitude and by conducting gender-specific analyses.
We performed meta-analyses using random-effect models. Data sources were peer-reviewed studies on alcohol and injury from 1970 to 2009 from MEDLINE, PsychInfo, and on-line journals. Case–control or case-crossover emergency department (ED) studies reporting injury risk from alcohol consumption 6 hours before injury were included.
The overall odds of injury were 2.799 (2.214 to 3.538, p < 0.001). For case-crossover studies, the odds were 3.815 (2.646 to 5.499,p < 0.001); for ED case–control studies, the odds were 1.977 (1.385 to 2.821, p < 0.001); and for population case–control designs, the odds were 3.145 (1.583 to 6.247, p < 0.005). The “usual frequency” recall period yielded an odds ratio of 4.235 (2.541 to 7.057, p < 0.001), compared to 2.320 (1.789 to 3.008, p < 0.001) for all other methods. There were significant differences in odds ratio magnitude when comparing studies by design and recall period. Females had higher odds of injury than males, 2.285 (1.361 to 3.836, p < 0.005) versus 1.071 (0.715 to 1.605, p = 0.737).
Study design and alcohol consumption recall period have significant effects on effect size magnitude in estimating the risk of injury from alcohol consumption 6 hours prior to injury. For the “usual frequency” case-crossover design, significant moderator effects were found, resulting in overestimates of injury risk from alcohol. ED case-crossover designs tend to overestimate risk, and ED case–control designs tend to underestimate. We provide recommendations for future ED research.

Rerquest Reprint E-Mail:

Scientific Publications and Research Groups on Alcohol Consumption and Related Problems Worldwide: Authorship Analysis of Papers Indexed in PubMed and Scopus Databases (2005 to 2009)

The research of alcohol consumption-related problems is a multidisciplinary field. The aim of this study is to analyze the worldwide scientific production in the area of alcohol-drinking and alcohol-related problems from 2005 to 2009.
A MEDLINE and Scopus search on alcohol (alcohol-drinking and alcohol-related problems) published from 2005 to 2009 was carried out. Using bibliometric indicators, the distribution of the publications was determined within the journals that publish said articles, specialty of the journal (broad subject terms), article type, language of the publication, and country where the journal is published. Also, authorship characteristics were assessed (collaboration index and number of authors who have published more than 9 documents). The existing research groups were also determined.
About 24,100 documents on alcohol, published in 3,862 journals, and authored by 69,640 authors were retrieved from MEDLINE and Scopus between the years 2005 and 2009. The collaboration index of the articles was 4.83 ± 3.7. The number of consolidated research groups in the field was identified as 383, with 1,933 authors. Documents on alcohol were published mainly in journals covering the field of “Substance-Related Disorders,” 23.18%, followed by “Medicine,” 8.7%, “Psychiatry,” 6.17%, and “Gastroenterology,” 5.25%.
Research on alcohol is a consolidated field, with an average of 4,820 documents published each year between 2005 and 2009 in MEDLINE and Scopus. Alcohol-related publications have a marked multidisciplinary nature. Collaboration was common among alcohol researchers. There is an underrepresentation of alcohol-related publications in languages other than English and from developing countries, in MEDLINE and Scopus databases.

Request Reprint E-Mail:

Differences in the Profiles of DSM-IV and DSM-5 Alcohol Use Disorders: Implications for Clinicians

Existing information on consequences of the DSM-5 revision for the diagnosis of alcohol use disorders (AUD) has gaps, including missing information critical to understanding implications of the revision for clinical practice.
Data from Wave 2 of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions were used to compare AUD severity, alcohol consumption and treatment, sociodemographic and health characteristics, and psychiatric comorbidity among individuals with DSM-IV abuse versus DSM-5 moderate AUD and DSM-IV dependence versus DSM-5 severe AUD. For each pair of disorders, we additionally compared 3 mutually exclusive groups: individuals positive solely for the DSM-IV disorder, those positive solely for the DSM-5 disorder, and those positive for both.
Whereas 80.5% of individuals positive for DSM-IV dependence were positive for DSM-5 severe AUD, only 58.0% of those positive for abuse were positive for moderate AUD. The profiles of individuals with DSM-IV dependence and DSM-5 severe AUD were almost identical. The only significant (p < 0.005) difference, more AUD criteria among the former, reflected the higher criterion threshold (≥4 vs. ≥3) for severe AUD relative to dependence. In contrast, the profiles of individuals with DSM-5 moderate AUD and DSM-IV abuse differed substantially. The former endorsed more AUD criteria, had higher rates of physiological dependence, were less likely to be White individuals and men, had lower incomes, were less likely to have private and more likely to have public health insurance, and had higher levels of comorbid anxiety disorders than the latter.
Similarities between the profiles of DSM-IV and DSM-5 AUD far outweigh differences; however, clinicians may face some changes with respect to appropriate screening and referral for cases at the milder end of the AUD severity spectrum, and the mechanisms through which these will be reimbursed may shift slightly from the private to public sector.

Request Reprint E-Mail:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Further Development of a Neurobehavioral Profile of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders

Heavy prenatal alcohol exposure (AE) results in a broad array of neurobehavioral deficits. Recent research has focused on identification of a neurobehavioral profile or profiles that will improve the identification of children affected by AE. This study aimed to build on our preliminary neurobehavioral profile to improve classification accuracy and test the specificity of the resulting profile in an alternate clinical group.
A standardized neuropsychological test battery was administered to 3 groups of children: subjects with AE (n = 209), typically developing controls (CON, n = 185), and subjects with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD, n = 74). We assessed a large sample from 6 sites in the United States and South Africa, using standardized methodology. Data were analyzed using 3 latent profile analyses including (i) subjects with fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) and controls, (ii) subjects with AE without FAS and controls, and (iii) subjects with AE (with or without FAS) and subjects with ADHD.

Classification accuracy was moderate but significant across the 3 analyses. In analysis 1, overall classification accuracy was 76.1% (77.2% FAS, 75.7% CON). In the second analysis, overall classification accuracy was 71.5% (70.1% AE/non-FAS, 72.4% CON). In the third analysis, overall classification accuracy was 73.9% (59.8% AE, 75.7% ADHD). Subjects that were misclassified were examined for systematic differences from those that were correctly classified.
The results of this study indicate that the neuropsychological effects of AE are clinically meaningful and can be used to accurately distinguish alcohol-affected children from both typically developing children and children with ADHD. Further, in combination with other recent studies, these data suggest that approximately 70% of children with heavy prenatal alcohol exposure are neurobehaviorally affected, while the remaining 30% are spared these often-devastating consequences, at least those in the domains under study. Refining the neurobehavioral profile will allow improved identification and treatment development for children affected by prenatal alcohol exposure.

Read Full Abstract

Request Reprint E-Mail:


The Effects of Prenatal Alcohol Exposure and Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder on Psychopathology and Behavior

This study examined prevalence of psychiatric disorders and behavioral problems in children with and without prenatal alcohol exposure (AE) and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Primary caregivers of 344 children (8 to 16 years, M = 12.28) completed the Computerized Diagnostic Interview Schedule for Children-IV (C-DISC-4.0) and the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL). Subjects comprised 4 groups: AE with ADHD (AE+, n = 85) and without ADHD (AE−, n = 52), and nonexposed with ADHD (ADHD, n = 74) and without ADHD (CON, n = 133). The frequency of specific psychiatric disorders, number of psychiatric disorders (comorbidity), and CBCL behavioral scores were examined using chi-square and analysis of covariance techniques.
Clinical groups had greater frequency of all psychiatric disorders, except for anxiety, where the AE- and CON groups did not differ. There was a combined effect of AE and ADHD on conduct disorder. For comorbidity, children with ADHD had increased psychiatric disorders regardless of AE, which did not have an independent effect on comorbidity. For CBCL scores, there were significant main effects of AE and ADHD on all scores and significant AE × ADHD interactions for Withdrawn/Depressed, Somatic Complaints, Attention, and all Summary scores. There was a combined effect of AE and ADHD on Externalizing, Total Problems, and Attention Problems.
Findings indicate that ADHD diagnosis elevates children's risk of psychiatric diagnoses, regardless of AE, but suggest an exacerbated relation between AE and ADHD on conduct disorder and externalizing behavioral problems in children. Findings affirm a poorer behavioral prognosis for alcohol-exposed children with ADHD and suggest that more than 1 neurobehavioral profile may exist for individuals with AE.

Read Full Abstract

Request Reprint E-Mail:  


Fetal Brain Function in Response to Maternal Alcohol Consumption: Early Evidence of Damage

Studies of the adverse neurobehavioral effects of maternal alcohol consumption on the fetus have been largely confined to the postnatal period, after exposure to alcohol has finished. This study explored the brain function of the fetus, at the time of exposure to alcohol, to examine its effect on information processing and stability of performance.

Five groups of fetuses, defined by maternal alcohol consumption patterns, were examined: control (no alcohol); moderate (5 to 10 units/wk either drunk evenly across the week or as a binge, in 2 to 3 days); heavy (20+ units/wk drunk evenly or as a binge). Fetal habituation performance was examined on 3 occasions, separated by 7 days, beginning at 35 weeks of gestation. The number of trials required to habituate on each test session and the difference in performance across test sessions were recorded.

Fetuses exposed to heavy binge drinking required significantly more trials to habituate and exhibited a greater variability in performance across all test sessions than the other groups. Maternal drinking, either heavily but evenly or moderately as a binge, resulted in poorer habituation, and moderate binge drinking resulted in greater variability compared with no, or even, drinking.

Decreased information processing, reflected by poorer habituation, and increased variability in performance may reflect the initial manifestations of structural damage caused by alcohol to the brain. These results will lead to a greater understanding of the effects of alcohol on the fetus's brain, enable the antenatal identification of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders, and lead to the early implementation of better management strategies.

Read Full Abstract

Request Reprint E-Mail:

Markers of Bone Resorption and Formation During Abstinence in Male Alcoholic Patients

Reduced bone mineral density (BMD) is commonly found in alcohol-dependent patients. Many risk factors have been reported, yet the course of markers of bone formation and resorption in abstinent alcoholic patients have not received much attention.

In a prospective longitudinal study, we investigated BMD in male abstinent inpatients of an alcohol rehabilitation clinic aged 21 to 50 years at baseline and after 8 weeks of treatment. At baseline and at week 8, all patients had blood drawn for the analysis of liver function tests, calcium, phosphate, parathormone, 25-hydroxyvitamin D, osteocalcin (OC), serum crosslaps, sex hormones, and prolactin. BMD was determined by dual X-ray absorptiometry in the lumbar spine and the proximal right femur. We also determined the amount of physical activity prior to inpatient treatment by using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ).

Low BMD was found in 15.1% of the patients for the lumbar spine, in 5.7% for the femoral neck, and in 1.9% for the total hip. BMD differed significantly from normal values, in the lumbar spine and in the femoral neck. At baseline, crosslaps were elevated in 34% of the patients, while OC levels were lowered in 17%. Over the course of the 8 weeks, we found a significant increase in OC plasma levels, indicating a higher rate of bone formation during continuous abstinence. There were also positive correlations between IPAQ scores and BMD as reflected by Z-scores in all regions, pointing to a protective effect of physical activity.

In summary, this report confirms earlier cross-sectional studies of lowered BMD in alcoholic noncirrhotic men. We could also demonstrate that the initial imbalance between bone formation and resorption seems to adjust toward a balance between the two during abstinence.

Read Full Abstract

Request Reprint E-Mail:

Convergence of Genome-Wide Association and Candidate Gene Studies for Alcoholism

Genome-wide association (GWA) studies have led to a paradigm shift in how researchers study the genetics underlying disease. Many GWA studies are now publicly available and can be used to examine whether or not previously proposed candidate genes are supported by GWA data. This approach is particularly important for the field of alcoholism because the contribution of many candidate genes remains controversial.

Using the Human Genome Epidemiology (HuGE) Navigator, we selected candidate genes for alcoholism that have been frequently examined in scientific articles in the past decade. Specific candidate loci as well as all the reported single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in candidate genes were examined in the Study of Addiction: Genetics and Environment (SAGE), a GWA study comparing alcohol-dependent and nondependent subjects.

Several commonly reported candidate loci, including rs1800497 in DRD2, rs698 in ADH1C, rs1799971 in OPRM1, and rs4680 in COMT, are not replicated in SAGE (p > 0.05). Among candidate loci available for analysis, only rs279858 in GABRA2 (p = 0.0052, OR = 1.16) demonstrated a modest association. Examination of all SNPs reported in SAGE in over 50 candidate genes revealed no SNPs with large frequency differences between cases and controls, and the lowest p-value of any SNP was 0.0006.

We provide evidence that several extensively studied candidate loci do not have a strong contribution to risk of developing alcohol dependence in European and African ancestry populations. Owing to the lack of coverage, we were unable to rule out the contribution of other variants, and these genes and particular loci warrant further investigation. Our analysis demonstrates that publicly available GWA results can be used to better understand which if any of previously proposed candidate genes contribute to disease. Furthermore, we illustrate how examining the convergence of candidate gene and GWA studies can help elucidate the genetic architecture of alcoholism and more generally complex diseases.

Read Full Abstract

Request Reprint E-Mail: laura@wustl.ed

Clinical Indices of Familial Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol use disorders (AUDs) are clinically heterogeneous and strongly influenced by familial/genetic factors. Can we identify specific clinical features of AUDs that index familial liability to illness?

In twins from the Virginia Adult Twin Study of Psychiatric and Substance Use Disorders meeting DSM-IV criteria for lifetime AUDs, we examined whether clinical features of AUDs, including individual DSM-IV criteria for alcohol dependence (AD) and alcohol abuse (AA), predicted risk for AUDs in cotwins and/or parents. Analyses of individual criterion were repeated controlling for the total number of endorsed criteria.

Across these analyses, examining narrowly and broadly defined AUDs, risk of AUDs in relatives was more consistently predicted by abuse criteria than by dependence criteria, and by criteria reflecting negative psychosocial consequences rather than pharmacologic/biological criteria. Age at onset (AAO) poorly predicted risk in relatives. AUD associated legal problems, the one criterion slated for removal in DSM-5, was the most consistent single predictor of familial risk. Associations observed between individual criteria and risks of illness in relatives were generally stronger in monozygotic than dizygotic twin pairs, suggesting that these symptoms reflect a genetic risk for AUDs.

Individual DSM-IV criteria for AA and AD differ meaningfully in the degree to which they reflect the familial/genetic liability to AUDs. Contrary to expectation, the familial/genetic risk to AUDs was better reflected by symptoms of abuse and negative psychosocial consequences of AUD than by early AAO, or symptoms of tolerance and withdrawal.

Read Full Abstract

Request Reprint E-Mail:

State Panel Estimates of the Effects of the Minimum Legal Drinking Age on Alcohol Consumption for 1950 to 2002

Despite strong evidence supporting the effectiveness of the minimum legal drinking age (MLDA), recent movements have attempted to evoke policy changes that will allow 18- to 20-year-olds to buy and drink alcohol legally. The primary aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of both raising and lowering the MLDA on per capita ethanol (EtOH) consumption in longer and more accurate time series panel than any previous study.

Generalized least squares model specifications controlling for income, unemployment rates, and population characteristics were implemented using MLDA and aggregate EtOH consumption data from U.S. states from 1950 to 2002.

Results from the full 1950 to 2002 period, which include both the lowering and raising of the MLDA, show that an increase in the MLDA by 3 years was associated with decreases in per capita total EtOH consumption (1.51% reduction), as well as in beer (2.31% reduction) and spirits consumption (1.86% reduction).

Lowering the MLDA would likely induce increased rates of drinking and subsequent alcohol-related consequences. If increased consumption is of concern, policymakers should resist movements to lower the MLDA.

Read Full Abstract

Request Reprint E-Mail:

Letting Children Sip Understanding Why Parents Allow Alcohol Use by Elementary School–aged Children

To investigate prosipping beliefs about alcohol among parents and the relations among these beliefs, parents' alcohol-specific attitudes and practices, and children's reports of initiation of alcohol use.

Telephone interview study of parent-child dyads. Data for the present study are from the baseline interviews of a 4-year intervention trial.

Southeastern United States.

One thousand fifty pairs of mothers or mother surrogates and their third-grade children who were recruited for the 4-year intervention trial.

Key measures from parents included prosipping beliefs (ie, beliefs that sipping alcohol has protective consequences for children), attitudes about children's sipping, and parenting practices that affect children's opportunity to try alcohol. The key measure from children was experience sipping beer, wine, or other types of alcohol.

The belief among mothers that allowing children to sip alcohol can have protective consequences for children, including making children less likely to drink as adolescents and making them better at resisting peer influence to drink, ranged from approximately 15% to almost 40%. Alcohol use was reported by 32.8% of children. A strong, significant association was found between parental prosipping beliefs and children's reported alcohol use.

The notion that early exposure to alcohol can be beneficial has a strong foothold among some parents of elementary school–aged children. More research is needed to understand how parents acquire prosipping beliefs and to test messages that effectively modify such beliefs and associated prosipping attitudes and practices among parents.

Read Full Abstract

Request Reprint E-Mail:

Reduced expression of α-synuclein in alcoholic brain: influence of SNCA-Rep1 genotype

α-Synuclein has recently been implicated in the pathophysiology of alcohol abuse due to its role in dopaminergic neurotransmission.

In these studies, genetic variability in the α-synuclein gene influences its expression which may contribute to susceptibility to chronic alcohol abuse. Real-time PCR was used to quantify α-synuclein mRNA expression in autopsy samples of human dorsolateral prefrontal cortex. Because of the association between length of the α-synuclein-repeat 1 microsatellite marker and expression levels of the gene, this marker was genotyped in a Caucasian sample of 126 controls and 117 alcoholics using capillary gel electrophoresis.

The allele and genotype frequencies of α-synuclein-repeat 1 marker differed significantly between alcoholics and controls. Alcoholics had greater frequencies of the shortest allele found (267 bp). The shortest allele of the α-synuclein-repeat 1 marker was associated with decreased expression of α-synuclein in prefrontal cortex. Individuals with at least one copy of the 267 bp allele were more likely to exhibit an alcohol abuse phenotype.

These results suggest that individuals with the 267 bp allele may be at increased risk of developing alcoholism and that genetic variation at the α-synuclein-repeat 1 locus may influence α-synuclein expression in the prefrontal cortex.

Read Full Abstract

Request Reprint E-Mail:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The association between DRD2/ANKK1 and genetically informed measures of alcohol use and problems

In 1990, Blum and colleagues first reported an association between DRD2 and alcoholism. While there have been subsequent replications of this genetic association, there have also been numerous studies that failed to detect an association between DRD2 and alcohol dependence.

We propose that one aspect contributing to this inconsistency is the variation in alcohol phenotype used across studies. Within the population-based Finnish twin sample, FinnTwin16, we previously performed multivariate twin analyses to extract latent genetic factors, which account for the variation across seven measures of alcohol consumption (frequency of drinking, frequency × quantity, frequency of heavy drinking, frequency of intoxication and maximum drinks in a 24-hour period) and problems (the Rutgers Alcohol Problem Index—RAPI and the Mälmö-modified Michigan Alcohol Screen Test—MmMAST) in 3065 twins.

In the present study, we examined the association between 31 DRD2/ANKK1 single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and the genetic factor scores generated by twin analyses in a subset of FinnTwin16 (n  = 602). We focus on two of the genetic factors: a general alcohol consumption and problems factor score, which represents shared genetic variance across alcohol measures, and a alcohol problems genetic factor score, which loads onto the two indices of problematic drinking (MAST and RAPI).

After correction for multiple testing across SNPs and phenotypes, of the 31 SNPs genotyped across DRD2/ANKK1, one SNP (rs10891549) showed significant association with the general alcohol consumption and problems factor score (P  = 0.004), and four SNPs (rs10891549, rs1554929, rs6275, rs6279), representing two independent signals after accounting for linkage disequilibrium, showed significant association with the alcohol problems genetic factor score (P = 0.005, P = 0.005, P = 0.003, P = 0.003).

In this study, we provide additional positive evidence for the association between DRD2/ANKK1 and alcohol outcomes, including frequency of drinking and drinking problems.

Additionally, post hoc analyses indicate stronger association signals using genetic factor scores than individual measures, which suggest that accounting for the genetic architecture of the alcohol measures reduces genetic heterogeneity in alcohol dependence outcomes in this sample and enhances the ability to detect association.

Read Full Abstract

Request Reprint E-Mail:

Alcohol News - 38/2012

Medical Daily (Finland) - Terrifying PSA Asks: Are You a Monster When You're Drunk? [VIDEO]
A Finnish non-profit organization has created an advertisement that aims to stop parents from being drunk around their children.
Read more
The Baltic Course (Lithuania) - Degutiene: higher excise duty on alcohol could fight alcoholism in Lithuania
The issue of raising excise duty on alcohol requires more deliberation, yet, it could be one of the measures to fight growing alcoholism in Lithuania, says Seimas Speaker Irena Degutiene.
Baku Today (Latvia) - 95% of Latvian high school seniors drank alcohol
5% of students 8-10 classes in Latvia at least once drank alcohol, and 25000 of them consume alcoholic beverages at least once a week, the 14 September, reporter BakuToday with reference to data Research Centre for disease prevention and control.
ERR News (Estonia) - Homicides Down, but Alcohol Seen as Fueling Assault and Battery
Murders and other homicides were down by 16 percent in the first six months of the year while cases of assault and/or battery increased 11 percent, prompting concern from officials.
Helsinkin Sanomat (Finland/Russia) - Alcohol remains a major health concern in Russian Karelia
"Long live Karelia" Denis Vlasov shouts, raising his hands up in the air. It is Wednesday evening in Petrozavodsk, the capital of Russian Karelia. It is nearly ten in the evening, and under new rules, sales of vodka must end at 11:00 PM. Vlasov is also getting some while he can. "I drink on fishing trips and whenever I want to hug women", he says with a hearty laugh.
ABC News (Sweden) - Swedish Police to Parents: Pick up Your Drunk Kids
Teenagers drinking, brawling, vomiting and passing out. It's a weekend ritual in many parts of the world that often begs the question: Where are the parents?
The Local (Sweden) - Systembolaget to launch home delivery
Swedish state-owned alcohol monopoly retailer Systembolaget has been given the green light to begin offering a home delivery service.
Wall Street Journal (Chech Republic) - After Poisonings, Czech Republic Bans Hard Liquor
The Czech Republic continued Sunday to enforce a ban on sales of hard liquor, as deaths and injuries from methanol-laced bootleg alcohol rose and as Poland prohibited sales of spirits imported from its southern neighbor.
The Atlantic - Study: Red Wine Is Healthier When It's Non-Alcoholic (Sorry)
Drinking red wine in moderation has been shown to ward off heart disease, and many have latched onto the research as an excuse to indulge a little bit, or a lot. But where does alcohol factor into the benefits?
CBS News - Consuming three or more alcoholic drinks daily may raise risk for hemorrhagic stroke
Having three or more alcoholic beverages each day may put you at higher risk of having a a type of hemorrhagic stroke known as an intracerebral hemorrhage at an earlier age, according to a new study.
The Press Association (UK) - Alcohol price plan faces objection
A controversial plan to set a minimum price for alcohol is being delayed by an objection from Bulgaria, an industry body has revealed.
Science Codex - Abstinence from alcohol plus physical exercise can help reclaim bone loss due to alcoholism
Osteoporosis, or reduced bone mineral density (BMD), is defined by an absolute decrease in total bone mass, caused mostly by an imbalance between osteoclastic bone resorption and osteoblastic bone formation.
Science Codex - Symptoms of alcohol abuse, not dependence, may better reflect family risk for alcohol use disorders
Individuals with alcohol use disorders (AUDs) vary widely in their age of onset of use, patterns of drinking, and symptom profiles. AUDs are often 'divided' into two categories: alcohol abuse (AA) and alcohol dependence (AD), with AA perceived as a milder syndrome that might develop into AD over time.
ABC Online (Australia) - Alcohol abuse causing forgotten children
The repurcussions of harmful drinking are never localised. The Salvation Army has released new research about alcohol abuse in families.
TVNZ (New Zealand) - Alcohol reform an opportunity missed – expert
A leading Auckland researcher in suicide prevention says the government missed a trick when the alcohol laws passed through parliament unchanged last month.
Scottish Daily Record (Scotland) - Revealed: The cost of alcohol abuse by council area in Scotland
ALCOHOL-RELATED harm could cost more than £1000 per person in Scotland's largest council, new figures have revealed. - Research: Substances present in alcohol found to influence superconductivity
In previous research, the National Institute for Materials Science (NIMS) discovered that iron telluride compounds [Fe(Te,S) system], which are iron-based superconducting related substances, become superconductors when simmered in alcoholic beverages.
BBC News (UK) - Help kids in drink abuse homes, says commission
The government should pay as much attention to the parents who drink too much as it does to those who misuse illegal drugs, says a report.
Taranaki Daily News (New Zealand) - Linking alcohol abuse to high youth suicide
Dr Cranshaw pointed out New Zealand has the second highest rate of youth suicide in the OECD and that alcohol is the major factor in youth suicide.
eGov monitor (UK) - Alcohol pricing in England could save elderly lives
Introducing a minimum price of 50p per unit of alcohol could help save 5,000 lives each year, according to new research.
Irish Examiner (Ireland) - Alcohol is the most used date rape drug
Alcohol is the most common date rape drug in the country, according to rape crisis groups. The Rape Crisis Network Ireland said that while there was little evidence to show that better-known rape drugs, such as Rohypnol, were being used, alcohol was regularly involved in sex attacks.