Archive for December, 2010

Dramatic Shift Seen in Treatment Admissions

Although the overall rate of admissions to substance abuse treatment in the U.S. remained stable between 1998 and 2008, at about 770 admissions for every 100,000 persons in the population, a new study shows striking changes and variations in admission rates by region. For example, the rate of admissions for alcohol as the primary drug has declined by 15 percent nationally. However admission rates for alcohol in West North Central states (Ark., Iowa, Kan., Minn., Mo., N.D., Neb. and S.D.) remained the same.

At the same time that admissions for alcohol treatment were declining, admission rates per 100,000 population for illicit drug use were increasing. In fact, one consistent pattern in every region was the increase in the admission rate for marijuana use which rose 30 percent nationally. From 1998 through 2008, marijuana treatment admission rates were highest in the West North Central and Middle Atlantic states (N.J., N.Y. and Pa.).

Hike in Pain Pill Abuse

As indicated in an earlier SAMHSA report, Substance Abuse Treatment Admissions Involving Abuse of Pain Relievers: 1998 and 2008, the treatment admission rate for opiates other than heroin (mainly narcotic pain relievers) rose 345 percent nationwide during these 11 years. The new study shows that increased admissions for pain reliever abuse occurred in every region of the nation and were highest in the New England (Conn., Mass., Maine, N.H., R.I. and Vt.) and the East South Central states (Ala., Ky., Miss. and Tenn.).

Nationwide, the admission rate for methamphetamine treatment was 53 percent higher in 2008 than in 1998, although the level has dropped significantly and consistently from its peak in 2005. Methamphetamine admission rates were highest during this period in the Pacific (Alaska, Calif., Hawaii, Ore. and Wash.), West North Central and Mountain states (Ariz., Colo., Idaho, Mont., Nev., N.M., Utah and Wyo.).

Fewer Heroin, Cocaine Admissions

The new study provided mixed news concerning heroin — nationwide the rate of heroin admissions dropped by 3 percent from 1998 to 2008, but this drop was not uniform and in many states the levels have actually risen. Heroin treatment admission rates were consistently highest in the New England and Middle Atlantic states.

In terms of cocaine the news was more encouraging — a 23 percent reduction in the cocaine treatment admission rate nationally over this period and decreases in every region of the country. The Middle Atlantic states had the highest levels of cocaine admission rates throughout this period.

Meeting Treatment Needs

“This study provides insight into the regional nature of substance abuse by highlighting the shifting trends in the reasons for admission to substance abuse treatment,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. “By carefully analyzing these data, policy makers, public health experts and behavioral health service providers can better direct limited resources and meet the treatment needs of people living in states and communities.”

The study, State Admissions to Substance Abuse Treatment Services: TEDS 1998 – 2008, was based on data from SAMHSA’s Treatment Episode Data Set (TEDS) — a reporting system involving treatment facilities from across the country. The study was developed as part of the agency’s strategic initiative on data, outcomes, and quality — an effort to inform policy makers and service providers on the nature and scope of behavioral health issues.

The full report is available online.

December 23rd, 2010  in Substance Abuse No Comments »

Spirituality of A.A. is effective

Addictions, whether it is to drugs or alcohol, are a very difficult hurdle for individuals to overcome. But, there are ways to help people with their recovery through 12-step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Many of these organizations, including AA, highlight spirituality as a very important factor, but the data surrounding its effectiveness have often been contested.

However, new research shows that as attendance of AA meetings increase, so do the participants spiritual beliefs, especially in those individuals who had low spirituality at the beginning of the study.

Important Aspect of Recovery

John F. Kelly, lead author of the study, Associate Professor in Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and the Associate Director of the Center for Addiction Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, said that while spirituality is an important aspect of AA recovery, it is not the only way they can help individuals.

“I’ve heard it said that AA is too spiritual, and I’ve also heard it said that AA is not spiritual enough for some people. Although this is not the only way that AA helps individuals recover, I think these findings support the notion that AA works in part by enhancing spiritual practices,” Kelly said.

The researchers assessed more than 1,500 adults throughout their recovery process, with data being gathered at three, six, nine, 12, and 15 months. The study utilized data on their attendance to AA meetings, their individual spirituality/religiosity practices and overall alcohol-use outcomes to determine if spirituality is indeed a mechanism of behavior change.

Decrease in Alcohol Use

The results indicated that there was a robust association between an increase in attendance to AA meetings with increased spirituality and a decrease in the frequency and intensity of alcohol use over time. One of the most interesting aspects of the research was that the same amount of recovery was seen in both agnostics and atheists, which indicates that while spirituality is an important mechanism of behavioral change for AA, it is not the only method used.

“Many people will be surprised that alcoholic patients with little or no interest in spirituality attended AA and seemed to change even more than did those who had a pre-existing, strong sense of spirituality,” said Keith Humphreys, a Career Research Scientist with the Veterans Health Administration and Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University. “AA is thus much more broad in its appeal than is commonly recognized.”

The researchers also noted that while spirituality is an important aspect of recovery, it is still not known how these beliefs work in complement or competition with other recovery methods, as there are multiple.

Changing Social Networks

“We have also found that AA participation leads to recovery by helping members change their social network and by enhancing individuals’ recovery coping skills, motivation for continued abstinence, and by reducing depression and increasing psychological well-being,” said Kelly.

“Down the road it will be important to conduct more qualitative research as well as further quantitative replication of our findings in order to understand more about how exactly spiritual practices and beliefs influence coping and behavioral change in recovery from addiction”

December 17th, 2010  in Alcoholism 2 Comments »

Youth exposure to alcohol ads increases

Youth exposure to alcohol advertising on U.S. television increased 71 percent between 2001 and 2009, according to a report released today by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Despite efforts by alcohol companies to strengthen their self-regulatory standards, the average number of ads seen by youth watching television increased from 217 in 2001 to 366 in 2009, or one alcohol ad per day.

“One a day is great for vitamins but not for young people being exposed to alcohol advertising,” said David H. Jernigan, PhD, CAMY director. “This is a significant and troubling escalation, and shows the ineffectiveness of the industry’s current voluntary standards.”

Cable TV Driving the Increase

In 2003, the trade associations representing beer and distilled spirits companies joined the wine industry in committing to place ads only when the underage audience composition is 30 percent or less. Their previous threshold had been 50 percent.

The report, which is available at, shows that the rise of distilled spirits advertising on cable television is driving the increase. Youth exposure to distilled spirits advertising grew by nearly 3,000 percent from 2001 to 2009, primarily on cable. The majority of youth exposure to alcoholic beverage advertising on cable occurred on programming that youth ages 12 to 20 were more likely to be watching than adults 21 and above.

Virtual Media Resources (VMR), an advertising research firm with more than 25 years of experience, analyzed for CAMY nearly 2.7 million product advertisements placed by alcohol companies between 2001 and 2009. The industry , purchased this advertising at an estimated cost of more than $8 billion. Other key findings of the report include:

· In 2009, while 13 percent of youth exposure came from advertising placed above the industry’s voluntary 30 percent threshold, a total of 44 percent came from advertising that overexposed youth—meaning youth were more likely to see the ad on a per capita basis than an adult—compared to persons of legal purchase age 21 and above.

· From 2004, the first full calendar year after the industry implemented its 30 percent standard, to 2009, youth exposure to distilled spirits ads on cable television doubled. In that same period, exposure to beer ads on cable TV grew by nearly a third — a faster rate than the exposure of adults ages 21 and above or young adults ages 21 to 34.

· In 2009, five cable networks were more likely to expose youth per capita to alcohol advertising than adults 21 and above: Comedy Central, BET, E1, FX and Spike. Two of these—Comedy Central and BET—delivered more exposure to youth than to young adults ages 21-34.

· In 2009, 12 brands generated half of youth overexposure: Miller Lite, Coors Light, Captain Morgan Rums, Bud Light, Samuel Adams Boston Lager, Miller Genuine Draft Light Beer, Crown Royal Whiskey, Corona Extra Beer, Disaronno Originale Amaretto, Smirnoff Vodkas, Miller Chill, and Labatt Blue Light Beer.

· From 2001 to 2009, youth were 22 times more likely to see an alcohol product ad than an alcohol company-sponsored “responsibility” ad warning against underage drinking or drinking and driving.

Alcohol Leading Youth Problem

Alcohol is the leading drug problem among youth, and is responsible for at least 4,600 deaths per year among persons under 21. In 2009, 10.4 million (27.5 percent) of U.S. young people ages 12 to 20 reported drinking in the past month, and 6.9 million (18.1 percent) reported binge drinking (defined as five or more drinks at one sitting, usually within two hours). Numerous long-term studies have determined that exposure to alcohol advertising and marketing increases the likelihood that young people will start drinking, or that they will drink more if they are already consuming alcohol.

Since 2003, industry-wide voluntary codes of good marketing practice have set a maximum for underage audiences of their advertising at 30 percent under age 21. However, the National Research Council and Institute of Medicine—as well as 20 state attorneys general—have advocated for a 15 percent standard. The alcohol industry trade press has reported that the Federal Trade Commission recently asked the industry to move from 30 to 25 percent, and that the industry has refused to do so. CAMY’s analysis uses the same methodology that the FTC’s Bureau of Economics has used to measure the exposure of children to food advertising.

The Federal Trade Commission and CAMY have developed similar methodologies for measuring exposure to television advertising. In measuring children’s exposure to food advertising on television, the FTC matches occurrence data for individual ad placements with audience data specific to each occurrence, and then aggregates audience data for various demographics to show relative per-capita exposure. This is what CAMY has done to measure youth exposure to alcohol advertising since 2002. The difference is that the FTC sampled four so-called “sweeps” weeks, and extrapolated exposure data from these weeks to an entire year. By comparison, CAMY does a “census” of all monitored advertising throughout the year.

Standards Need Tightening

“Alcohol companies have stepped up their advertising efforts on television—particularly on cable networks—and the result is an alarming hike in youth exposure,” said Jernigan. “Industry standards need to be tightened to protect youth from alcohol marketing.”

The Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth monitors the marketing practices of the alcohol industry to focus attention and action on industry practices that jeopardize the health and safety of America’s youth. The Center was founded in 2002 at Georgetown University with funding from The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The Center moved to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in 2008 and is currently funded by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

December 15th, 2010  in Alcohol No Comments »

Teen marijuana use increases

Fueled by increases in marijuana use, the rate of eighth-graders saying they have used an illicit drug in the past year jumped to 16 percent, up from last year’s 14.5 percent, with daily marijuana use up in all grades surveyed, according to the 2010 Monitoring the Future Survey (MTF).

For 12th-graders, declines in cigarette use accompanied by recent increases in marijuana use have put marijuana ahead of cigarette smoking by some measures. In 2010, 21.4 percent of high school seniors used marijuana in the past 30 days, while 19.2 percent smoked cigarettes.

Increases in Ecstasy, Prescription Drugs

The survey also shows significant increases in use of Ecstasy. In addition, nonmedical use of prescription drugs remains high. MTF is an annual series of classroom surveys of eighth, 10th, and 12th-graders conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, under a grant from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health.

Most measures of marijuana use increased among eighth-graders, and daily marijuana use increased significantly among all three grades. The 2010 use rates were 6.1 percent of high school seniors, 3.3 percent of 10th -graders, and 1.2 percent of eighth-graders compared to 2009 rates of 5.2 percent, 2.8 percent, and 1.0 percent, respectively.

“These high rates of marijuana use during the teen and pre-teen years, when the brain continues to develop, place our young people at particular risk,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. “Not only does marijuana affect learning, judgment, and motor skills, but research tells us that about 1 in 6 people who start using it as adolescents become addicted.”

Mixed Messages About Marijuana

“The increases in youth drug use reflected in the Monitoring the Future Study are disappointing,” said Gil Kerlikowske, director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. “Mixed messages about drug legalization, particularly marijuana, may be to blame. Such messages certainly don’t help parents who are trying to prevent kids from using drugs. The Obama administration is aggressively addressing the threat of drug use and its consequences through a balanced and comprehensive drug control strategy, but we need parents and other adults who influence children as full partners in teaching young people about the risks and harms associated with drug use, including marijuana.”

The MTF survey also showed a significant increase in the reported use of MDMA, or Ecstasy, with 2.4 percent of eighth-graders citing past-year use, compared to 1.3 percent in 2009. Similarly, past-year MDMA use among 10th-graders increased from 3.7 percent to 4.7 percent in 2010.

Tobacco Use Down

Also of concern is that the downward trend in cigarette smoking has stalled in all three grades after several years of marked improvement on most measures. Greater marketing of other forms of tobacco prompted the 2010 survey to add measures for 12th-graders’ use of small cigars (23.1 percent) and of tobacco with a smoking pipe known as a hookah (17.1 percent).

Prescription drug abuse remains a major problem. Although Vicodin abuse decreased in 12th graders this year to 8 percent, down from around 9.7 percent the past four years, other indicators confirm that nonmedical use of prescription drugs remains high. For example, the use of OxyContin, another prescription opiate, stayed about the same for 12th-graders at 5.1 percent in 2010. And six of the top 10 illicit drugs abused by 12th-graders in the year prior to the survey were prescribed or purchased over the counter. The survey again found that teens generally get these prescription drugs from friends and family, whether given, bought, or stolen.

However, the survey says binge drinking continued its downward trend. Among high school seniors, 23.2 percent report having five or more drinks in a row during the past two weeks, down from 25.2 percent in 2009 and from the peak of 31.5 percent in 1998. In addition, 2010 findings showed a drop in high school seniors’ past-year consumption of flavored alcoholic beverages, to 47.9 percent in 2010 from 53.4 percent in 2009. Past-year use of flavored alcohol by eighth- graders was at 21.9 percent, down from 27.9 percent in 2005.

Teen Attitudes Changing

The MTF survey also measures teen attitudes about drugs, including perceived harmfulness, perceived availability, and disapproval, all of which can predict future abuse. Related to its increased use, the perception that regular marijuana smoking is harmful decreased for 10th-graders (down from 59.5 percent in 2009 to 57.2 percent in 2010) and 12th-graders (from 52.4 percent in 2009 to 46.8 percent in 2010). Moreover, disapproval of smoking marijuana decreased significantly among eighth-graders.

“We should examine the extent to which the debate over medical marijuana and marijuana legalization for adults is affecting teens’ perceptions of risk,” said Dr. Volkow. “We must also find better ways to communicate to teens that marijuana use can harm their short-term performance as well as their long-term potential.”

Overall, 46,482 students from 396 public and private schools participated in this year’s survey. Since 1975, the MTF survey has measured drug, alcohol, and cigarette use and related attitudes in 12th-graders nationwide. Eighth and 10th-graders were added to the survey in 1991. Survey participants generally report their drug use behaviors across three time periods: lifetime, past year, and past month.

December 14th, 2010  in Substance Abuse No Comments »

Government Urges ‘No Refusal’ DUI Strategy

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood today kicked off the annual “Drunk Driving. Over The Limit. Under Arrest” winter holiday crackdown involving thousands of law enforcement agencies across the nation. Secretary LaHood also highlighted the new “No Refusal” strategy that a number of states are employing to put a stop to drunk driving.

Through the “No Refusal” strategy, law enforcement officers are able to quickly obtain warrants from “on call” judges in order to take blood samples from suspected drunk drivers who refuse a breathalyzer test.

Closing the DUI Loopholes

“Drunk driving remains a leading cause of death and injury on our roadways,” said Secretary LaHood. “I applaud the efforts of the law enforcement officials who have pioneered the ‘No Refusal’ approach to get drunk drivers off our roads. And I urge other states to adopt this approach to make sure that drunk drivers can’t skirt the law and are held accountable.”

According to DOT’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in many states, a large proportion of people pulled over for DUIs refuse to take an alcohol breathalyzer test. The latest data show that the states with the highest refusal rates included New Hampshire at 81 percent; Massachusetts at 41 percent; Florida at 40 percent; Louisiana at 39 percent and Ohio at 38 percent. States that have adopted “No Refusal” programs report more guilty pleas, fewer trials and more convictions.

“MADD is proud to support NHTSA, as well as our heroes in law enforcement, in their focus on ‘No Refusals,’ said MADD National President Laura Dean-Mooney. “Working together, we can make our roadways safer and eliminate drunk driving in the U.S.”

No Refusal Stops Drunk Drivers

Secretary LaHood was joined for the announcement by NHTSA Administrator David Strickland, MADD President Laura Dean-Mooney, as well as Warren Diepraam, an Assistant District Attorney in Texas who is a leading advocate of the “No Refusal” strategy. Lafourche Parrish Sheriff Craig Webre, who instituted a “No Refusal” policy in Thibodaux, Louisiana, was also on hand to share his experiences. The officials strongly endorsed the “No Refusal” initiative and applauded states already employing this strategy to get drunk drivers off of their roads, including Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Utah, Idaho, and Arizona.

“When it comes to drunk driving, we cannot afford to have repeat offenders,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “The ‘No Refusal’ strategy helps support prosecutions and improves deterrence, which means fewer drunk drivers on the road. I want to remind everyone this holiday season: if you’re over the limit, you’re under arrest. So please, for safety’s sake, find a designated driver or take a taxi if you are under the influence.”

December 14th, 2010  in Drunk Driving No Comments »

40 Million Impaired Drivers on the Road

A new survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) indicates that on average 13.2 percent of all persons 16 or older drove under the influence of alcohol and 4.3 percent of this age group drove under the influence of illicit drugs in the past year.

The survey’s state-by-state breakdown of drunk and drugged driving levels shows significant differences among the states. Some of the states with the highest levels of past year drunk driving were Wisconsin (23.7 percent) and North Dakota (22.4 percent). The highest rates of past year drugged driving were found in Rhode Island (7.8 percent) and Vermont (6.6 percent).

More Younger Drivers Impaired

States with the lowest rates of past year drunk driving included Utah (7.4 percent) and Mississippi (8.7 percent). Iowa and New Jersey had the lowest levels of past year drugged driving (2.9 percent and 3.2 percent respectively).

Levels of self-reported drunk and drugged driving differed dramatically among age groups. Younger drivers aged 16 to 25 had a much higher rate of drunk driving than those aged 26 or older (19.5 percent versus 11.8 percent). Similarly people aged 16 to 25 had a much higher rate of driving under the influence of illicit drugs than those aged 26 or older (11.4 percent versus 2.8 percent).

The one bright spot in the survey is that there has been a reduction in the rate of drunk and drugged driving in the past few years. Survey data from 2002 through 2005 combined when compared to data gathered from 2006 to 2009 combined indicate that the average yearly rate of drunk driving has declined from 14.6 percent to 13.2 percent, while the average yearly rate of drugged driving has decreased from 4.8 percent to 4.3 percent. Twelve states have seen reductions in the levels of drunk driving and seven states have experienced lower levels of drugged driving. However according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS) census, one in three motor vehicle fatalities (33 percent) with known drug test results tested positive for drugs in 2009.

Dangerous Drunk Driving

“Thousands of people die each year as a result of drunk and drugged driving, and the lives of thousands of family members and friends left behind are forever scarred,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde, J.D. “Some progress has been made in reducing the levels of drunk and drugged driving through education, enhanced law enforcement and public outreach efforts. However, the nation must continue to work to prevent this menace and confront these dangerous drivers in an aggressive way.”

“While we have understood for some time the dangers of driving under the influence of alcohol, much less is known or discussed about drivers under the influence of other drugs,” said Gil Kerlikowske, Director of National Drug Control Policy. “This new data adds to other emerging research revealing that there is an alarmingly high percentage of Americans on our roadways with drugs in their system. At a time when drug use is on the rise, it is crucial that communities act today to address the threat of drugged driving as we work to employ more targeted enforcement and develop better tools to detect the presence of drugs among drivers.”

December 13th, 2010  in Drunk Driving No Comments »

Lower drinking age unlikely to curb college drinking

Although presidents at some U.S. colleges have argued that lowering the minimum legal drinking age could help curb binge drinking on campuses, a new study in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs suggests such a measure would be ineffective.

In 2008, a group of college presidents and chancellors formed the Amethyst Initiative, a call to rethink the current minimum legal drinking age of 21. They argue that the law encourages underage college students to drink at parties, where binge drinking is common. The main argument states that if students as young as 18 could legally drink in bars and restaurants, they might instead learn more-moderate drinking habits, which could then lead to less binge drinking on college campuses.

Lower Drinking Age Proposals

So far, 135 college presidents have signed the Initiative’s public statement urging lawmakers to reconsider the legal drinking age.

But to simply lower the drinking age without an understanding of its effects would constitute a “radical experiment,” said Richard A. Scribner, M.D., M.P.H., of the Louisiana State University School of Public Health, one of the researchers on the new study.

So Scribner and colleagues at BioMedware Corporation in Ann Arbor, MI, and other institutions used a mathematical model to estimate the effects that a lower drinking age would have on college binge drinking.

Adjusting Drinking Habits

The model, developed based on survey data from students at 32 U.S. colleges, aimed to evaluate the “misperception effect” emphasized by the Amethyst Initiative — that is, the idea that underage students widely perceive “normal” drinking levels to be higher than they actually are and that students would adjust their own habits if they were surrounded by social drinkers rather than binge-drinking party-goers.

Overall, the researchers found that the campuses that were most likely to see a decline in binge drinking from a lowered legal drinking age were those that had the poorest enforcement of underage drinking laws — being surrounded, for instance, by bars that do not check identification — and a significant level of student misperception of “normal” drinking (that is, students thinking that the average fellow student drinks much more than he or she actually does). If misperception levels were not present or were at the levels shown by the survey data, these campuses would likely see more binge-drinking if the legal age were lowered.

On “drier” campuses, the study found, student misperceptions would have to be even greater.

The Mispreception Effect

“The higher the level of enforcement of underage drinking laws, the higher the level of misperception would have to be for the Amethyst Initiative to have any hope of being effective,” explained lead researcher Dr. Jawaid W. Rasul, of BioMedware Corporation. “The misperception effect would have to be extremely large.”

And without data supporting the existence of such high levels of student misperception, Rasul said, lowering the legal drinking age would be unlikely to curb college binge drinking.

Scribner also pointed out that lowering the drinking age would not only affect college students but all currently underage young adults. And past research has suggested that when alcohol becomes more readily accessible to young people, alcohol-related problems, such as drunk driving, go up.

December 11th, 2010  in Alcohol No Comments »

Smoking may thin the brain

Many brain imaging studies have reported that tobacco smoking is associated with large-scale and wide-spread structural brain abnormalities.

The cerebral cortex is a specific area of the brain responsible for many important higher-order functions, including language, information processing, and memory. Reduced cortical thickness has been associated with normal aging, reduced intelligence, and impaired cognition.

Smoking and Cortical Thickness

However, prior research had not described the impact of smoking upon cortical thickness. A new study, published in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry, now reports concerning findings about the impact of smoking.

Researchers compared cortical thickness in volunteers, both smokers and never-smokers, who were without medical or psychiatric illnesses.

Smokers exhibited cortical thinning in the left medial orbitofrontal cortex. In addition, their cortical thickness measures negatively correlated with the amount of cigarettes smoked per day and the magnitude of lifetime exposure to tobacco smoke. In other words, heavier smoking was associated with more pronounced thinning of cortical tissue.

The orbitofrontal cortex has frequently been implicated in drug addiction. The current findings suggest that smoking-related cortical thinning may increase the risk for addictions, including smoking.

Could Explain Addiction

“Since the brain region in which we found the smoking-associated thinning has been related to impulse control, reward processing and decision making, this might explain how nicotine addiction comes about,” explained Dr. Simone Kühn. “In a follow-up study, we plan to explore the rehabilitative effects of quitting smoking on the brain.”

“The current findings suggest that smoking may have a cumulative effect on the brain,” noted John Krystal, M.D., Editor of Biological Psychiatry and Professor and Chair of Psychiatry at Yale University. “This concerning finding highlights the importance of targeting young smokers for antismoking interventions.”

For now, this study adds to a long and ever-growing list of reasons that smokers should consider quitting.

December 4th, 2010  in Tobacco No Comments »

Stigma deters alcoholics from seeking treatment

Despite the existence of effective programs for treating alcohol dependencies and disorders, less than a quarter of people who are diagnosed actually seek treatment. In a recent study by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health researchers report that people diagnosed with alcoholism at some point in their lifetime were more than 60% less likely to seek treatment if they believed they would be stigmatized once their status is known.

This is the first study to address the underuse of alcohol services specifically with regard to alcohol-related stigma. Findings are published in the November issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Perceived Negative Stigma

Based on a survey of 34,653 individuals in the general population (6,309 of whom had an alcohol use disorder) drawn from the National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC), researchers found that individuals with an alcohol use disorder who perceived negative stigma were 0.37 times less likely to seek treatment for their disorder compared to individuals with similarly serious alcohol disorders who did not perceive stigma.

In the general population, younger individuals perceived less stigma, and also were less likely to seek treatment for an alcohol disorder. Men perceived more stigma compared to women (38.1%vs. 37.7%). Non-Hispanic blacks and Hispanic adults overall reported a higher mean stigma compared to Whites (39 % vs. 37%) and were less likely to utilize alcohol services. However, the data also suggest that individuals with more severe alcohol disorders had a greater likelihood to seek treatment. Overall, perceived stigma was significantly higher for those with lower personal income, lower education, and individuals previously married compared to those who had never married.

A Barrier to Treatment

“People with alcohol disorders who perceive high levels of alcohol stigma may avoid entering treatment because it confirms their membership in a stigmatized group,” said Katherine Keyes, PhD, in the Mailman School of Public Health Department Epidemiology. “Given that alcohol use disorders are one of the most prevalent psychiatric disorders in the United States, the empirical documentation of stigma as a barrier to treatment is an important public health finding. Greater attention to reducing the stigma of having an alcohol disorder is urgently needed so that more individuals access the effective systems of care available to treat these disabling conditions.”

December 3rd, 2010  in Alcoholism No Comments »