Archive for July, 2015

Jealousy can lead to alcohol problems

People who depend on their relationship to make them feel good about themselves are more likely to drown their sorrows if they believe their partner is cheating, suggests new research. The study, published in Addictive Behaviors, links romantic jealousy, relationship-dependent self-esteem and alcohol problems for the first time.

The authors of the study, from the University of Houston, US, say understanding the link between these three factors could help identify people at risk of alcoholism more quickly.

Using Alcohol to Cope

Excessive alcohol use is the third leading cause of preventable death in the US, accounting for 1 in 10 deaths among working-age adults – around 88,000 deaths per year in the US, and 2.5 million deaths per year globally. Predicting alcohol problems means they can be prevented, and research has shown that using alcohol to cope with negative emotions is one of the strongest predictors.

“We all experience feelings of jealousy to some degree; many people are in relationships that are less than ideal, and use alcohol for different reasons,” said Dr. Angelo DiBello, lead author of the study. “Romantic jealousy is a shared human experience, but very little work has looked at how it is related to alcohol use, misuse and associated problems. This research helps to highlight the associations between these factors and show how our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors are related in potentially harmful ways.”

Self-Esteem, Jealousy and Drinking

Previous research has focused on the link between jealousy and alcohol use, and the link between jealousy and the quality of a relationship. This is the first study to look at three factors together – relationship-dependent self-esteem, jealousy and drinking – and provides an insight into how these factors affect the risk of alcohol problems.

For the new study, the researchers investigated how different types of jealousy affect the link between depending on a romantic relationship for self-esteem and having alcohol-related problems. 277 people (87% female) at a large southern university answered questions about how dependent their self-esteem is on their romantic relationship, the satisfaction, commitment and closeness in their relationship, their jealousy and their alcohol use.

The results reveal that people whose self-esteem relies on their relationship turn to alcohol to cope because of jealousy. These findings were especially true for people who are less satisfied, less committed, and report feeling more disconnected from their partners.

Negative Effects Magnfied

When a person’s self-worth is tied to their romantic relationship, the effect of negative events or emotions is magnified. The study shows that when this happens, believing their partner is cheating can lead people to use alcohol to cope.

“Given how common experiencing jealousy and being in romantic relationships are, this work helps to explain difference associations that may negatively impact an individual’s drinking,” said Dr. DiBello.

“I think it is important to understand the role romantic jealousy plays in the larger context of problem behaviors. Ultimately, I hope to use findings like these to support the development of prevention and intervention efforts among individuals who may struggle with alcohol, self-esteem and relationship issues,” added Dr. DiBello.

July 18th, 2015  in Alcohol No Comments »

Marijuana users substitute alcohol at age 21

A recent study looked at marijuana and alcohol use in people between the ages of 18 and 24. It’s probably not surprising that the results show a drastic increase in alcohol consumption in people just over 21; after all, that’s the minimum legal age to drink. What University of Illinois economist Ben Crost found remarkable is that, at the same age, there was an equally dramatic drop in marijuana use.

“Alcohol appears to be a substitute for marijuana. This sudden decrease in the use of marijuana is because they suddenly have easy access to alcohol,” Crost said.

Crost and Santiago Guerrero used five years of data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Survey participants estimated how many days in the past 30 that they had alcoholic drinks or used marijuana. Because the precise age of each respondent was not known, data on the averages of substance use by month of age was obtained from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

The minimum legal drinking age provided a threshold for comparison.

Legal Drinking Age Changes

“Whenever there is a discontinuous threshold where something changes, it provides a way to identify a causal effect,” Crost said. “You can compare people right above and right below the threshold. They should be very similar in all other respects, except for that one difference.

“In this case, we looked at the cutoff that occurs when people, overnight get much easier access to alcohol. People who are 20 years and 11 months old are basically the same as people who are 21 with that one exception. Nothing should change about people’s preference because people don’t overnight lose their preference for marijuana. They use it or lose it over the long run but not from one month to the next.”

Crost said that all of the costs and benefits from policies designed to reduce alcohol consumption, such as the minimum legal drinking age or liquor taxes, need to be assessed.

“We need to take this possible substitution behavior into account,” Crost said. “Marginally lowering the minimum legal drinking age would decrease the probability of marijuana consumption in young adults by about 10 percent. So, policies aimed at restricting alcohol consumption among young adults are likely to have the unintended consequence of increasing the use of illegal drugs, such as marijuana.

Alcohol Availability Decreases Marijuana Use

“If you think alcohol is much more harmful to people’s health, then you should probably restrict alcohol use. If you think marijuana is more harmful, then you might want to consider loosening the restrictions for alcohol,” he said.

The study also analyzed men and women separately. Although men have higher baseline use levels of both alcohol and marijuana, the effect of the minimum legal drinking age is larger for women. For example, the frequency of marijuana use for men decreased 7.5 percent. Women’s frequency of use decreased 15 percent.

“The effect of alcohol availability on marijuana use: Evidence from the minimum legal drinking age” by Benjamin Crost and Santiago Guerrero was published in the Journal of Health Economics.

July 12th, 2015  in Substance Abuse No Comments »