Archive for the ‘ Alcohol ’ Category

Binge Drinking Linked to Higher Blood Glucose Levels in Women

Regular high alcohol consumption and binge drinking from age 16 is associated with higher glucose concentrations in women’s blood – an important risk factor for type 2 diabetes – later in life, according to a study published in the open access journal BMC Public Health.

This study is the first to assess alcohol consumption data, starting in adolescence, over a 27 year period in relation to their blood glucose levels taken when they were 43 years of age. In women, total alcohol consumption and binge drinking behavior throughout the 27 year period was significantly associated with higher blood glucose levels independent of BMI, hypertension and smoking status at age 43.

Men Affected in Other Ways

This association was not true for men, for whom only BMI and hypertension remained associated with increased blood glucose levels.

Dr Karina Nygren, lead author from Umea University, Sweden said: “Our findings show that high alcohol consumption from ages 16 to 43 is associated with higher blood glucose levels in women but not in men. Because higher blood glucose is a risk factor for the development of type 2 diabetes, our data suggest that informing people about the risk of high alcohol consumption at a young age could have positive health impacts further down the line.”

Despite the association between alcohol, binge drinking and blood glucose only being significant in women, men still had higher blood glucose levels than women and consumed nearly 3 times as much alcohol between ages 16 and 43.

Alcohol Increases Insulin Resistance

Previous studies suggest possible mechanisms for the association between alcohol and elevated blood glucose. For example, human studies have shown that ethanol can increase insulin resistance, which in turn leads to accumulation of glucose in the blood. Studies in rats have also shown that binge drinking behavior alters the rat’s metabolism in a way that negatively affects insulin.

Dr Nygren commented: “Although there are some biological explanations behind why alcohol can directly lead to increased levels of glucose in the blood, the difference between men and women in our study is more difficult to explain.”

Data included in this study come from the Northern Swedish Cohort study which began in 1981. A total of 897 people from this study answered a questionnaire about alcohol consumption when they were 16, 18, 21, 30 and 43 years old. At age 43 a blood sample was taken from each person to assess blood glucose levels.

Long-Term Insight Into Drinking Behavior

The questionnaire involved eight questions about alcohol consumption including questions such as “how often do you drink alcohol?” and how much do you drink at each occasion?”. Binge drinking was defined as drinking four or more standard drinks of beer, wine or spirits per occasion for women, and five or more for men, at least once per month. One standard drink was specified to contain 12g of ethanol, which is equivalent to 330ml of a 5-6% beer.

The study shows an association between alcohol consumption and higher blood glucose but cannot show cause and effect. The data is limited by the fact that information on alcohol consumption comes from self-reported questionnaires and could be subject to bias. However, the long term nature of the study, which includes multiple follow ups, offers a unique insight into the drinking behaviors of people throughout their life.

June 13th, 2017  in Alcohol No Comments »

Alcohol’s health benefits overstated?

The benefits of light alcohol consumption, as well as the risks associated with not drinking at all, might not be as great as previously thought, according to Penn State researchers who examined the drinking habits of middle-aged adults.

The researchers analyzed information about more than 9,000 people across England, Scotland and Wales born in 1958 who are participating in the longitudinal National Child Development Study. The study, based at the University College London Centre for Longitudinal Studies, tracked changes in people’s drinking and cigarette smoking habits from age 23 to 55, and linked these changes to mental and physical health.

About one third of men and women who reported drinking at the light-to-moderate level were very unlikely to smoke. While this group of light drinkers and non-smokers enjoyed the best health and quality of life in middle age, three other groups experienced more health problems. These groups were those who drank lightly to moderately but also smoked; those who both drank more heavily and smoked; and those who refrained from drinking alcohol or reduced their drinking over time.

Other Risk Factors Not Considered

Light-to-moderate drinkers were defined as adults who consumed no more than 14 units of alcohol, which is equivalent to roughly six pints of beer or six medium-sized glasses of wine, per week. This is the current maximum recommended for men and women by the United Kingdom’s Department of Health, according to Jeremy Staff, professor of criminology and sociology at Penn State and the study’s lead author.

While the supposed benefits of moderate drinking have been widely reported in the media, many reports have failed to take into account other risk factors. For example, light-to-moderate drinkers suffered poor health in midlife if they were former smokers or still had the occasional cigarette. This may be due to a direct effect of smoking or because of other lifestyle-related risks, such as lack of exercise or obesity. Many midlife abstainers also began their adult life in poorer physical or mental health than peers who had completely abstained from alcohol.

Is There Harm in Abstaining?

“Alcohol abstainers are a diverse group. They include former heavy drinkers who quit due to problems with alcohol, as well as those who quit drinking due to poor health, and not just lifetime abstainers,” said Staff. “Medical professionals and public health officials should be wary of drawing conclusions about the so-called ‘dangers’ of never drinking without more robust evidence.”

About 1-in-5 members of 55-year-olds who said they had never drunk alcohol in their lives had previously reported drinking when they were younger. This suggests that those who drink very little may tend to misremember or under-report previous drinking habits. When studies include this group as lifetime abstainers, apparent ‘harms’ of abstaining may be overestimated, said the researchers.

Alcohol Has Many Health Risks

While modest drinking habits also have been linked with higher levels of education, those with few or no educational qualifications were also among those who did not drink or drank modestly. On the other hand, men and women with the highest educational qualifications at age 23 were more likely than their peers to drink at light-to-moderate rates throughout their adult lives, and were unlikely to smoke.

Jennifer Maggs, professor of human development and family studies at Penn State and another of the study’s authors, added, “Evidence continues to grow that alcohol has many health risks, including for cancer. Therefore, it is dangerous to report only benefits of moderate alcohol consumption. Drinking habits are also shaped by our education, health earlier in life, and related lifestyle factors including smoking. These other influences may be the real factors underlying the connection between drinking and midlife health.”

According to Sir Ian Gilmore, Chair of the Alcohol Health Alliance in the UK, “This study provides yet more evidence that any benefits associated with drinking alcohol are smaller than previously thought. The most effective ways to reduce harms associated with alcohol consumption are to introduce pricing measures linked to alcohol sales, and enable more informed choices through public education efforts and mandatory labeling of alcohol products.”

June 4th, 2017  in Alcohol No Comments »

Aggression Linked to Greater Risk of Substance Abuse

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People who have trouble controlling their anger are more likely to abuse alcohol and other substances. Those who display frequent aggressive behavior are at five times greater risk for abusing alcohol, tobacco and marijuana.

According to researchers at the University of Chicago Medical Center, patients with intermittent explosive disorder (IED) are much more likely to become substance abusers compared to those who do not display frequent aggressive behavior.

The study examined data from more than 9,200 subjects in the in the National Comorbidity Survey, a national survey of mental health in the United States.

Aggression Linked to Substance Abuse

The investigators found that as the severity of aggressive behavior increases so do levels of daily and weekly substance abuse. A history of frequent, aggressive behavior is a predictor of later substance abuse, they concluded.

IED is a condition marked by frequent physical or verbal outburts and affects an estimated 16 million people in the United States — more than bipolar disorder and schizophrenia combined. It is typically diagnosed in adolescents, some as young as 11, long before substance abuse problems develop.

The condition runs in families and is generally treated as a social-behavior issue rather than a true neurobiological disorder with significant genetic components, said Emil Coccaro, MD.

More Than Simply Bad Behavior

“People don’t see this as a medical problem. They think of it as simply bad behavior they have developed over the course of their lives, but it isn’t. It has significant biology and neuroscience behind it,” said Coccaro.

The Chicago study found no relationship between IED and the presences of other psychiatric disorders, as has been implied by previous research.

Although excessive alcohol use can clearly worsen aggressive behavior, Coccaro and colleagues found that IED diagnosis almost always precedes the development of chronic substance abuse. In cases where subjects were diagnosed with both disorders, IED preceded substance abuse in 92.5% of the cases.

Early Treatment Is Effective

The good news is if intermittent explosive disorder and aggression is treated early it can delay or even prevent substance abuse later in life. “Early psychological intervention, medication and cognitive therapy are the most effective treatments to prevent, or at least delay, substance abuse problems in adolescents diagnosed with IED,” Coccaro said.

Source: Coccaro EF, et al. “Intermittent Explosive Disorder and Substance Use Disorder: Analysis of the National Comorbidity Survey Replication Sample.” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry Feb. 28, 2017

March 14th, 2017  in Alcohol No Comments »

Strong Alcohol Policies Lower Drunk Driving Deaths

Stronger alcohol policies protect young people from dying in crashes caused by drunk driving according to researchers at Boston Medical Center. The study, which is published online in the journal Pediatrics, supports the importance of comprehensive alcohol control policies to reduce the number of young people who die in alcohol-related crashes.

Motor vehicle crashes are a leading cause of death among young people in the United States. Forty percent of deadly car crashes involve a drunk driver in Massachusetts, and the state falls within the top twenty-five percent for rates of young people killed in a drunk driving crash.

“Half of all young people who die in crashes are driven by someone who has been drinking,” says lead author Scott Hadland, MD, a pediatrician at BMC and the study’s corresponding author. “But with stronger alcohol policies at the state level, we saw a significantly lower likelihood of alcohol-related deaths.”

The Alcohol Policy Environment

The study used an alcohol policy scale that assessed 29 alcohol policies across the United States, which were designed to reduce alcohol consumption or prevent impaired driving, and cross referenced them with the number of people under 21 who died in crashes involving alcohol, approximately 85,000, over the course of 13 years. States were ranked based on how restrictive their alcohol laws were, including higher alcohol taxes and zero-tolerance policies for young people drinking and driving.

“We’ve seen research that shows the relationship between specific alcohol laws and drunk driving deaths, but no one has looked at the broader picture of the policy environment in different states,” said Timothy Naimi, MD, MPH, a general internal medicine physician and alcohol epidemiologist at BMC who served as senior author of the study.

More Restrictive Laws, Fewer Deaths

Researchers found as state alcohol laws became more restrictive, the likelihood of a young person being killed in a drunk driving crash decreased and led to less alcohol consumption as a whole. Additionally, almost half of underage youth who died in alcohol-related crashes were passengers, not drivers; and about 80% of those passengers were being driven by adults aged 21 or older who had been drinking.

Most of the deadly crashes happened during the weekend, in the evening or at night. The impact of state alcohol policies on drunk driving deaths was consistent for males and females, and generally held for both drivers and passengers.

Alcohol Control Clearly Matters

“When it comes to preventing impaired driving and deaths of young people, alcohol control policies clearly matter,” says Hadland, who is also an assistant professor of pediatrics at Boston University School of Medicine. “We found that those policies don’t have to necessarily be ones that prevent drunk driving, or that specifically target young people.”

“Since most young people who died as passengers in a car were driven by an adult over 21 who had been drinking, alcohol laws that prevent adult drinking are also critical,” said Naimi who is also an associate professor of medicine and public health at Boston University School of Medicine and Public Health. “We must also focus on strategies that reduce excessive drinking, rather than focusing exclusively on interventions to prevent driving among those who are already impaired.”

February 17th, 2017  in Drunk Driving No Comments »

Trusting Counselor Vital to Successful Alcohol Treatment

A positive, trusting relationship between counselor and patient, known as a “therapeutic alliance,” can be key to successful treatment of alcohol use disorder, a new study finds.

Gerard Connors, PhD, senior research scientist at the University at Buffalo Research Institute on Addictions, studied more than five dozen people engaging in a 12-week program of cognitive behavior therapy for alcohol use disorder.

Patients who reported the most positive relationships with their counselors on a session-to-session basis had fewer days of drinking and fewer days of heavy drinking between treatment sessions than patients whose relationship was not as positive.

Positive Relationship Yields Better Results

The results indicate that efforts to ensure a good match between patient and counselor can have considerable benefits to the patient’s recovery, Connors says. Further research on what factors lead to strong therapeutic alliances in alcohol treatment could be warranted.

Historically, there was an expectation that the most effective process to treat alcohol use disorder involved therapists confronting their clients about their behavior. However, Connors’ work over several years, along with other emerging research, has shown a more positive relationship between therapist and client yields better results.

“Many recent studies have recognized that a positive therapeutic alliance between a therapist and client is necessary for achieving behavior change, but much less has been known about how alliances operate across a full course of treatment,” Connors says.

Risk of Dropping Out of Treatment

“By studying the alliance on a session-to-session basis, we could see how a fractured alliance at a given point in time interferes with the pursuit of treatment goals by running the risk of a client dropping out of treatment,” he says. “Therefore, it’s important for the therapist to continue assessing the alliance throughout the entire course of treatment.”

The study also showed a positive alliance was even more critical for patients who had not made changes in their drinking prior to starting treatment. “In contrast, patients who had already reduced their drinking prior to entering treatment were not as dependent on the therapeutic alliance to continue the process of behavior change,” Connors says.

January 26th, 2017  in Alcoholism No Comments »

Binge Drinking Can Lead Quickly to Liver Disease

Alcohol consumed during just seven weeks of intermittent binge drinking harms the liver in ways that more moderate daily drinking does not, according to researchers at UC San Francisco.

The scientists discovered that just 21 binge drinking sessions in mice were enough to cause symptoms of early-stage liver disease. Binge drinking produced fatty liver tissue and triggered early stages of inflammation, both indicators of alcohol-induced liver disease. Binging also increased the levels of alcohol-metabolizing enzymes, whose activity can produce oxidative damage and other forms of harm to the liver. Their work appears in the January 19, 2017 “EarlyView” online edition of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Binge Drinking as Dangerous as Long-Term Drinking

“We sometimes think of alcoholic liver damage as occurring after years of heavy drinking. However, we found that even a short period of what in humans would be considered excessive drinking resulted in liver dysfunction,” said Frederic “Woody” Hopf, PhD, the study’s senior researcher, an associate adjunct professor of neurology at UCSF, and a member of UCSF’s Alcohol Center for Genes and Translation (ACGT). “It is important to intervene early to counter the dangers associated with binge drinking habits,” said Hopf, also a member of UCSF’s Wheeler Center for the Neurobiology of Addiction.

For a man, binge drinking is defined as consumption of five or more drinks within two hours, an amount equivalent to five bottles of beer, a bottle of wine, or five shots of hard liquor. For a woman, binge drinking involves consumption of four or more drinks in two hours.

88,000 Preventable Deaths Yearly

Reducing binge drinking is particularly important because many binge drinkers go on to develop an alcohol use disorder and associated health risks. Excessive alcohol use, which includes binge drinking, results in about 88,000 preventable deaths yearly in the United States and about 2.5 million years of lost life, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Most people with an alcohol use disorder develop fatty liver, and of those, about one in five goes on to develop liver cirrhosis, which often is fatal.

In the UCSF study, liver triglycerides were almost 50 percent higher in binge drinkers’ livers compared to mice that abstained from alcohol, and triglyceride levels in the blood were almost 75 percent higher. Fat droplets were clearly visible in liver slices from binge drinkers. In contrast, moderate-drinking mice and mice that completed just one binge drinking session did not have significantly elevated triglyceride levels compared to abstainers. “Our results strongly suggest that repeated, excessive alcohol drinking, even without alcohol dependence, can cause fatty liver, evidence of early alcohol-related liver dysfunction,” Hopf said.

Binge Drinking Increases Enzyme Levels

The researchers also found that even a single episode of binge drinking elevated the levels of the liver enzyme CYP2E1, which metabolizes alcohol into toxic by-products that can cause oxidative damage and other forms of tissue injury. After seven weeks of binging, there was even more CYPE1 produced in response to binge drinking. Alcohol dehydrogenase, the major alcohol-metabolizing enzyme, was also more abundant in binge-drinking mice. These results suggest that repeated binging increases the levels of these enzymes, which could lead to greater cellular damage.

Repeated binge drinking also increased activation of a gene that immune cells use to make an inflammatory cytokine protein called IL-1B, which is implicated in the liver inflammation seen in alcohol-induced liver disease. The scientists did not detect other alterations in the inflammatory system that are known to accompany later stages of liver cell damage.

Can Damage Be Undone?

“It’s not yet clear whether the changes to the liver associated with binge drinking are completely reversible. It could even be that these changes sensitize and prime the liver, so that a subsequent return to binge drinking after long abstinence will more easily cause harm,” Hopf said. “Those are experiments we are planning to do next.”

For several decades, alcohol researchers have regarded mice as a validated model for learning about mechanisms that drive excessive drinking in humans, according to Hopf. In the newly published study, binge-drinking mice could drink 20 percent alcohol on just three nights per week. “On Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights, they got to drink all they wanted,” Hopf said.

On the Road to Liver Damage

On the other hand, mice that had continuous access to alcohol drank more moderately, about half as much as binge drinkers. Alcohol binging in mice produces blood alcohol levels that are comparable to human binge drinking, Hopf said.

UCSF researchers at the ACGT are particularly interested in investigating whether changes in the brains of alcohol-binging mice might shed light on human binge drinking, especially the compulsive drives for alcohol associated with binge drinking that continues despite damaging consequences. The present studies suggest that even more limited alcohol binging is already sufficient to start one on the road to liver damage, Hopf said.

January 23rd, 2017  in Alcohol No Comments »

119,000 Children With FAS Born Each Year

Worldwide, an estimated 119,000 children are born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) each year, a new study from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) shows.

The study, published in The Lancet Global Health, provides the first-ever estimates of the proportion of women who drink during pregnancy, as well as estimates of FAS by country, World Health Organization (WHO) region and worldwide.

Globally, nearly 10 per cent of women drink alcohol during pregnancy, with wide variations by country and WHO region. In some countries, more than 45 per cent of women consume alcohol during pregnancy. In Canada, which has clinical guidelines advising abstinence during pregnancy, an estimated 10 per cent of pregnant women still drink, which is close to the estimated world average.

Prevalence of FAS Increasing

Nearly 15 per 10,000 people around the world are estimated to have FAS, the most severe form of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). FAS is characterized by mental, behavioural and learning problems, as well as physical disabilities. In Canada, the estimate is 10.5 cases of FAS per 10,000 people.

Not every woman who drinks while pregnant will have a child with FAS. “We estimated that one in 67 mothers who drink during pregnancy will deliver a child with FAS,” says lead author Dr. Svetlana Popova, Senior Scientist in CAMH’s Institute for Mental Health Policy Research.

She notes that this figure is very conservative and does not include other types of FASD that may occur from alcohol consumption during pregnancy, including partial FAS (pFAS) and Alcohol-related Neurodevelopmental Disorders (ARND).

Safest to Completely Abstain

Although it’s well established that alcohol can damage any organ or system in the developing fetus, particularly the brain, it’s still not known exactly what makes a fetus most susceptible, in terms of the amount or frequency of alcohol use, or timing of drinking during pregnancy. Other factors, such as the genetics, stress, smoking and nutrition also contribute to the risk of developing FASD.

“The safest thing to do is to completely abstain from alcohol during the entire pregnancy,” says Dr. Popova.

The study involved comprehensive literature reviews and statistical analyses to determine the estimates, which are intended to help countries plan public health initiatives and policies, such as FAS surveillance systems and educational efforts on the risks of alcohol use during pregnancy, the researchers note.

Rates Highest in Europe

The five countries with the highest alcohol use in pregnancy were in Europe: Russia, United Kingdom, Denmark, Belarus and Ireland. As a region, Europe also had a 2.6 higher prevalence of FAS than the global average. The lowest levels of drinking and FAS were found for the Eastern Mediterranean and South East Asia regions, as there are high rates of alcohol abstinence in these regions.

The predictive model that the research team developed in this study could also be used to estimate the prevalence of other disease conditions, notes Dr. Popova. Her team is currently extending this work to study the global scale of all fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). An earlier study by Dr. Popova and her team, published in The Lancet last year, showed that more than 400 disease conditions co-occur with FASD.

January 17th, 2017  in Alcoholism No Comments »

Alcohol Ads Promote Underage Drinking

A new analysis of 12 long-term studies published since 2008 from across the globe finds that young people under the legal drinking age who are more exposed to alcohol marketing appear more likely to start drinking early and also to engage in binge drinking.

A 2008 analysis established a link between exposure to alcohol marketing and drinking behavior in young people. This new systematic review — the first in nearly a decade — identifies 12 additional studies, broadening and strengthening the science in this area. All of the new studies found an association between level of marketing exposure and youth drinking behavior and found that exposure to ads was even more strongly associated with progression to binge drinking than with initiation of alcohol use.

Evidence Growing That Youth Is Targeted

The research was led by the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth (CAMY), part of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and published in a special issue of the journal Addiction focused entirely on alcohol marketing and public health.

“This latest review of the scientific literature adds stronger evidence to the claim that exposure to alcohol marketing among youth is linked to more underage youth drinking and, in particular, binge drinking,” says study leader David Jernigan, PhD, the director of CAMY and an associate professor in the Department of Health, Behavior and Society at the Bloomberg School. “Studies are documenting this exposure, which includes marketing and ads on television, the internet and social media, as well as on the radio, in magazines and at sporting and other events.”

Alcohol Leading Cause of Death for Young Men

Binge drinking, defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as consuming four or more drinks within two hours for women and five or more drinks for men, is associated with a long list of negative public health consequences, including sexual assaults, violence, attempted suicide and illicit drug use.

Alcohol is the leading cause of death and disability for males ages 15 to 24 in nearly every region of the world, and females of the same age in the wealthy countries and the Americas. In the United States, excessive alcohol use is responsible for an average of 4,350 deaths every year among people under the legal drinking age of 21.

Studies Included 35,000 Participants

The researchers relied upon four different medical and scientific databases to identify articles for possible inclusion in the review. Studies were included in the final review if they met a number of criteria, including whether they used original data and included measures of marketing exposure and alcohol consumption for at least 500 underage youth.

Studies were included only if they used self-reported and observed actual alcohol use such as binge drinking, as opposed to just measures of intentions to consume alcohol in the future. The studies were conducted in seven countries and involved more than 35,000 participants.

Self-Regulation Not Working

In the United States, alcohol advertising and marketing is primarily self-regulated by the alcohol industry, whereby the industry sets its own guidelines with respect to limiting exposure to young people.

Several of the included studies found that levels of marketing exposure appear to be as high or nearly as high among younger adolescents as they are among older adolescents and young adults, suggesting that current voluntary alcohol industry marketing codes are not protecting kids as young as 10 years old.

“Public health policies that can reduce or mitigate the effect of alcohol marketing exposure on youth drinking behavior are sorely needed,” Jernigan says. “With numerous countries considering greater restrictions on alcohol marketing, the findings of these studies signal the public health importance of that debate.”

January 12th, 2017  in Alcohol No Comments »

Ignition Interlock Devices Reduce Fatal Crashes

State laws requiring ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenders appear to reduce the number of fatal drunk driving crashes, a new study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Colorado School of Public Health researchers suggests.

The study — published Jan. 5 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine — found that mandatory interlock laws were associated with a seven percent decrease in the rate of fatal crashes with at least one driver with a blood alcohol content over the legal limit. The decrease translates into an estimated 1,250 prevented fatal crashes in states with mandatory interlock laws since states first started passing such laws in 1993.

An ignition interlock is an alcohol-sensing device, connected to the ignition of a vehicle, which detects alcohol in the driver’s breath. If alcohol in excess of a preset limit is detected by the sensor, the vehicle will not start. While all 50 states have some type of ignition interlock laws, 26 have mandatory laws requiring all individuals convicted of a DUI offense to use an interlock in order to drive legally, as of March 2016.

Mandatory Interlocks for All Are Most Effective

This is the first study to look at all the different types of interlock laws across all 50 states. The researchers found that interlock laws which are mandatory for all DUI offenders were much more effective than those applicable to only some offenders, such as only repeat offenders or those with a very high blood alcohol content.

In the United States in 2014, alcohol-involved fatal motor vehicle crashes caused approximately 10,000 deaths, about one-third of all motor vehicle crash deaths.

Interlock Laws Save Lives

“Our study demonstrates the value of mandatory ignition interlock laws across the United States,” says study leader Emma E. “Beth” McGinty, PhD, MS, deputy director at the Johns Hopkins Center for Mental Health and Addiction Policy Research at the Bloomberg School. “We already know that alcohol plays a tragic role in the number of motor vehicle crash fatalities each year. Interlock laws which are mandatory for all DUI offenders save lives. ”

To estimate the effects of existing ignition interlock laws, the researchers studied the effects of interlock laws on trends in alcohol-involved fatal crashes over a 32-year period, 1982 to 2013, and controlled for other motor vehicle safety laws and trends in crashes over time. The team assessed changes in pre- and post-interlock law rates of alcohol-involved fatal crashes with crash data obtained from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), and measured them against the different categories of interlock laws: permissive (at the discretion of a judge), partial (applicable to only some DUI offenders), and mandatory for all.

More States Adopting Interlock Laws

The researchers used two measures based on FARS data: alcohol-involved fatal crashes with a driver having a blood alcohol level of 0.08–the legal limit–and a second data set with a driver with a blood alcohol level greater than 0.15.

“Until recently, there hasn’t been any evidence on whether these laws prevent alcohol-involved fatal crashes, and specifically whether mandatory/all laws are more effective than permissive and partial laws,” McGinty says. “Our study suggests that they are effective, and it’s encouraging to see more and more states moving towards this evidence-based policy change. Since 2005, we’ve seen over 20 states adopt interlock laws for all drunk-driving offenses. We’d like to see the remaining states follow suit.”

January 7th, 2017  in Drunk Driving No Comments »

Alcohol Abuse Increases Risks of Heart Conditions

Alcohol abuse increases the risk of atrial fibrillation, heart attack and congestive heart failure as much as other well-established risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, smoking and obesity, according to a study published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Despite advances in prevention and treatments, heart disease is the No. 1 killer of men and women in the US. Reducing alcohol abuse might result in meaningful reductions of heart disease, according to the researchers.

“We found that even if you have no underlying risk factors, abuse of alcohol still increases the risk of these heart conditions,” said lead researcher Gregory M. Marcus, MD, director of clinical research in the Division of Cardiology at the University of California, San Francisco.

Double the Risk of Atrial Fibrillation

The researchers analyzed data from a database of all California residents ages 21 and older who received ambulatory surgery, emergency or inpatient medical care in California between 2005 and 2009. Among the 14.7 million patients in the database, 1.8 percent, or approximately 268,000, had been diagnosed with alcohol abuse.

The researchers found that after taking into account other risk factors, alcohol abuse was associated with a twofold increased risk of atrial fibrillation, a 1.4-fold increased risk of heart attack and a 2.3-fold increased risk of congestive heart failure. These increased risks were similar in magnitude to other well-recognized modifiable risk factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

Completely eradicating alcohol abuse would result in over 73,000 fewer atrial fibrillation cases, 34,000 fewer heart attacks, and 91,000 fewer patients with congestive heart failure in the United States alone, the researchers said.

Drinking Not Good for the Heart

“We were somewhat surprised to find those diagnosed with some form of alcohol abuse were at significantly higher risk of a heart attack,” Marcus said. “We hope this data will temper the enthusiasm for drinking in excess and will avoid any justification for excessive drinking because people think it will be good for their heart. These data pretty clearly prove the opposite.”

Previous research has suggested that moderate levels of alcohol consumption may help prevent heart attack and congestive heart failure, while even low to moderate levels of alcohol consumption have been shown to increase the incidence of atrial fibrillation.

Documented Alcohol Abuse

“The great majority of previous research relied exclusively on self-reports of alcohol abuse,” Marcus said. “That can be an unreliable measure, especially in those who drink heavily. In our study, alcohol abuse was documented in patients’ medical records.” He said that the study did not quantify how much alcohol patients drank.

In an editorial accompanying the new study, Michael H. Criqui, MD, MPH, of the University of California San Diego, wrote that previous studies that found a benefit from alcohol consumption in protecting against heart attack and congestive heart failure were so-called cohort studies, which include defined populations. Such studies tend to recruit stable, cooperative and health-conscious participants who are more likely to be oriented toward a heathier lifestyle.

“Cohort studies have minimal participation by true alcohol abusers, so the current study likely presents a more valid picture of heavy drinking outcomes,” Criqui said.

January 4th, 2017  in Alcohol No Comments »