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Friday, November 30, 2012

ATOD Weekly Recap - Week-ending November 16th

Study Links Stress-Related Impulsivity in College Women and Alcohol Dependence

College women who act impulsively when they are in distress are at higher risk for alcohol dependence, a new study suggests. Researchers at the University of Georgia studied 319 women in their first semester of college, an important time in students’ development of drinking habits, Science Daily reports. Of these women, 235 were drinkers. All participants took a screening test that asked about drinking behavior and alcohol use disorder symptoms. The study found women who tended to act rashly when they experience negative emotions were more likely to have an increase in alcohol dependence during their first semester. Those who acted rashly under stress and said they wanted to drink to change emotional experiences had the biggest increases in symptoms.

The study appears in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

“College women should learn to plan ahead when they go drinking, in order to reduce their risk for problems,” Gregory Smith of the University of Kentucky, commented in a news release. “Women who tend to get impulsive when distressed should seek training from mental health professionals on effective ways to avoid impulsive actions that prove harmful. Parents and college administrators should not underestimate the risks associated with heavy drinking during the college years.” Lead researcher Monika Kardacz Stojek added, “It seems that women who know that they tend to act without thinking when they are upset should be aware that they might be more at risk for negative consequences from drinking if they impulsively drink while in that negative mood.”

Impulsive College Women at Risk for Alcohol Problems

A negative element associated with gender equality is the observation that during the last three decades, young women have been drinking more. The increased emphasis of heavy drinking among young women increases the risk of developing alcohol use disorders (AUDs) as well as other negative consequences such as sexual assault and physical injuries. Prior research has shown that college students drink more than their non-college peers.

A new study of the influence of impulsivity-related traits and drinking motives has found that an impulsivity trait called “negative urgency” predicted increases in AD symptoms among college women. Study results are found online and will be published in the February 2013 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

The rest of the article is available here.

Good or bad for kids? D.A.R.E removes pot from curriculum
The drug education program D.A.R.E. has made some changes and has removed marijuana from its curriculum. The decision has spurred strong opinions from both sides of the marijuana debate. Some people say D.A.R.E. was making children think marijuana was as bad as other drugs when they don't think it is. Others say it's a gateway drug that still has dangerous effects, especially on children. Read the rest of the story here.

Legal drugs, deadly outcomes
Prescription overdoses kill more people than heroin and cocaine. An L.A. Times review of coroners’ records finds that drugs prescribed by a small number of doctors caused or contributed to a disproportionate number of deaths. To read this expose in the LA Times, click here.

Are Parents Powerless when Teens Abuse Rx Drugs?
Plenty of parents are clueless about the temptations, risks and pressure teens face when it comes to experimenting with the illicit use of prescription drugs -- but when we get up to speed, are we still powerless? As I interviewed people on the front lines of this epidemic for our just-concluded prescription drug abuse series for Health Kids,  I asked this question over and over again. The real experts -- parents and former teens who’ve been through it -- say parents can make a difference. As the parent of a young teen, that makes me feel better. But readers of the blog have been divided over just how much parents can do to deter it. Rest of the story is available here.

Laws to Crack Down on Serving Intoxicated People in Bars Largely Ignored
Laws prohibiting bars and restaurants from serving intoxicated people can be an effective way to reduce alcohol-related motor vehicle crashes and violence, but the provisions in most states are poorly drafted and rarely enforced, according to two experts on alcohol policy. Click here to read the rest of the article.

Majority of Smoking Parents Expose Kids to Tobacco Smoke in Car
A new study finds a majority of parents who smoke expose their children to tobacco smoke in their cars. Many of these parents have smoke-free policies at home, CBS News reports. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. In children, secondhand smoke causes many health problems, including severe asthma attacks, respiratory infections, ear infections, and sudden infant death syndrome. The study included 795 parents who were smokers. More than 70 percent said someone had smoked in their car in the previous three months. Of the 562 parents who allowed smoking in their car, 48 percent said they smoked in the car when their children were present. The researchers found while most parents strictly enforced a smoke-free policy at home, only 24 percent had a similar policy for their cars.

“Workplaces, restaurants, homes and even bars are mostly smoke-free, but cars have been forgotten,” lead researcher Emara Nabi-Burza of Massachusetts General Hospital said in a news release. “Smoking in cars is not safe for motorists and nonsmokers – especially children, who have no way to avoid tobacco smoke exposure in their parent’s car. Now that we know the magnitude of the problem, pediatricians and the public can act to help these children.”

The study appears in the journal Pediatrics.

Baby boomers: The hooked generation?

More people in their 50s and 60s are abusing illegal and prescription drugs, prompting a federal agency to post its first consumer alert on its website aimed at seniors.

Call him Albert. As a teenager he was drunk a lot. During military service he was doing hard drugs. And by middle age he’d wake up every morning and “use whatever I could get my hands on.” In the process, he lost his construction business and his marriage barely survived.  “The more money I made, the more I used,” he recalls.
Albert, a 66-year-old Fort Lauderdale man, who asked that his real name not be used, is the new face of addiction: a baby boomer long past the typical youthful phase of experimentation. He’s clean now, but as a member of Narcotics Anonymous, he says he meets plenty of older recovering addicts just like him.  Local and national figures show that more people in their 50s and 60s are abusing illegal and prescription drugs. While the use of illicit drugs remains relatively uncommon among people 65 and older, the number of illicit drug users 50 to 59 years old tripled between 2002 and 2011, from 900,000 to 2.7 million, according to the National Institutes of Health. The increase even prompted the NIH to post its first consumer alert on its website, NIHSeniorHealth. Read more here.

60% of High School Students  Report Drugs Are Used, Kept, or Sold in Their Schools

For the sixth year in a row, 60% or more of high school students report that drugs are used, kept, or sold on their school grounds, according to a telephone survey of U.S. youth ages 12 to 17. While the percentage of students reporting that there are drugs in their school has decreased from the high of 66% in 2010 to 60% in 2012, the current percentage remains higher than a decade ago (44%). The survey also found that 36% of high school students believe that it is fairly or very easy for students to smoke, drink or use drugs during the day at their school without getting caught and more than half (52%) say that there is a place on school grounds or near their school where students go to smoke, drink, or use drugs during the school day.
SOURCE:  Adapted by CESAR from The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University (CASA), National Survey of American Attitudes on Substance Abuse XVII: Teens, 2012. Available online at

Graphic Cigarette Labels Can Influence Smokers Who Know Less About Health
Cigarette labels that display graphic images of the consequences of smoking have a greater impact on smokers who are less educated about health issues, compared with text-only labels, a new study suggests. The researchers from the University of South Carolina wanted to focus on less educated smokers, because previous studies found people in lower socioeconomic groups with lower education levels are among the heaviest smokers, and have the highest rates of tobacco-related disease.
They recruited almost 1,000 adult smokers, and asked them about their education, smoking habits and salary level. Participants were asked to interpret a nutrition label, in order to assess their health literacy. They were then divided into two groups. One group was shown four text-only cigarette warnings, which are currently used on cigarette packs. The other group was shown nine cigarette packs that displayed text and pictures showing the negative consequences of smoking. These included a graphic picture of a diseased chest of a deceased person, as well as more abstract images that warned of cancer, stroke and heart disease. Smokers rated the pictures more highly in terms of personal relevance and effectiveness, compared with warnings that simply included words. Smokers with low health literacy found the warning labels and pictures to be more credible than the text-only labels.

“Research on cigarette warnings in the United States and other countries has repeatedly shown that pictures work better than text,” study author Dr. James Thrasher told HealthDay. “Our research supports this finding while also showing what tobacco researchers have assumed for a while — that warnings with pictures work particularly well among smokers with low levels of literacy.”

The study appears in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

The Food and Drug Administration wants to require tobacco companies to add graphic warning labels to cigarette packages. The labels include graphic images of the consequences of smoking, including diseased lungs and rotting teeth. The warning label requirement has been tied up in court. Tobacco companies have argued that the labels violate the right to free speech.

21-year-old dies after one drop of new synthetic drug at Voodoo Fest
The best friends had traveled together to music festivals all over the country. Sometimes, they would take drugs. But they had one rule: Never accept drugs from strangers.  But on Saturday, after a night drinking vodka-Red Bulls at Voodoo Festival at City Park, 21-year-old Clayton Otwell, of Little Rock, Ark., apparently forgot his rule, said Mandie Newell, his best friend and companion at the festival.
The rest of the story can be read here.

Residents Across NJ Turn-Out to Dispose of their Unused, Unwanted, Expired Medicine
The Partnership for a Drug-Free New Jersey (PDFNJ) and Sheriffs’ Association of New Jersey (SANJ) held the third annual The American Medicine Chest Challenge–New Jersey  (AMCC) --- a public health initiative to raise awareness about the dangers of prescription drug abuse, throughout New Jersey, on Saturday, November 10, 2012.  Over a ton of medicine was collected throughout New Jersey during the event which was designed to bring to light the dangers of prescription drug abuse and the easy accessibility within the home by generating unprecedented media attention on the issue of prescription and over-the-counter medicine abuse and creating a way for adults to anonymously, legally, and safely dispose of unused, unwanted, and expired medicine.

The initiative encourages families to take the five-step American Medicine Chest Challenge which includes taking inventory of medicine in the home, securing the medicine chest, disposing of unused, unwanted, and expired medicine, taking medicine exactly as prescribed, and talking to children about the dangers of prescription drug-abuse.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has labeled prescription drug abuse an epidemic, reporting that the death toll from overdoses of prescription painkillers has more than tripled in the past decade and more than 40 people die every day from overdoses involving narcotic pain relievers. According to the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy, 70 percent of people who abuse prescription pain relievers obtained them from friends or relatives, and, there has been a 400% increase in substance abuse treatment admissions for people abusing prescription drugs.  The statewide event was coordinated by PDFNJ, SANJ, the New Jersey National Guard, and Drug Enforcement Administration – New Jersey, with the support of the Governor’s Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse (GCADA), New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS), The New Jersey Broadcasters Association, and the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.  AMCC is sponsored by PhRMA, Generic Pharmaceutical Association and is supported by The Partnership at, American College of Emergency Physicians, Covanta Energy, and Healthcare Distribution Management Association.

Pregnant women: Just don't drink, study suggests

After years of confusing and contradictory advice about alcohol consumption during pregnancy, a new study may have the final word: Just don't drink. The study, published Wednesday in the journal PLoS ONE, reveals that even a few drinks a week by an expectant mother can lead to reductions in a child's IQ if the child has certain genetic variations impairing their ability to break down alcohol.  Research into the effects of alcohol consumption during pregnancy has generally focused on heavy drinking, and the resulting incidence of fetal alcohol syndrome. Meanwhile, observational studies of moderate drinking have shown little negative effect. As a result, many physicians advise their expectant patients that a drink every now and then is fine, so long as the drinking never becomes heavy.

The new report specifically looked at mothers who consumed between one and six drinks a week. As an added layer, the researchers also analyzed the DNA of the children to look for differences in the parts of the genetic code responsible for breaking down alcohol - an important consideration that can drastically change the effect of a drink on the body.

By using a biological variable to ask whether small doses of alcohol have the potential to cause harm, the researchers eliminated concerns about sociological or socioeconomic differences between abstainers and drinkers.  The study identified four unique genetic variations in the ADH gene -- which produces an enzyme responsible for breaking down alcohol -- that had a harmful effect on a child's IQ: For each variation a child had, their IQ was roughly two points lower.  The effect was seen only among mothers who drank, and was present even when mothers drank very little (the study excluded mothers who drank heavily).  The results suggest that children with an impaired ability to break down alcohol can be harmed by relatively small amounts of it while in the womb.

On the one hand, the results show that children who lack the genetic variants uncovered in the study may not suffer from their mother's moderate drinking.  But the study also underscores why one might want to use the precautionary principle during pregnancy: In the right situation, even an occasional glass of wine appears to carry with it the risk of a drop in IQ.

Booze v Soda: Adults get nearly as many empty calories from alcohol as sugary drinks

Americans get too many calories from soda. But what about alcohol? It turns out adults get almost as many empty calories from booze as from soft drinks, a government study found. Soda and other sweetened drinks - the focus of obesity-fighting public health
campaigns - are the source of about 6 percent of the calories adults consume, on average. Alcoholic beverages account for about 5 percent, the new study found.

"We've been focusing on sugar-sweetened beverages. This is something new," said Cynthia Ogden, one of the study's authors. She's an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention which released its findings Thursday.

The government researchers say the findings deserve attention because, like soda, alcohol contains few nutrients but plenty of calories.  The study is based on interviews with more than 11,000 U.S. adults from 2007 through 2010. Participants were asked extensive questions about what they ate and drank over the previous 24 hours. The study found:

-On any given day, about one-third of men and one-fifth of women consumed calories from beer, wine or liquor.

-Averaged out to all adults, the average guy drinks 150 calories from alcohol each day, or the equivalent of a can of Budweiser.

-The average woman drinks about 50 calories, or roughly half a glass of wine.

-Men drink mostly beer. For women, there was no clear favorite among alcoholic beverages.

-There was no racial or ethnic difference in average calories consumed from alcoholic beverages. But there was an age difference, with younger adults putting more of it away.

For reference, a 12-ounce can of regular Coca-Cola has 140 calories, slightly less than a same-sized can of regular Bud. A 5-ounce glass of wine is around 100 calories.

In September, New York City approved an unprecedented measure cracking down on giant sodas, those bigger than 16 ounces, or half a liter. It will take effect in March and bans sales of drinks that large at restaurants, cafeterias and concession stands.  Should New York officials now start cracking down on tall-boy beers and monster margaritas?  There are no plans for that, city health department officials said, adding in a statement that while studies show that sugary drinks are "a key driver of the obesity epidemic," alcohol is not.  Health officials should think about enacting policies to limit alcoholic intake, but New York's focus on sodas is appropriate, said Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a public health advocacy group.

Soda and sweetened beverages are the bigger problem, especially when it comes to kids - the No. 1 source of calories in the U.S. diet, she said.  "In New York City, it was smart to start with sugary drinks. Let's see how it goes and then think about next steps," she said.  However, she lamented that the Obama administration is planning to exempt alcoholic beverages from proposed federal regulations requiring calorie labeling on restaurant menus.

It could set up a confusing scenario in which, say, a raspberry iced tea may have a calorie count listed, while an alcohol-laden Long Island Iced Tea - with more than four times as many calories - doesn't. "It could give people the wrong idea," she said.

College drinking: No fear, all reward raises risk
Brain scans show that stressed out college students are more likely to abuse alcohol when they have both a strong desire for reward and little fear of the dangers. “Imagine the push and pull of opposing drives when a mouse confronts a hunk of cheese in a trap. Too much drive for the cheese and too little fear of the trap leads to one dead mouse,” says senior author Ahmad Hariri, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke University and director of its Laboratory of NeuroGenetics. Hariri and lead author Yuliya S. Nikolova, a Duke graduate student, analyzed fMRI brain scan data to measure individual differences in the functioning of reward and threat circuits in the brains of the students. Read the original study
The students’ self-reporting spanned the previous 12 months and included questions regarding their experience of stressful life events as well as their use of alcohol and any problems associated with this use. In addition, a subset of students provided reports of their drinking three months after they were scanned, allowing Nikolova and Hariri to map differences in brain function onto later problem drinking. The authors found that problem drinking related to stress emerged only in students who had both a highly reactive reward circuitry in the ventral striatum region of the brain and a hypo-reactive threat circuitry in the amygdala. “The work further highlights a novel protective role for the amygdala, which has been historically the focus of risk for and pathophysiology of mood and anxiety disorders,” Hariri says. The findings may help with identifying individuals who are particularly high-risk for abusing alcohol because of stress, including biomarkers and interventions, Nikolova notes.

The authors says an important caveat to consider when interpreting their findings is that participants may have experienced more stressful life events partially as a result of their increased drinking, rather than the other way around. “This interpretation would be consistent with a heightened drive to pursue immediate rewards, coupled with a reduced ability to recognize and avoid threat in those individuals,” they write in the study published in the open-access journal Biology of Mood & Anxiety Disorders. Source: Duke University

"Pre-gaming" may lead heavier drinking, blackouts
College students might "pre-game" to save a few bucks during a night out, but a new study says that could come at added costs to their health. A Swiss study has revealed that college-aged people who pre-drink before they go out tend to drink twice as much and have more negative consequences than those who only drink at event they attend. Pre-drinking -- also known as pre-gaming and pre-partying  -- is the act of consuming alcoholic beverages before heading out to another venue where there will be drinking, such as a sporting event, bar or club. Addiction specialists believe that 65 to 75 percent of young adults drink before they go out, according to the Los Angeles Times.  Click here to read the rest of the story

FDA Received Reports of 13 Deaths Possibly Connected With Energy Drink

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received reports of 13 deaths over the last four years that may have involved the highly caffeinated drink 5-Hour Energy, The New York Times reports. Last month, the FDA said it was investigating reports that five people have died since 2009 after they consumed Monster energy drinks. The investigation was announced after parents of 14-year-old Anais Fournier sued the company in connection with their daughter’s death. The FDA said it has not established a connection between the drinks and the deaths. The FDA can regulate caffeine levels in soft drinks. The limit in a 12-ounce soda is about 71 milligrams. The caffeine levels in most energy drinks exceed that level, because they are labeled dietary supplements.

According to the newspaper, since 2009, the FDA has received incident reports of more than 30 cases of serious or life-threatening injuries such as heart attacks and convulsions, which mentioned 5-Hour Energy. These reports do not prove the product was responsible for a death or injury, or contributed in any way to it, the article notes.

While Monster Energy, Red Bull and other energy drinks that come in a can, 5-Hour Energy is sold in a two-ounce bottle called a shot. According to an analysis by Consumer Reports, the product contains about 215 milligrams of caffeine. An eight-ounce cup of coffee generally contains between 100 to 150 milligrams. Last year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration issued a report that found a sharp rise in the number of emergency department visits linked with the use of non-alcohol energy drinks, from 1,128 visits in 2005, to 13,114 in 2009. The report noted that energy drinks are marketed to appeal to youth, and are consumed by up to half of children, teenagers and young adults.

CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta ran a report on Thursday, November 15th titled “Prescription drug deaths: Two stories”. If you’re interested in reading the report, click here.

60 percent of America's biggest cities are now smoke-free
Comprehensive smoke-free laws cover 30 of 50 largest U.S. cities, up from just one in 2000
Thirty of America’s 50 largest cities are now covered by laws that prohibit smoking in all indoor areas of private workplaces, restaurants, and bars, according to a study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By late 2000, only one of the 50 largest U.S. cities—San Jose, Calif.—was covered by such a law. As of Oct. 5, 2012, 16 of the 50 largest cities were covered by local comprehensive smoke-free laws, and 14 more were covered by state comprehensive smoke-free laws.  Today, almost half of Americans are protected by state or local laws of this kind, compared to less than three percent in 2000. Scientific studies have found that smoke-free laws reduce exposure to secondhand smoke, reduce smoking, and improve health, including reducing heart attacks. While new local comprehensive smoke-free laws continue to be adopted in a number of cities and counties, last week North Dakota voters approved the first statewide comprehensive smoke-free law adopted since 2010.
The study, "Comprehensive Smoke-Free Laws—50 Largest U.S. Cities, 2000 and 2012," published in this week’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, reported that 10 of the 20 cities without comprehensive smoke-free laws are located in the south. Additionally, 10 of the 20 cities without such laws are located in states that prohibit local smoking restrictions from being stronger than or different from state law.
"Hundreds of cities and counties have passed their own smoke-free laws, including many communities in the south," said Tim McAfee, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC’s Office on Smoking and Health. "If we continue to progress as we have since 2000, all Americans could be protected from secondhand smoke exposure in workplaces and public places by 2020."
The 2006 Surgeon General’s Report concluded that there is no risk-free level of exposure to secondhand smoke. Secondhand smoke causes heart disease and lung cancer in nonsmoking adults and is a known cause of sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS, respiratory problems, ear infections, and asthma attacks in infants and children. Even brief exposure to secondhand smoke can trigger acute cardiac events, such as heart attack. Cigarette use kills an estimated 443,000 Americans each year, including 46,000 by heart disease and 3,400 by lung cancer among nonsmokers from exposure to secondhand smoke. For an online version of this MMWR report, visit

Alcohol Taxes Can Reduce Young People’s Drinking
Raising alcohol excise taxes can help deter young people from drinking, according to a leading expert on preventing drinking in youth. n a report prepared as part of the campaign to advocate for the Maryland excise tax, CAMY estimated that a dime a drink increase in Maryland’s alcohol excise taxes would reduce alcohol consumption by 4.8 percent, raise $214.4 million in new revenue for the state and result in a savings of an additional $249 million in costs incurred in the state as a result of alcohol consumption. CAMY said that such an increase would prevent almost 15,000 cases of alcohol dependence annually. “The impact could be even larger among youth, since they are less likely to be addicted to alcohol than older drinkers, and also have less disposable income—both factors that make them more sensitive to increases in the cost of alcohol,” the report states.

Read the rest of the article by clicking here.

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