Tag Archives: alcohol abuse

Binge Drinking Has Lasting Effects

addictionThe effort to understand the effects drug and alcohol use has on the brain during developmental years continues. When teenage drinking is talked about, the words “binge drinking” often arise, that is, consuming five or more alcoholic beverages (male), or four or more drinks (female), over a 2-hour period. The practice is quite common among teenagers who are trying to consume as much alcohol as they can - in the limited time they have. Binge drinking has been associated with a number of health problems, including alcohol poisonings and the potential for addictive behaviors to develop. New research suggests that teens that binge drink may experience changes in the brain that last into adulthood, The Los Angeles Times reports. Researchers found that repeated exposure to alcohol throughout one’s formative years may cause long-lasting changes in the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning. “In the eyes of the law, once people reach the age of 18, they are considered adult, but the brain continues to mature and refine all the way into the mid-20s,” lead author Mary-Louise Risher of Duke University said in a news release. “It’s important for young people to know that when they drink heavily during this period of development, there could be changes occurring that have a lasting impact on memory and other cognitive functions.” The brains of teenagers and young adults are still developing, according to researchers, and are uniquely sensitive to levels of alcohol consistent with binge drinking, the article reports. Using rats, the researchers found that those who regularly consumed alcohol while their brain was developing had problems with:
  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Judgment
  • Learning Ability
"It's quite possible that alcohol disrupts the maturation process, which can affect these cognitive function later on," said Risher. The findings appear in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

Concerns Mounting Over Powdered Alcohol

powdered-alcoholMinimizing underage drinking is a priority in the United States. This is why many are concerned over the recent approval of Palcohol (powdered alcohol), all it takes is a little bit of water and you have an alcoholic beverage. Lawmakers across the country have made efforts to ban Palcohol before it hits the shelves and gets into the wrong hands. The producer of Palcohol, Mark Phillips, claims that his product is no more dangerous than traditional alcohol, The New York Times reports. While in essence the product will have the same effect on the human body as liquid alcohol, the reality is that Palcohol will be attractive to underage drinkers for its ability to be concealed. Phillips says that the idea for powdered alcohol came from his love for hiking, and the hassle of having to carry bottles uphill, according to the article. The product may be practical, but not everyone is on board, six states have already banned the powdered alcohol and Senator Charles Schumer of New York introduced a bill last month that would ban the product nationwide. “I am in total disbelief that our federal government has approved such an obviously dangerous product, and so, Congress must take matters into its own hands and make powdered alcohol illegal,” said Schumer in a statement. “Underage alcohol abuse is a growing epidemic with tragic consequences and powdered alcohol could exacerbate this.” Other concerns include the risk of people snorting the product for a quicker fix, but Phillips claims that snorting Palcohol would not be a fun experience. “It would take you an hour of pain to ingest the equivalent of one drink,” Phillips said in an interview. “It really burns.” However, in 2012, on the company's website Phillips wrote that you could sprinkle powdered alcohol on guacamole, “although snorting it would get you drunk quickly and was probably not a good idea.” Now, Palcohol’s website says that snorting would be impractical and unpleasant.

The Best Approach to Combating Binge Drinking

binge-drinkingIn England, just as the United States, binge drinking is a major problem among young adults. The act of drinking as much as you can, as fast as you can, can lead to a number of problems and even result in addiction. Combating the practice of binge drinking has proven difficult, with research indicating that campaigns against binge drinking have bore little fruit. A new research conducted by Royal Holloway, University of London, in conjunction with three other UK universities, has found that official messages about binge drinking are unlikely to work and are often dismissed as irrelevant by young drinkers, Science Daily reports. The findings may be due to the consumption of large quantities of alcohol being part of their sub-cultural social identity, a group driven by the need to subvert rules and norms. "The insight that heavy drinking can be part of a rule-breaking sub-culture may seem obvious, yet huge sums have been spent in the past on Government anti-drinking advertising campaigns that simply fuel the sense that sensible drinking is boring and conformist, while binge drinking is subversive fun," said Professor Chris Hackley, from the School of Management at Royal Holloway. "Government messages that say 'drink sensibly' ignore the ways many young people actually enjoy drinking. This research also has implications for other areas of Government health policy, where compulsive and excessive consumption can sometimes be fuelled by a need to defy and subvert official rules." What’s more, the research showed that high-price tagged ad campaigns may actually have an adverse effect on people most at risk of drinking to excess, according to the report. In the United Kingdom, alcohol related injuries and deaths cost the National Health Service £3.5 billion a year. Clearly, with the price of excessive alcohol consumption being as high as it is, the need for more effective methods is apparent. The researchers contend that a more targeted and practical approach to alcohol intervention may be more effective than multi-million pound anti-drinking campaigns. The findings were published in the Journal of Business Research.

NPY: Not Only a Treatment for Alcohol Abuse – but a Marker

binge-drinking-NPYThe practice of “binge drinking” is a common occurrence among young adults, especially with young men. Drinking as much alcohol as you can, as fast as you can, may be appealing to those trying to catch up with their peers; however, binge drinking can be extremely dangerous - leading to a number of health problems - as well as dependence and addiction. As a result, researchers have long sought ways to curb binge drinking behaviors using science. At the University of North Carolina (UNC), a team of researchers used "a series of genetic and pharmacological approaches" to identify a protein in the brain called neuropeptide Y (NPY), which suppressed binge drinking behavior in a mouse model, Medical News Today reports. "Specifically, we found that NPY acted in a part of the brain known as the extended amygdala (or bed nucleus of the stria terminalis) that we know is linked to both stress and reward,” explained study lead author Thomas L. Kash, PhD, assistant professor in the departments of pharmacology and psychology and a member of UNC's Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies. This antidrinking effect was due to increasing inhibition (the brakes) on a specific population of cells that produce a 'pro-drinking' molecule called corticotropin releasing factor (CRF)." "When we then mimicked the actions of NPY using engineered proteins, we were also able to suppress binge alcohol drinking in mice," notes Kash. What’s interesting, in the study the researchers found that the "antidrinking" NPY system may be susceptible to alteration by long-term drinking in multiple species. The researchers’ findings suggest that NPY may not only be a treatment for alcohol abuse - but a marker. "The identification of where in the brain and how NPY blunts binge drinking, and the observation that the NPY system is compromised during early binge drinking prior to the transition to dependence, are novel and important observations," study co-author Todd E. Thiele, PhD, professor of psychology at UNC and a member of the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies. The findings were published in Nature Neuroscience.

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