Alcohol & Pregnancy: “Don’t Do IT”

CNN reported today that a new study published by the American Academy of Pediatrics has put a very clear message out about drinking during pregnancy: “Don’t do it. Ever. At all. Not even a tiny bit. No amount of alcohol should be considered safe to drink during any trimester of pregnancy.”

The AAP cites several effects of drinking alcohol during pregnancy, mainly birth defects and cognitive problems later in life. Further, according to CNN.com, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also advise pregnant women to stay away from alcohol. In fact, an epidemiologist at the CDC, Dr. Cheryl Tan, advises, “There is no safe amount, no safe time, and no safe type of alcohol to drink during pregnancy. It’s just not worth the risk.”

Sadly, a different study recently conducted by Tan showed that during 2011-2013, one in 10 pregnant women reported consuming alcohol in the past 30 days and one in 33 reported binge drinking. Also, women who drank in their first trimester were 12 times more likely to have a child with these issues, compared to women who didn’t drink at all. First- and second-trimester drinking increased the risk 61 times, and women who drank during all trimesters increased the risk by a factor of 65.

Although previous studies have indicated that when women drink during pregnancy their babies show no problems with behavioral or intellectual development or balance tasks, this recent study emphasizes that the smartest choice is “to just abstain from alcohol completely.”

Source: cnn.com


pregnancyandalcohol10 Percent of Pregnant Women Drink Alcohol

Pregnant women between 18 and 44 years of age were surveyed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and ten percent reported drinking alcohol while pregnant. Using the CDC’s Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System, an even more alarming statistic was uncovered: 3.1 percent of pregnant women are participating in binge drinking. Binge drinking is defined as consuming more than four alcohol beverages in a two hour time frame. Further, the pregnant women who binge drank during pregnancy reported that they did so around four to five times per month. This is a shocking fact because most non-pregnant woman who binge drink usually do so around just three times per month.

Drinking alcohol during pregnancy is dangerous for the mother and the baby. It can lead to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, which sadly affects between two and five percent of children. Fetal alcohol spectrum disorder can manifest behaviorally, physically or mentally in children. Drinking alcohol can also lead to bird defects, miscarriage and premature birth.

Ongoing research is examining why pregnant women are more prone to binge drinking and what can be done to put a stop to it.

genderandalcoholismGender and Alcoholism

Alcoholism is faced by both men and women, and does not discriminate between age, marital status or age. However, gender has been found to be an important factor influencing alcoholism vulnerability and treatment. There are both biological and physiological factors including hormones that show that gender differences occur in alcoholism.

In developed countries, the World Health Organization has estimated, 1 in 5 men and 1 in 12 women develop alcohol dependence during their lives. This gender difference is found to be the case all over the world and is one of only a few key gender differences in social behavior.

There are many reasons for this difference in alcoholism between men and women. Women metabolize alcohol in a different way than men — leading them to feel the effects of alcohol earlier and to a greater extent than men. Thus, women feel the bad effects of alcohol sooner and more intense and suffer the negative behavioral and high risk factors to a greater extent.

Also, women who drink alcohol expose themselves more health risks for themselves. Alcohol has been linked to an increased risk of cancers, including breast cancer and research has shown that women are more susceptible to organ damage due to alcoholism while drinking less and over a shorter period of time than men. Do to these factors, women are also at risk of chronic diseases, neurological problems, cardiovascular issues, psychological problems and social issues that are related to alcoholism.

On the other hand, men are twice as likely to suffer from alcoholism to suffer from alcoholism as women. Men drink more quantities and more often than women do and in turn, suffer from the long-term health implications. These diseases can include: brain and/or liver disease, cognitive problems, and depression. Excessive alcohol consumption is also found to be a factor in sexual dysfunction in men.

Although the causes and effects of alcoholism are different according to gender, the underlying result is the same: alcoholism is harmful no matter if you are male or female.


cincodemayoCinco de Mayo and More Alcohol

Recently, a concerned community member stewed over whether or not to take his children to a Cinco de Mayo celebration held in his city. As a young child, he remembered Cinco de Mayo being all the sound of mariachis, the taste of tamales, and mischievous kids cracking confetti-filled eggshells on each other’s heads. But, he indicated, the crowds got bigger and people were drinking too much until he and his family stopped going.

Over the years, Cinco de Mayo has changed from a day of celebrating the Mexican army to a day of drinking margaritas. In fact, it’s becoming a little like Saint Patrick’s Day, and is among the top five drinking holidays in the United States. Further, 35 percent of accidents on Cinco de Mayo now involve a drunk driver with the BAC level of .15 or above. The drinking began to become a larger part of Cinco de Mayo when Americans were invited across the border to participate in the partying. Soon, the alcohol consumption and the partying crossed the border into the Southern States and was used in boosting tourism. The pattern has continued across the country and alcohol marketers used the holiday as a way to promote their tequila and margarita mixes.

But, Cinco de Mayo doesn’t have to be all about drinking. Many groups are joining a movement across the country that wants to return to a Cinco de Mayo of the past. People like the one mentioned above want do take alcohol out of the party and put historical Mexican celebrations and bringing the traditional fiesta back into Cinco de Mayo.

Source: http://sks.sirs.swb.orc.scoolaid.net


youtubevideosdrinkingDrinking seems funny on YouTube

The Internet is flooded with comical videos, many on YouTube of people drinking alcohol. During these quick clips, one will often hear laughing, snickering, and talking about the funny or dumb things that the person on camera in engaging in while drunk. The focus of all of these videos is humor – many of the videos show individuals doing not just funny, but dangerous things — while their friends are heard laughing and joking in the background. However, what’s missing from YouTube or from these videos is the very dark side of drinking alcohol, including drunk driving, or alcohol abuse.

In a study by Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, researchers watched YouTube videos that had been viewed at a high volume. They searched words such as buzzed, tipsy, trashed, drunk, hammered and found 70 of the most popular videos with a combined viewing total of over 330 million views. Interestingly, the researchers found that 70 percent of the videos were comical in nature and 24 percent of the YouTube videos showed actual intoxicated drunken alcohol use. However, although 86 percent of the videos showed intoxicated drunken alcohol abuse, only 7 percent actually discussed alcoholism.

It is important to realize that these YouTube and other videos are potentially influencing young viewers to believe that drinking excessive amounts of alcohol in order to be ‘funny’ and ‘comical’ to others is fun and accepted. However, young viewers lack the maturity to know that while being ‘comically’ drunk is acceptable and seems harmless, actions that occur while under the influence of drinking alcohol are no laughing matter. It seems that it would be helpful if more videos about the dangers of alcohol abuse would be posted and young fans may realize more that alcohol abuse that seems funny can soon turn into trouble. Hopefully, this prevention tactic could allow young viewers to see that drinking seems funny on YouTube, but can be equally as dangerous as it is comical.

Sources: Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, youtube.com

sipsofalcoholAre “Sips of Alcohol” given by Parents Bad?

Many parents believe that allowing their children to drink alcohol while at home in order to keep and eye on them and shape their drinking habits is a good thing. Often, parents allow their children small “sips” while growing up under their care. A new study shows that this is not safe and does not teach responsible drinking.

Published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, the new study, involving 561 students, shows that children who try alcohol by the sixth grade were more likely to abuse alcohol later in life or start drinking earlier than they otherwise would. Interestingly, researchers found that beer or wine are usually the first type of alcohol children are exposed to. Most children were just given sips of alcohol by their parents at social gatherings or during holiday events. But, researchers found that among these children who had been exposed previously, by sixth grade, about 30 percent of them had tried alcohol on their own. Then, by ninth grade, the study reports that a quarter of those who had tried the alcohol as children had ingested a full sized drink. Further, nine percent of those ninth graders had also already participated in binge drinking.

In contrast, only six percent of their classmates had not tried alcohol — nor had they been given sips of alcohol by their parents. Also, only two percent of the group who had not been given alcohol as children reported having had participated in binge drinking.

The study indicates that while one sip or taste of alcohol provided by parents is not to blame for the early use of alcohol, parents are giving the wrong idea and sending mixed messages when they introduce their children to alcohol at young ages.

Sources: The Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs

Mother Cuddling Newborn Baby In Bed At HomeWomen and Alcohol

Some recent statistics show that more and more women are struggling with alcohol related issues. Many think of alcohol abuse as a more dominantly male struggle, but alcohol abuse in women seems to be on the rise. In fact, a recent analysis of national surveys shows that 47 percent of white women were regular drinkers in 2002, up from 37 percent a decade earlier. Among black women, the rate rose from 21 percent to 30 percent; among Hispanic women, from 24 percent to 32 percent. In a recent survey by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) more than 5 percent of women in the United States have alcohol use disorders. Interestingly, the gap overall between women and men who have alcohol problems seems to be narrowing.

So, what has caused the shift? First of all, alcohol is more available and more affordable than it used to be and advertisers are more sophisticated in their marketing ploys, marketing alcohol pops and berry flavored vodka to women. Promises.com reports that, “A large research study of women born after World War II conducted by the University of Washington, led researchers to conclude that cultural changes paved the way for the increase in the number of women with alcohol dependence. These changes included: drinking became more socially acceptable for women, women entered the workforce in greater numbers, more women attended college, gender stereotypes were less restricting on women, and purchasing power of women increased.”

Although some of their reasons are the same (such as stress, anxiety, overcoming inhibitions, or relaxing), women tend to drink for different reasons than men do. According to a book titled “Women Under the Influence,” as well as 10 years of research conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (CASA) at Columbia University (funded by Bristol-Myers Squibb and published in 2006 by The Johns Hopkins University Press) the reasons for women drinking alcohol are interesting. These include:

  • Women in substance abuse treatment are five times more likely than men (69 percent vs. 12 percent) to have been sexually abused as children. And girls are more likely than men to suffer eating disorders. Both sexual abuse and eating disorders are seen as contributing factors for substance abuse.
  • Women, more than men, said they started drinking heavily following a crisis, such as divorce, unemployment, miscarriage or a child leaving home.
  • Older women are more likely than men to self-medicate with alcohol and/or prescription drugs to deal with the loss of a spouse, financial difficulties or loneliness.”

Further, drunk driving arrests are on the rise among women as are emergency room visits for alcohol-related accidents. Binge drinking is also on the rise for women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 10 percent of women between 45 and 64 say they binge drink; and so do 3 percent of those over 65. Many treatment programs are gender specific which is helping to treat this issue differently for women vs. men. Hopefully an increase in gender focused treatment can help to reduce the rate at which women and alcohol abuse is climbing.

Sources: niaaa.nih.gov, promises.com

AddictionSpring Break and Binge Drinking

It’s that time of year where college students head out with friends to take a break from studies and enjoy spring break. Although most college kids look forward to spring break, many parents feel unnerved by the events that they’ve heard can happen. Chief among most concerns is alcohol consumption. It seems that college spring breakers and alcohol more often than not go hand in hand. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “four out of five college students drink alcohol. Half of these students that drink also binge drink, which is defined as consuming between 4 to 5 drinks in two hours. This is a dangerous amount of alcohol and can have many health consequences if done on a regular basis. Alcohol abuse in college also accounts for 1,825 deaths and 599,000 assaults each year. Over 150,000 develop health related problems due to their drinking.”

So why are college students more likely to binge drink during spring break?

  • Many spring break events, as previously mentioned, involve alcohol. Because students know they don’t have to be at class or work during the break, or simply because spring break is a “bigger party” than normal, students may tend to drink more than they otherwise would
  • The easy access of alcohol, especially if college students travel out of the country to popular spring break spots, allows for more binge drinking
  • Spring break can provide even more freedom than college students (who are already adjusting to new amounts of freedom) are used to back on campus. They may feel that if they are off campus and even further from “supervision” they can indulge even more.

Although, as a parent or loved one, you may not be able to control a college student’s binge drinking or other activities during spring break, you can take precautions not to encourage dangerous behaviors. If they take a vacation with friends, ask them to check in with you a few times so they know that you are thinking about them while they are away. Just knowing that someone else is aware of them and hoping they will make good decisions can instill a desire to keep things in check. Further, don’t fund trips or excursions that include individuals who may encourage your college student to binge drink or engage in other dangerous activities. College binge drinking is a serious concern and escalates during spring break but awareness and concern can help lead to more caution by those you love.

Sources: www.niaaa.nih.gov

Father and SonSubstance Abuse and the Elderly

When the issue of substance abuse is discussed, society often thinks of it being a problem among teens, or perhaps young or reckless adults. However, this notion is completely incorrect. The nytimes.com recently reported that, “Baby boomers, who came of age in the ’60s and ’70s when experimenting with drugs was pervasive, are far more likely to use illicit drugs than previous generations. For example, a 2011 study by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration found that among adults aged 50 to 59, the rate of current illicit drug use increased to 6.3 percent in 2011 from 2.7 percent in 2002. Aside from alcohol, the most commonly abused drugs were opiates, cocaine and marijuana.” The realization that many of these individuals came of age during a time when drug experimentation was normal, allows more understanding of why these same individuals are struggling with addictions and abuse patterns in their later years.

The elderly most commonly abuse alcohol as their drug of choice. Again, nytimes.org reports that, “Numerous surveys document problematic drinking among the elderly. For example, a 2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 8.3 percent of adults 65 and older reported binge drinking, defined as having four or five drinks on one occasion in the past month, while the rate of heavy drinking was 2 percent. Given the increased sensitivity to the harmful effects of alcohol with aging, the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommends that men and women aged 65 or older have no more than three drinks on any day and no more than seven drinks per week.”

Oasas.ny.gov recently indicated that, “In his work at the University of Kentucky, Dr. Hays found that 2.5 million older adults and 21% of older hospital patients had alcohol-related problems. (Hays, L. et al. Presented at a symposium for the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry 2002 Symposium: Substance Use Disorders in the Elderly: Prevalence, Special Considerations and Treatment.)” Many of the elderly report beginning to abuse alcohol later in life. Oasas.ny.gov reports that the elderly’s “alcohol abuse is often triggered by changes in life such as: retirement, death or separation from a family member, a friend or a pet, health concerns, reduced income, impairment of sleep and/or familial conflict. Because alcohol has a higher absorption rate in the elderly, much like it does in women, the same amount of alcohol produces higher blood alcohol levels, causing a greater degree of intoxication than the same amount of alcohol would cause in younger male drinkers.”

However, close on the heels of alcohol abuse is prescription drug abuse. Interestingly, women far outnumber men when it comes to prescription drug abuse: by as much as 20% more. Most of the elderly end up addicted to prescription drugs not after trying to get “high”, but rather in an attempt to avoid physical and emotional pain that comes with age. However, the risks associated with prescription drug abuse among the elderly are severe. Most are battling physiological or psychiatric illnesses in their increasing age already and adding a drug addiction to that battle is dangerous.

When you couple prescription drug abuse in the elderly with alcohol abuse in the elderly, and add to that the abuse of over the counter (OTC) drugs, there can be severe adverse reactions. The elderly spend over $500 million yearly on medications. Antihistamines, laxative, caffeine and other OTC medications cause imbalances, especially when combined with alcohol. The side effects of these imbalances due to drug abuse by the elderly can be negative or even fatal.

When considering if an elderly loved one has a substance abuse problem, The Center for Substance Abuse Treatment published a list of symptoms that may indicate alcohol or drug (whether prescribed or OTC) problem:

  • Memory trouble after having a drink or taking a medication
  • Loss of coordination (walking unsteadily, frequent falls)
  • Changes in sleeping habits
  • Unexplained bruises
  • Being unsure of yourself
  • Irritability, sadness, depression
  • Unexplained chronic pain
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Wanting to stay alone much of the time
  • Failing to bathe or keep clean
  • Having trouble concentrating
  • Difficulty staying in touch with family or friends
  • Lack of interest in usual activities

Sources: nytimes.org, oasas.ny.gov


The Dangers of Mixing Drugs and Alcohol

Addictions to alcohol or prescription drugs are often dangerous on their own. However, when drugs and alcohol are mixed, the lethal consequences increase severely. On their own, an alcohol addiction or a prescription drug addiction can be dangerous. For those who choose to mix alcohol with prescription drugs, the risk of lethal consequences increases exponentially.

Mixing alcohol and prescription drugs is never safe; the combination is risky and can quickly turn lethal. Depending on the type of prescription drug that is mixed with alcohol, you can experience a variety of side effects as your body works to process the combination.

However, even though it is well known that mixing drugs and alcohol is dangerous, a recent study by shows that 60 percent of those who regularly use prescription drugs also drink alcohol. And further, about 5 percent of those have at least three drinks at a time. (Brown University)

According to residentialtreatmentcenter.com, when drugs and alcohol are mixed, regardless of one’s level of addiction to either or both, certain things can happen including:

SONY DSC“Internal bleeding: Many prescription drugs, primarily narcotic painkillers, can cause internal bleeding within the stomach and other gastrointestinal organs. Should you misuse narcotics and consume alcohol simultaneously, you can make this internal bleeding much worse, to a point where the blood is unable to clot.

Organ failure: Organ failure is a risk for individuals who abuse prescription drugs and/or have an alcohol addiction because organs such the liver and kidneys are unable to process the amount of substances going into the body. If you abuse even one of these substances, organ failure is a concern. If you abuse alcohol and prescription drugs simultaneously, however, your odds of suffering this life-threatening side effect are more likely in a shorter period of time.

Respiratory depression: Alcohol is a depressant, meaning that it slows down your system and its functions. When you abuse alcohol and prescription drugs that are also depressants (such as Klonopin, Xanax, or Ativan), you put your body at risk for experiencing an excess of depressive symptoms that can cause your breathing to slow down to dangerous levels. This can cause suffocation, as well as death.

Cardiac complications: Both alcohol and prescription drugs affect your heart, especially if you abuse them at the same time. Depending on the types of prescription drugs that you take, you can send mixed signals to your heart that can cause it to malfunction. This can lead to blood clots, heart attacks, and other side effects that can threaten your life.”

When mixing drugs and alcohol the results are always unpredictable and one’s life is put at risk. The result can be life lasting permanent effects on not only the user, but also others who care about that person.


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