Thursday, January 24, 2013

Irresponsible Drinking & Regulation

irresponsible drinking
Irresponsible drinking requires regulation to modulate its potential for harm. There are specific neurotoxic effects of alcohol drinking. The responsible individual needs to learn personal skills to refuse alcohol drinking when required to do so. The potential harm to society with irresponsible drinking and driving necessitates regulation at a societal level.

Regulating irresponsible drinking

Alcohol drinking and driving in Pune over New  Year's eve was markedly reduced as compared to last year. This year 145 drunk driving arrests were made as against 252 last year. This reduction was despite an increase in the total number of  arrests made in Pune for irresponsible drinking and driving in 2012 as compared to the previous year. The heightened deployment of police personnel manning 30 prominent points of the Pune roads on New Year's eve was apparently deterrent enough.

Alcohol drinking and liquor sales were down by 20-30% in September 2012 following a police raid on an unlicensed rural Pune nightspot. The uproar by its patrons and subsequent police action on liquor retailers and other restaurants resulted in the Pune District Wine Traders Association lamenting the impact of plunging alcohol sales at premium outlets and lounge bars.

Is regulation effective?

The effects of regulating alcohol drinking have been specifically studied.
  • In Kentucky — the birthplace of bourbon whiskey and the home of many distilleries — dry districts had less alcohol-related auto accidents and drunk driving arrests. This should cheer the citizens of Chandrapur which will be the third district in Maharashtra state to go dry in a bid to curb irresponsible drinking.
  • In Alaska, isolated villages that prohibited alcohol had lower rates of serious injury resulting from assault, and motor vehicle collisions. A local police presence in these dry villages further reduced the incidence of assault
Regulation of alcohol drinking is effective and necessary. It provides a deterrence to irresponsible drinking and illegal distribution of alcohol. Alcoholism treatment financially benefits the family. Regulating alcohol drinking works to benefit society.

References
  1. Darryl S. Wood, Paul J. Gruenewal. Local alcohol prohibition, police presence and serious injury in isolated Alaska Native villages. Article first published online: 27 FEB 2006 DOI: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2006.01347.x
  2. Wilson RW, Niva G, Nicholson T. Prohibition revisited: county alcohol control consequences. J Ky Med Assoc. 1993 Jan;91(1):9-12.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Alcohol and Happiness - do they mix?

Alcohol and happiness don't mix - definitely not when taken in excess, and definitely not in the long term. The relationship between adverse alcohol use and unhappiness is reciprocal - unhappy people tend to drink hazardously, and vice versa. This effect increases over time as demonstrated by a 15-year study that followed-up adult twins in 1975, 1981, and 1990.

alcohol blackouts unhappiness
Passing out while drinking is significantly more likely in dissatisfied people

Blackouts or passing out while consuming alcohol is an indication of unhappiness.


binge drinking unhappiness
Dissatisfied people are more likely to have a pattern of binge drinking.

Binge drinkers are more likely to be dissatisfied with life. A pattern of binge drinking on weekends negates any beneficial effects of moderate alcohol use.


alcohol excess unhappiness
Excessive alcohol use increases overr time especially in dissatisfied people

Excessive alcohol use increases dissatisfaction and unhappiness. Alcohol, even in moderation does not reinforce feelings of well being, pleasure, happiness or joy. Moderate drinking does not reduce unpleasant feelings.
Don't drink alcohol to regulate your mood, it leads to more grief.
References
  1. H. Koivumaa-Honkanen; J. Kaprio; T. Korhonen;, R.J. Honkanen; K. Heikkilä; M. Koskenvuo. Self-reported Life Satisfaction and Alcohol Use: A 15-year Follow-up of Healthy Adult Twins. Alcohol and Alcoholism. 2012;47(2):160-168.
  2. R. Curtis Ellison, Marjana Martinic. The Harms and Benefits of Moderate Drinking: Findings of an International Symposium. May 2007 supplement to Annals of Epidemiology.
  3. Gustafson R. Does a moderate dose of alcohol reinforce feelings of pleasure, well-being, happiness and joy? A brief communication. Psychol Rep. 1991 Aug;69(1):220-2.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Drinking and driving

drinking-driving
Alcohol and driving don’t mix. In a flashback to Alex’s drug influenced joyride in A Clockwork Orange, a Pune youth bumped into four people at different points on his late night drive through the city. When chased and caught he was found to be under the influence of alcohol.

In this post we take a look at the effects of alcohol on driving. We have already discussed some of the long term effects that necessitate imposing legal age limits for alcohol consumption in order to mitigate its neurotoxic effects on the developing brain.

30mg% is the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for driving. Limits are a safety requirement to counter the adverse effects of alcohol on driving ability. The 30mg% level is often panned as being too low. Most countries have settled at a 50mg% threshold, some at 20mg%, others (considered very liberal) at 80mg%. Lets take a look at the effects on driving at these various blood alcohol concentrations (CDC 2011).

BACEffect on driving
20mg%Visual deficits (problems with tracking of a moving object), Decline in multitasking ability (talking to a passenger while driving)
50mg%Reduced coordination, difficulty steering, increased reaction time for braking by more than a second (Siliquini 2011)
80mg%Problems with concentration, short term memory loss, reduced information processing capacity, impaired perception


How long after drinking alcohol is it safe to drive?
You need to wait at least as many hours as the ‘chota pegs’ (1oz or 30ml) you consumed. Alcohol is digested by the liver. The liver has a fixed capacity to metabolise about 8gms of alcohol in an hour. This is the amount of alcohol in 30ml of whisky, vodka, rum or gin. The equivalent dose is 250ml of beer or a glass (150ml) of wine. Each of these is considered as a ‘unit’ of alcohol.  However, consuming any quantity of alcohol within 6 hours prior to driving is associated with a doubling of the risk for a road traffic accident (Di Bartolomeo 2009). This effect of alcohol is present even at intake of 1-2 units which works out to a BAC of approximately 50mg%.

Blood alcohol levels as low as 20mg% impair driving ability under test conditions in a simulator. At 50mg% the impairments more than double the risk of an accident. The present 30mg% level may be legal but it remains impairing. Better to have a ‘designated driver’ - the person who does not drink for that particular evening. In case you want to we have already studied how to refuse alcohol.
DONT drink alcohol and drive
References
  1. Anthony Burgess. A Clockwork Orange. 1962. (Various publishers including Penguin)
  2. CDC. http://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/pdf/BAC-a.pdf. Accessed 15-Dec-2011.
  3. Stefano Di Bartolomeo Francesca Valent, Rodolfo Sbrojavacca, Riccardo Marchetti and Fabio Barbone. A case-crossover study of alcohol consumption, meals and the risk of road traffic crashes. BMC Public Health 2009, 9:316 doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-316
  4. Roberta Siliquini, Fabrizio Bert, Francisco Alonso, Paola Berchialla, Alessandra Colombo, Axel Druart, Marcin Kedzia, Valeria Siliquini, Daniel Vankov, Anita Villerusa, Lamberto Manzoli and TEN-D Group (TEN-D by Night Group). Correlation between driving-related skill and alcohol use in young-adults from six European countries: the TEN-D by Night Project. BMC Public Health 2011, 11:526 doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-526.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Stress in the festival season

festival time
Festivals as a source of stress? Festivals are meant to be a time of happiness, enjoyment and family togetherness. However for some it can be time of great stress and can adversely affect mental health. The extended festival season starts around Independence Day (15th Aug) and extends right up to New Year including Ganesh Chathurti, Dusshera, and Diwali. Vacations have a positive effect on well-being. However, these effects fade soon after resumption of work (de Bloom 2009). These four months of celebration are associated with psychological distress and mental health problems for many individuals and their families.

Festival distress

(Harion 2009)
Expectations take their toll on the family. Festivals are a prime time for couples to come in for counselling with relationship problems, problems with in-laws, siblings and their children. 'Don't we get to celebrate at least once in our own home?". They end up celebrating each in their own parental homes at Pune and Ahmedabad.

For those in the workforce it means negotiating and competing with everyone else for leave or being the only one left in the office. No one at home understands why you cannot get leave. No one understands why work-pressures and deadlines increase in the time leading up to the holiday. Financial stress also comes into the picture; cool electronics, gifts, partying and vacation trips cost.

For people with mental health problems festivals are another source of stress. Well intentioned, though ill informed relatives prevail on them to stop their medications 'they are addicting', 'why do you need to take them if you're allright?' Many are coaxed into stopping medications entirely.They relapse some time after they return to work, when the social supports are at a minimum and the beneficial effects of the vacation begin to wear off. That is also the time when they have to start paying out the EMIs. This time lag to relapse after stopping psychotropic medication is a prominent factor in non-adherence. 'But he was allright at home. It's the job that is causing stress; we are thinking of relocating'.

Fasting and sleep deprivation are associated in the run up to the festivities. In vulnerable people, especially those with mental health problems, these can play havoc with the body rhythm and with medication regimens leading to a relapse. Every religion excuses ill followers the rigours of these rituals, yet the very people who should be supporting moderation often goad their vulnerable members to comply. 'I thought he was just being lazy'.

Alcoholism is another problem that is likely to recur. It starts insidiously at the beginning of the festival season. By the time the season ends its time for another stint of 'deaddiction'. Binge drinking at parties is just another problem that requires to be addressed recurrently.

Violence and injuries in the home occur through the combination of excitement, stress, tiredness and alcohol. Pressures lead to conflict and then violence. Domestic abuse is about one-third more likely on the day of the festival than the daily average. Homicide rates are generally higher on all major holidays.

Loneliness and isolation are particular issues at festivals. The holiday season is the time of the year when our desire for social contact is most likely to outstrip what our circumstances will allow; it is into this gap that loneliness creeps (Lancet 2010). As festivals are associated with friends and family, it can be difficult for those on their own to avoid feeling lonely at this time. This is especially so for older people living alone who may have no one to spend the festive season with. The loneliness felt on the festival day is often the worst. Festivals can be a sad and nostalgic time, when the loss of a family member may become especially painful. It is often a difficult time for bereaved people. The rates of suicide are known to increase especially on New Years Day (Bridges 2004).

What to do?

Prior to the festival
  1. Communicate. Make your festival plans keeping your spouse in mind. If there were problems  last year don't expect them to disappear. ' I thought we agreed on that last year'. Putting off the discussion could ruin your festivities.
  2. Collaborate. Work together to find a solution that satisfies the needs of all parties. You may not get everything you want, but you get enough of what you want to feel satisfied. Colaboration requires respect for the needs of the other party, communication skills, patience, and creativity. Parties usually do better when they collaborate than when they compete.
  3. Watch the finances. Budget for the expenses and keep a track.
During the festival
  1. Limit your alcohol. Don't drink if you don't want to.
  2. Keep to your normal sleep-wake schedule as far as practicable. When it is disrupted return to your normal schedule at the earliest. Take some time out for exercise.
  3. Take some time off for just yourself and your family. A walk, movie or meal away from the others will contribute to a few more days of harmony.
  4. Your medication is sacrosanct. Don't negotiate on this.
Strategies for loneliness
(Masi 2010)
  1. Improve social skills: After relying on a partner to share experiences and thoughts a separation, breakup or bereavement requires relearning of skills needed to build new relationships and participate in community functions.
  2. Enhance social support: Find a listening ear – people who are lonely can find it helpful to speak to a counsellor or someone removed from their situation.
  3. Increase opportunities for social contact: Be a volunteer – many charities and organisations need help at festivals and you could spend a few hours working as a volunteer. The absence of close family need not be the end of companionship. 
  4. Address maladaptive social cognition: Loneliness can also be tackled by helping people to feel happier in their own company.
    • 'Everyone else is having a good time'. Keep busy – try to stop the festival taking over your life. Make time for enjoyable activities, such as reading, walks, joining a social club or going for a movie.
    • 'What's the point, I'm just not up to it'. Take some physical exercise – this reduces stress and enhances mood. Just getting off the sofa and getting outside should improve mood.
  5. Visit an older neighbour who lives alone if you have a little spare time on your hands over the holidays; it might be just what they need to make their holiday a happy one. 
References
  1. Bridges SF. Rates of homicide and suicide on major national holidays. Psychological Reports, 2004,94,723-724.
  2. de Bloom J, Kompier M, Geurts S, de Weerth C, Taris T, Sonnentag S. Do we recover from vacation? Meta-analysis of vacation effects on health and well-being. J Occup Health. 2009;51(1):13-25. Epub 2008 Dec 19.
  3. Hairon N. How christmas festivities and pressures can damage health and well-being. Nurs Times. 2008 Dec 16-2009 Jan 12;104(50-51):33-4.
  4. Masi CM, Chen HY, Hawkley LC, Cacioppo JT. A meta-analysis of interventions to reduce loneliness. Pers Soc Psychol Rev. 2011 Aug;15(3):219-66. Epub 2010 Aug 17.
  5. No authors listed. Tackling loneliness in the holidays.Lancet. 2010 Dec 18;376(9758):2042.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Neurotoxic effects of alcohol on the adolescent and young adult brain

(or why the 25 year age-bar on alcohol consumption could be reasonable)


Does alcohol have specific neurotoxic effects on the adolescent or young adult brain? This question is the only important one for deciding whether the 25 year age-bar on alcohol consumption in Maharashtra is justifiable. While the debate rages two students from the premier medical college of India drowned in an alcohol fuelled swimming pool misadventure, and in an unrelated incident on the same night five inebriated youths were arrested for disturbing the peace in a residential area. We have seen how to recognise problem alcohol drinking in teenagers, and how to refuse alcohol. This article probes the specific effects of alcohol on the maturing brain.

Infancy

Alcohol is a neurotoxin. It distorts the normal architecture of the developing brain. This distortion starts during pregnancy when imbibed maternal alcohol crosses the placenta into the foetus. In the foetus alcohol acts on the specially vulnerable immature insulating cells (oligodendroglia) of the brain. The child is born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, characterised by irreversible mental retardation, a small head, small stature and facial abnormalities. Because the exact amount of alcohol required and the most vulnerable periods of pregnancy have not been definitively established all pregnant women are advised to abstain from any use of alcohol.

Childhood

By the second year of life the number of connections between brain cells (synapses) are at a maximum. These synapses are gradually reduced to the adult number (synaptic pruning). This process is controlled by immature excitatory (glutamate) receptors in the synapses. These receptors differ from adult ones by allowing quicker and longer excitation. Immature glutamate receptors are vulnerable to the effects of alcohol. Their over-stimulation distorts synaptic pruning (Johnston 1995).

Adolescence

In adolescence there is a rapid growth of gray matter and the formation of new connections (proliferation) in the brain. Elimination of some synaptic connections (pruning) enables the adolescent or young adult brain to change in response to environmental demands. Stability of these connections is enhanced through insulation of neuronal fibres (myelination). Myelination increases the overall speed of information processing within the brain. These maturational processes are critical for cognitive development. They are all adversely affected by alcohol (Guerri 2010).
These adverse effects specifically impact the frontal lobes of the brain and are highly associated with level of intelligence. In addition the brain area essential for working memory (hippocampus) is preferentially damaged by alcohol (De Bellis 2000). Gender effects render female adolescents more vulnerable than males to these alcohol effects.
The reward system of the brain is responsible for motivation and learning. The immature reward system has an adolescent-specific vulnerability for alcohol and drug addiction. Early exposure to alcohol sensitises the brain regions involved in drug addiction and alters gene expression in the brain reward regions (nucleus accumbens).
The pattern of brain electrical activity changes during the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Alcohol also has a premature aging effect on brain electrical activity during wakefulness and sleep. Animal models have shown that even brief exposure to alcohol in adolescence can cause long lasting changes in brain electrical activity. These changes place the adolescent at a high risk for later substance abuse and addiction (Ehlers 2010).

Youth

Alcohol differentially impairs the young persons judgement and motor skills. The evidence for this is so robust that some administrations have placed a lower legal blood alcohol level limit on drivers less than 21 years old (Hingson 1994). This differential susceptibility to alcohol has been shown to persist up to 30 years of age when a specific impact is seen on frontal lobe functions related to driving skills (Domniques 2009).

Whether the authorities considered the neurotoxic effects of alcohol while imposing the 25 year age-ban on alcohol consumption is a moot point. However, educating adolescents and youth regarding these adverse alcohol effects should be the duty of every parent.

References
  1. De Bellis MD, Clark DB, Beers SR, Soloff PH, Boring AM, Hall J, Kersh A, Keshavan MS. Hippocampal volume in adolescent-onset alcohol use disorders. Am J Psychiatry. 2000 May;157(5):737-44.
  2. Domingues SC, Mendonça JB, Laranjeira R, Nakamura-Palacios EM. Drinking and driving: a decrease in executive frontal functions in young drivers with high blood alcohol concentration. Alcohol. 2009 Dec;43(8):657-64.
  3. Ehlers CL, Criado JR. Adolescent ethanol exposure: does it produce long-lasting electrophysiological effects? Alcohol. 2010 Feb;44(1):27-37.
  4. Guerri C, Pascual M. Mechanisms involved in the neurotoxic, cognitive, and neurobehavioral effects of alcohol consumption during adolescence. Alcohol. 2010 Feb;44(1):15-26.
  5. R Hingson, T Heeren, and M Winter. Lower legal blood alcohol limits for young drivers. Public Health Rep. 1994 Nov-Dec; 109(6): 738–744.
  6. Johnston MV. Neurotransmitters and vulnerability of the developing brain. Brain Dev. 1995 Sep-Oct;17(5):301-6.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

How to refuse alcohol - keepin' it REAL

How to refuse an alcohol containing drink? The lead up to the festive season comes with a slew of articles on how to consume alcohol without experiencing a hangover. Then come the lessons on managing a hangover. Finally by New Year, come the statistics on drunken driving and police action on youngsters partying in rural Pune hideouts. Nothing about how to refuse alcohol while partying.

Alcohol refusal strategies

MN Gosin(2003) has classified drug resistance strategies into four types summarised by the acronym REAL
R - Refuse: say no.
E - Explain: decline with an explanation
A - Avoid: stay away from situations where alcohol is offered
L - Leave: exit situations where alcohol is offered

refuse alcohol;
Don't reach for it

10 tactics to resist alcohol at a party

These tried and tested ways to politely resist alcohol are classified along REAL lines. Remember you have the right to choose not to consume alcohol at any time. If that’s not respected you are probably in the wrong company. Once you take your stand don’t hold back. Participate, then you are less likely to be singled out to have a drink forced on you.
  1. Firmly decline alcohol. Ask for a soft drink. Don’t apologise. When your friends recognise you mean it this time they will not press you. (R)
  2. Go for a soft drink ‘to start with’. ‘Stick with this’ if your friends remember to ask later. Grab a soft drink and don’t let go. Once you have a soft drink in your hand it is easier to just wave the alcohol offer away. (R)
  3. In the initial stages keep a glass constantly in your hand. Make sure its at least a third full at all times. (R)
  4. Don’t reach for any glass of alcohol, even if it’s paid for by one of your friends. There are enough people around who will drink it gladly. (R)
  5. Volunteer to be the ‘designated driver’. If there are more than one of you claiming this position your task is easier. See point 8. (E)
  6. Insist that you’re on medication that reacts with alcohol (eg Tiniba for a stomach problem). If you are known to have diabetes or hypertension say your doctor advised you not to drink alcohol (He did, didn’t he?). (E)
  7. Say you have to work on a presentation/ pick up your mother after the party. Any plausible reason for the need to remain sharp will do.(E)
  8. Stick with a known tee-totaller in the group. Its easier to resist exhortations to drink alcohol when you have a partner.(A)
  9. When invited inform that you won’t be drinking alcohol. They’ll say its for the pleasure of your company. Hold them to it at the party (A)
  10. Leave when you suspect your soft drink may be spiked. (L)

Do these strategies work?

(Kulis et al, 2008)
  • Refusal - significantly reduces binge drinking.
  • Explanation - may not be so effective, at least in teenagers.
  • Avoidance - significantly reduces alcohol use
  • Leaving - significantly reduces binge drinking

What worked for you?

  1. Gosin M, Marsiglia FF, Hecht ML. Keepin' it R.E.A.L.: a drug resistance curriculum tailored to the strengths and needs of pre-adolescents of the southwest. J Drug Educ. 2003;33(2):119-42.PubMed
  2. Kulis S, Marsiglia FF, Castillo J, Becerra D, Nieri T. Drug resistance strategies and substance use among adolescents in Monterrey, Mexico. J Prim Prev. 2008 Mar;29(2):167-92.PubMed

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