A Closer Look at Relationship Between Alcohol and Suicides

Researchers have turned to a new informational source in the new study that examines the link between alcohol and suicides. Instead of only comparing suicide numbers with relative proximity of alcohol availability, these researchers decided to look at how much alcohol was in the system, if any, of the person who committed suicide. This information could then allow for better local policies regarding the sale of alcohol, and better preventative measures against alcohol-related suicides.

In order to determine how prevalent alcohol was in suicides, and how much alcohol was in the body at the time of suicide, researchers analyzed data gathered by National Violent Death Reporting System. This system collects information regarding violent deaths, and is a sub organization of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For this particular study, information from 14 states was synthesized into a more specific picture of alcohol-related suicides. Researchers were particularly interested in how easy it was to acquire alcohol and how this related to suicides, and what the blood alcohol content was of those who committed suicide after consuming alcohol.

Of the 51,547 suicides examined, they noted that 34% of them had alcohol in their system, and 22% of those people had blood alcohol levels higher than .08%. The researchers also pointed out that areas with a wide variety of alcohol outlets, bars and clubs had more alcohol-related suicides, especially among Native American and Alaskan native men. This was a new discovery, because it unveils two populations that are not usually represented when planning for suicide prevention and alcohol education. But researchers were not surprised by this outcome and explain how this can occur with men in these populations.

“There’s a long history with regard to drinking problems in many sectors of [Native populations], It could be, partly, that the drinking patterns are somewhat different. I think it could also be that, in some cases, there may be a sense of desperation or many challenges. So, suicide may be one of the ways people deal with that,” explained Dr. Norman Giesbrecht, one of the researchers of the study.

This study is unique because it examines more than just the relationship between suicides and alcohol density in cities in towns throughout the United States. It shows that many people who commit suicide are consuming a lot of alcohol beforehand, and this could be a major warning sign to family and friends.

Energy Drinks Contribute to Placebo Effect When Combined with Alcohol

Alcohol and energy drinks have become a popular combination among drinkers, especially those in college. The common belief is that energy drinks help mask the alcohol, making the drinker feel more alert and not as intoxicated. However, a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, shows that energy drinks actually act as a placebo, causing the person to feel more intoxicated than they really are.

This is an important discovery because it sheds light on what is really happening at bars, parties and clubs all over the world. People are consuming drinks that, psychologically, make them feel more drunk than they really are, and this has an impact on their behavior, decision-making, and psychological state.

The study, which focused 154 young men, relied on questionnaires filled out before, during and after consuming alcohol beverages. The participants were either given a glass that said: Red Bull and vodka, vodka cocktail or fruit juice cocktail. And while the participants thought these were different drinks, the researchers had actually made all the drinks the same. However, the men who thought they were drinking vodka and Red Bull reported feeling more intoxicated, daring and sexually self-confident. This was especially true for those men that had stated that energy drinks make someone more intoxicated.

In the end, the men who consumed the drinks that were labeled with Red Bull and Vodka reported an increased intoxication level of 51% over those that consumed beverages in glasses marked with other ingredients.

Beliefs that people have about a product can be just as important as the ingredients of the product itself. Regulations and codes of conduct should consider the psychological – and not just physiological – effects of products,” explained the authors of the study.

Cars Not the Only Thing Drunk People Should Not Operate

For decades, the public has been inundated with public service announcements, lectures, signs and police presence all warning drunk people not to get behind the wheel of a car. And while deaths involving drunk drivers are still one of the highest causes of accidental deaths in the country, there is something else that the public should be warned about. People under the influence of alcohol should also not ride a bike or walk home while under the influence of alcohol either.

This is important, because many people may consider it ok to do these things, as long as they are not driving a car. But, a new study shows that over 30% of pedestrian deaths and 20% of bicyclist deaths are related to alcohol. “Education and enforcement campaigns aimed at reducing impaired driving may give people the erroneous impression that walking or riding a bike is a safe alternative. The public needs to better informed about the dangers of alcohol impairment for anybody on the road,” stated Angela Eichelberger, lead author of the study.

This study was commissioned by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and is aimed at broadening public awareness regarding alcohol. Ensuring that people understand that operating any mode of transportation, including walking, while under the influence is dangerous, and can result in death.

Interestingly, the amount of people who die each year from walking or biking accidents that also involve alcohol does not really fluctuate. This means that health organizations, law agencies and schools need to do a better job informing people about the dangers of mixing alcohol into these situations. It is much more common for someone to be told not to drink and drive than it is for them to be told not to ride a bike and drink, or walk home while drunk. But the same reason why someone should not drink and drive applies to those who bike or walk. Alcohol hinders a person’s ability to make good decisions, it lowers coordination and judgement. These are all necessary when navigating around in a bike or on foot.

Possibly a more effective public service announcement would be to show how important it is to ask for rides from sober people, rather than embark on a trip home under the influence.

Benefit of Strict Alcohol Laws

Alcohol-related car accidents are among the leading cause of death in the United States. According to new research, about half of all fatal car accidents where a child is killed is due, in some part, to alcohol. Despite having some of the toughest alcohol laws in the world, the United States still sees thousands of lives lost to the dangerous combination of alcohol and driving. In an effort to reduce this statistic, some researchers have released a study that shows the possibility of a decrease in these deaths of more strict alcohol laws are enacted.

“To reduce alcohol-related crash deaths among youth, it is important to strengthen policies that focus on adults, not just youth, and that focus on drinking, not just driving,” commented Dr. Tim Naimi, an alcohol epidemiologist at Boston University’s School of Medicine. This means that the most effective policies often have little to do with drink driving or underage drinking. In fact, policies like increasing taxes on alcohol beverages, or reducing the number of stores that can sell alcohol in an area, or limiting the times that alcohol can be sold are among the most effective policies in eliminating drunk driving deaths.

A focus on this approach has gained some media attention as the best way to reduce alcohol-related violence, deaths and misconduct and it appears that many states are coming on board. For instance, the states with the strictest alcohol policies reported a decrease of 9% when it came to youth-related deaths from incidents involving alcohol. And often children who are killed in crashes where alcohol is involved were not driving and were not drinking. The data shows that almost half of the youth killed in these crashes were not driving, and 80% of those victims were passengers in a car being driven by an adult who was under the influence of alcohol.

While these new policies could help with the mortality rate in alcohol-related events, it is important to note that researchers are not advocating lesser laws or punishment for drunk drivers. Broader policies are effective, but in conjunction with strict drink driving policies and laws is where the real results are seen.

Alcohol Mixed With Energy Drinks Can Have Serious Effects on Developing Brains

One of the many dangerous new trends involving substance abuse among adolescents and young adults includes mixing alcohol and energy drinks that contain caffeine. This may not seem like that big of a deal at first, but new information reveals the effects are more severe than some might think. Researchers at Purdue University conducted a study that showed mixing alcohol and caffeinated beverages can alter the makeup of the developing brain.

Causing damage to a growing neural center has long lasting effects, the researchers also concluded that these adolescents and teenagers are more likely to develop problems with how they deal with rewarding substances as adults. This means that drug use or alcohol use may be a bit more difficult for them to stop or abstain from because their brains have been altered to demand more.

The latest study looked at the effects of drinks on adolescent mice. When the mice were given caffeine and alcohol combinations, researchers were able to observe that the brains of the mice reacted in the same way as when they were given cocaine. This link provided more insight into the dangers of these drink combinations. As the trials went on, the researchers were able to see an increase in certain brain proteins that indicate long-term changes to the neurochemistry of the brain.

“It seems like two substances together push them over a limit that causes changes in their behavior and changes the neurochemistry in their brains. We’re clearly seeing effects of the combined drinks that we would not see if drinking one or the other,” explained Richard van Rijn, an assistant professor at Purdue University.

Alcohol and caffeine combinations are a trend that have observable physical complications. And teenagers are prone to following trends. And while consuming these types of beverages does not ensure that addiction will take place, it is becoming more clear that consumption is likely to lead toward brain alterations that could have more severe effects down the road.

Small Sips of Alcohol Could Harm Children in the Future

Curiosity is arguably one of the best traits of a young child. They are interested in the world around them and are discovering things for the first time. So, when a parent is having a glass of wine and the child wants a sip, some parents do not see the harm in letting them have a taste. Parents want to be there when they experience alcohol for the first time and explain to them that it is a “grown up” drink, and the taste of alcohol is usually an acquired taste so having a child taste something that is bad to them may prevent them from drinking when they are in high school – at least that is the train of thought for some parents.

However, a study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, revealed that children who sipped alcohol before the sixth grade were five times more likely to drink a full alcoholic beverage by the time they get in high school. The study also showed that these children were four times more likely to binge drink, or drink with the intention of getting drunk. And while the researchers do not want parents to feel that they have made in irreversible mistake, they do want the information out there so parents can better educate children.

“I would say that it is advisable not to offer your child a sip of your beverage, as it may send the wrong message – younger teens and tweens may be unable to understand the difference between drinking a sip and drinking one or more drinks,” explained Kristina Jackson, one of the co-authors of the study.

Researchers were able to come to this conclusion after interviewing 561 middle schoolers in Rhode Island over a three-year period. About 1/3 of these students said they had tried alcohol before entering middle school. Most of these children said they received the alcohol from their parents.

Instead of allowing small children to sip alcohol, it is best for parents to explain what alcohol is and to refrain from allowing them to taste the beverage. While there are many types of influencers in a child’s life that may cause them to drink, early exposure does not have to be one of those reasons.

Research Examines Link Between Alcohol and Domestic Violence

According to studies, almost twenty people are physically abused by their intimate partner every minute in the United States. In response to this statistic, researchers at the University of New Mexico are developing a study to determine what the relationship between alcohol consumption and domestic violence. Understanding this connection will better assist with intervention methods for people suffering from domestic violence and also for people suffering from an addiction to alcohol.

“We hope to learn why intimate partner violence (IPV) is more likely to occur when people are drinking alcohol. IPV is a serious public health problem, and we are hoping to identify new ways to intervene with this problem,” said Brandi Fink, assistant professor at the UNM Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

Researchers at the UNM are looking into several other studies that may explain why drinking and violence seem to go hand in hand. In addition to the investigation, researchers will also perform their own study that includes an experimental phase. Study subjects will consume alcohol while hooked up to a monitoring device as they are answering questions on the computer. The hope is that they will be able to identify if there are any mechanisms of the brain that are being affected by the alcohol that would also increase the likelihood of violence.

Other studies have shown that men who consume large amounts of alcohol are three times more likely to abuse their significant other, while women are eleven times more likely. Researchers also know that as each drink is consumed the risk for violence increases by 13 percent, and in some cases up to 70 percent if both partners are drinking. These statistics point to the severity of the problem and the need for further research. Additionally, children can be present in the home when alcohol is being consumed or when violence is taking place. Separate studies have proven the connection between parents behaviors and the behaviors of the child in the future. Understanding how to prevent IPV, especially when one or both of the parents are under the influence, is vital in maintaining a safe and healthy home life for the children.

Social Drinking Often Fueled by Peer Pressure

Social drinking may seem harmless and acceptable, but it can sometimes lead to excessive drinking and other unhealthy habits. And while some people may rarely drink by themselves or with dinner, there is no shortage of reasons to partake in drinking when out socializing. Parties, holidays, events, special occasions, celebrations, meeting new people and sometimes even work functions are all typically times when alcohol is consumed by more people. For many people, especially middle-aged adults, it has become expected to consume at least some alcohol on a regular basis, and this form of peer pressure or expectation can be disheartening when it has negative effects.

This expectation may be ok for some people, but for others, it is the catalyst for an alcohol abuse problem or even alcoholism. Additionally, it has also been found that older adults are at greater risks for developing alcohol addictions because of a lifetime of consuming alcohol and their inability to cope with major life changes like retirement.

One reporter recently decided to challenge herself when it came to alcohol consumption. Rozalynn Frazier eliminated alcohol and sweets from her diet for one month. Her decision was fueled by the desire to lose weight, but along the way she discovered that other people had a harder time with her alcohol abstinence than she did. “One of the more interesting lessons from my little experiment is that it’s much more socially acceptable to skip a piece of cake than it is to not have a drink in your hand. I guess because so much socializing happens with the help of alcohol, being the non-drinker means being a pariah,” explained Frazier.

Many people use alcohol as a social crutch. After a drink or two they begin to ease their tensions and seem more comfortable to talk to strangers or coworkers or even friends. However, it is very hard to predict when the amount of alcohol being consumed is too much. It is difficult to stop an addiction to alcohol if everyone around the person consumes alcohol as well. Because alcohol addictions are difficult to spot, they can also be difficult to treat. Oftentimes an alcoholic has been allowed to drink heavily for years before anyone is able to realize that a problem may exist.

If you have a friend or family member who you suspect has a problem with alcohol, contact us today to find out what solutions are available.

Citizens Concerned About Drunk Driving

A survey conducted by the Gallup group showed that American citizens are more concerned with drunk drivers on the road, than people driving under the influence of other substances. Overall, 97% of people who were surveyed cited alcohol as the number one concern they have for drivers on the road. While participants were not asked to rate substances based on how impaired a substance made a driver, they were instead asked what substance concerned them the most regarding other driver’s safety on the road.

The results of the survey show that despite a countrywide attack on drunk driving, including public service announcements, education and increased punishment for those who are caught driving while under the influence of alcohol, there is still great worry over the safety of the roads. It also shows that it is difficult to change behavior simply with laws and PSAs. There must be more ways to influence people to eliminate their drunk driving patterns.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and other public groups have helped to make a significant push for more accountability for drunk drivers as well as more public awareness about the issue. Way too many people have lost their lives. This Gallup survey also revealed that teenagers agree with adults that alcohol is more dangerous to consume prior to getting behind the wheel than other drugs.

Experts do agree that while marijuana does not appear to pose as great a risk to other drivers as alcohol, this might change as more and more states begin to legalize marijuana. It is unclear how the amount of people who smoke marijuana and drive will change, but it is likely to increase. Additionally, people are more prone to mix alcohol and marijuana, which is much more dangerous than either substance by itself.

Media Influence on Drinking

A common misconception is that alcohol is healthy for an individual. Several years ago a report was issued stating that a glass of wine daily would fend off heart disease. For years afterwards many people would cite this study as a reason why it was ok to promote drinking. However, since the study was released, researchers have discovered that any health benefits from a glass of wine a day are negligible and there were likely problems with the study in the first place. The danger of publishing information is that is not accurate is that the millions of people that it reaches will subsequently make decisions off of wrong information.

“It is particularly interesting to note that those who believe alcohol to be heart healthy actually drink more alcohol. Whether their belief causes this behavior, or merely justifies it, remains an interesting unknown,” explained Dr. Gregory Marcus, director of clinical research at the University of California, San Francisco.

Marcus and his team conducted a study to determine people’s perceptions on alcohol and any related health benefits. They discovered that 80% of the people who believed that alcohol was healthy for an individual felt this way because of the reports produced by the media on the health benefits of wine. Additionally, the researchers discovered that those that believed that alcohol was healthy had high rates of alcohol abuse. These people consumed 47% more alcohol than people who did not believe that alcohol was healthy for a person.

The correlation between the media and the public’s decisions is interesting, and highlights the major role the media has when it comes to the decision making process. Experts agree that the danger of consuming too much alcohol far outweighs any minor health benefits a glass of wine has for a person. Binge drinking and drunk driving are threats that make alcohol consumption a risky endeavor, especially for those that tend to over drink in the first place.