Alcohol Misconceptions More Harmful to Some Groups

If time and research has told us anything, it’s that commonly held beliefs regarding alcohol and drug use are oftentimes untrue and damaging. For instance, many people believed that a glass of wine every day was healthy, however new research proves that a glass of wine a day is more harmful than it is beneficial. Another misconception that has proven to be false is that alcohol is less harmful than illicit street drugs. Medical professionals warn that the effects of a long term alcohol problem are extremely dangerous and can prove fatal. In the vein of debunking alcohol-related myths, one research team examined the common belief that Native Americans have a higher rate of alcohol consumption than other ethnicities, therefore leading to an increased threat of alcohol abuse.

Researchers at the University of Arizona got together and analyzed information from a survey of over 4,000 Native Americans and 170,000 Caucasians. And contrary to popular beliefs, Native Americans seem to consume alcohol at the same rates as white people, except for one instance. When it comes to which group is more likely to abstain from alcohol, Native Americans actually refrain from drinking more than white people refrain from drinking. The analysts noted that 17% of Native Americans reported binge drinking, this compares to the 17% of white people that admitted to binge drinking behaviors.

Unearthing the truth behind Native Americans drinking behaviors highlights an important point,
“…falsely stereotyping a group regrading alcohol can have its own unique consequences. For example, some employers might be reluctant to hire individuals from a group that has been stereotyped regarding alcohol. Patients from such a group, possibly wanting to avoid embarrassment, may be reluctant to discuss alcohol-related problems with their doctors,” explained James Cunningham, lead author of the study.

Perhaps the most important point to take away from this study is that there is a significant need for ongoing alcohol-related research and public education. United States residents are continuing to consume alcohol, some at alarming rates, and one way to combat against alcohol abuse problems is to educate.

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.

Some Wine Companies Misleading About Alcohol Content

Any type of alcoholic beverage label contains the amount of alcohol within that bottle. This is done so that the consumer is aware of exactly what they are putting into their body and can make the most well informed decisions on how much to drink. The idea is that knowing the alcohol content of one’s drink will allow that person to predetermine how much they will be able to consume. However, it has been found that some wine companies are misrepresenting exactly how much alcohol is in their wine. This deception can prove dangerous by leading to over consumption of alcohol and can increase the likelihood that someone would make poor decisions because of an elevated amount of alcohol in their system.

Researchers at the University of California released their study to the Journal of Wine Economics after finding that alcohol content was actually, on average, 0.42% higher than reported on the labels. And while this type of discrepancy might not seem like a big problem, researchers are insistent that the misleading of consumers is not only unethical, but dangerous as well.

“A discrepancy of 0.4 percentage points might not seem large relative to an actual value of 13.6 per cent alcohol by volume, but even errors of this magnitude could lead consumers to underestimate the amount of alcohol they have consumed in ways that could have some consequences for their health and driving safety,” explained Professor Julian Alston, of the Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of California.

In response to the study, some wine makers have admitted to altering the stated alcohol content on the label because they are trying to keep more in line with what consumers are expecting. According to the research, Spanish and Chilean wines were the biggest offenders in the red wine category, while American and Chilean wines were the biggest offenders in the white wine category.

Accurate and truthful labeling, especially when it comes to alcohol, is necessary to ensure that drinkers are given the proper opportunity to engage in safe alcohol consumption. Covertly decreasing the amount of stated alcohol content can lead some people to consume more alcohol than intended and set the drinker up for dangerous decision making and alcohol habits.

Medicare’s Strange Stance on Substance Abuse Research

In order to correctly gauge the substance abuse problem in the United States, researchers have to examine data from all sorts of different agencies. One of the agencies that have been able to supply massive amounts of information to researchers is Medicare. Medicare is a federal health care program that is responsible for the care of adults over the age of 65 and people with disabilities as well as people with certain types of diseases. Because of the population that Medicare serves, they are in the possession of valuable information that helps researchers determine how drug and alcohol abuse is growing or declining and what sorts of people tend to gravitate towards substance abuse. However, Medicare has recently declined to offer any sort of demographic information, effectively hindering any attempts at further research.

In 1987 a rule was enacted that stated that in order to use someone’s information for research purposes, the researchers had to obtain that individual’s permission. In the past this rule has been overlooked, yet in 2013 Medicare began taking things into their own hands. They started deleting information from their database that, in the past, had been available to researchers. While nothing can be done to obtain this information, many are working to get the rule reversed or altered to allow researchers can conduct proper investigations.

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) stated that they were almost done drafting an appeal to the rule. Representatives from the New York Times and New England Journal of Medicine have also been vocal in the need to change or edit the rule. Despite this, it is unlikely that researchers will be granted access to the demographic information any time soon, as once the rule change is drafted; it has to be passed by the government.

Research conducted using Medicare’s database has been able to shape hospital policies, alert law enforcement of certain drug-using trends and provided researchers with valuable information for other studies relating to drug and alcohol abuse. As the drug environment continues to expand beyond teenagers and young adults, researchers are clamoring for vital information relating to an entire section of the population that has proven that they are at just as much risk for developing drug and alcohol addictions as anyone else.

Large Number of People Suffer from Alcohol Abuse

A new study revealed that fourteen percent of Americans currently struggle with an alcohol abuse problem. In addition to those that are currently suffering from an alcohol abuse problem, a total of 30% of Americans have struggled with alcohol abuse at least once in their lifetime. The study was conducted by researchers who wanted to investigate exactly how prevalent alcohol addiction is in American society. While problems like; heroin addiction and prescription pill abuse are well known and discussed at length, alcohol addiction is the quiet killer.

“Most importantly, this study highlighted the urgency of educating the public and policy makers about alcohol use disorder and its treatments, destigmatizing the disorder, and encouraging among those who cannot reduce their alcohol consumption on their own, despite substantial harm to themselves and others, to seek treatment,” explained the authors of the study.

In order to educate more people about the dangers of alcohol abuse and also that more Americans are suffering from an addiction to alcohol than many people thought, the researchers published their study in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. The study came about after medical experts changed the definition of alcohol use disorder, altering the criteria people needed to exhibit in order to be diagnosed with the dangerous addiction. The new definition added more signs of alcohol abuse and clarified that someone has to display at least two of the symptoms listed in the definition. Some of the new criteria included; continuing to drink alcohol despite it harming relationships, school or work performance being negatively affected by alcohol consumption and attempting to quit drinking and being unable to.

Researchers gathered data from 36,000 Americans. Questions were asked about their drinking habits and if their drinking negatively affected any aspects of their life. Researchers also studied those that admitted to having a drinking problem at one point in their life. Interestingly, most of the people that had struggled with alcohol in the past, or were currently struggling with alcohol, had not or were not receiving treatment. There is a general feeling that an alcohol abuse problem can go so long without being detected because the public is not aware of the signs of an alcohol addiction and how common the problem actually is. Researchers hope that the study will help to shed some light on the alcohol problem in the country.

The Connection Between Drinking and Cancer

Scientists have poured over thousands of cases of liver cancer trying to determine if there were any common denominators among the patients. They found that many of the patients who reported liver cancer were drinkers. However, contrary to what most people may think, these people may not necessarily be heavy drinkers.

The scientists realized that people who drink 3 drinks a day are increasing their risk for liver disease by 12%. People who consume more than 3 drinks may be at an even greater risk for acquiring liver or other types of cancer.

“Around three or more drinks per day can be enough to cause liver cancer. Until now we were uncertain about the amount of alcohol likely to lead to liver cancer. But the research reviewed in this report is strong enough to be more specific,” explained Amanda McLean, the director of the World Cancer Research Fund in the UK.

Experts are quick to point out that this new information is important because it shows people that even moderate drinkers can be at severe risk. Some people are under the impression that it is ok to have a few drinks a night with no repercussions. The researchers caution that in order to strengthen one’s chances of not getting liver cancer, alcoholic beverages should be limited, and a more ideal situation would be for people to abstain from consuming alcohol.

Other experts in the field are hoping that this research will further enlighten people to the dangers of consuming alcohol. Currently alcohol is the most abused substance in our country; however the social acceptance of alcoholic beverages seems to outweigh the potential for abuse and physical problems. Liver cancer is just one of the many health problems one can acquire from consuming too much alcohol.

Revisiting Alcohol’s Supposed Benefits

Updated research on the potential benefits of consuming a small amount of alcohol shows that it may not be all that healthy. After pouring over ten years’ worth of information, scientists believe they have located the original study’s mistakes and how these mistakes may have led to an increased amount of people consuming alcohol, buying into the notion that a glass of wine a day is good for your heart.

Researchers today say that the study promoting wine for heat health was poorly ran and made some glaring errors. The first error was that they combined people who have never consumed alcohol in the same group as people who used to be drinkers. Former alcoholics are likely to have health problems and experience depression. So, when researchers compared the health of people who consumed moderate amounts of alcohol to a group of people that consisted, in part, of former alcoholics they mistakenly came to the conclusion that those who drank in moderation were healthier.

“Given the harms attributed to alcohol use, it is not surprising that reports showing possible mortality benefits for low level users attracted enthusiasm among consumers, the media the alcohol industry. In health as elsewhere, if something looks too good to be true, it should be treated with great caution,” explained Craig Knott, lead author and researcher of the new meta study.

Ensuring that the public has the right information is vital. People who are inclined to drink too much are likely to use any excuse to justify this behavior. If a study comes out stating that some alcohol is healthy for a person that is just the reason someone may need to continue drinking and making poor decisions. Additionally, the perception that alcohol is healthy goes against what most people believe in the first place.

Genetics of Alcoholism Dates Back Millions of Years

New genetic research suggests that humans and their ape predecessors may have been consuming alcohol for 10 million years. Homo sapiens’ ape ancestors long ago evolved to eat fermented fruit.

Alcohol, called ethanol by scientists, can be a toxic chemical. And humans’ ability to tolerate drinking relies on one enzyme, ADH4, the researchers explained. Their new study suggests that primate ancestors developed a gene mutation to produce ADH4 beginning about 10 million years ago. This enabled them to safely consume the naturally fermented flesh of rotting fruit when other food sources became scarce.

Matthew Carrigan, an assistant professor in the department of natural sciences at Santa Fe College in Gainesville, Florida explained, “Because fruit can naturally ferment, we may have adapted naturally to the consumption of these foods.”

Carrigan’s finding might change the way scientists look at both alcohol and human evolution, he added.

He said that at the same time our adaptation to ethanol took place, our ancestors also adapted to life on the ground. The adaptation from primarily tree dwelling existence to a terrestrial existence meant that they were being exposed to fruit which is older, and more likely fermented. He speculates, “But basically it suggests that we adapted to ethanol simply so we could tolerate it.”

The findings might even offer new insights into alcoholism, Carrigan suggested. How a particular person’s genes deal with alcohol might give clues to alcoholism prevention and treatment.

If ethanol has been a beneficial and important part of our diet for some time, he questions, then how does this understanding affect our thinking about alcoholism.

Carrigan says it is important to appreciate that there is natural amount of diversity in the differences of genes in each individualh. “And understanding these differences — and how these differences might affect a person’s risk for addiction — could be really important when trying to understand how people interact with ethanol differently.”

How Smoking Can Interfere With Alcoholic’s Recovery

For those who are in the process of detoxing off of alcohol, they may want to also stay away from smoking as well. A recent study shows that smoking impairs the brain functions of those who are recovering from alcohol abuse.

“There have been few longitudinal studies that have specifically studied the effects of cigarette smoking on cognitive recovery in ALC (Alcohol Dependent Individuals) during abstinence. We chose to examine measures of processing speed, learning and memory, and working memory because these abilities have been shown to be adversely affected by alcohol use disorders as well as chronic cigarettes smoking,” explained Timothy C. Durazzo, a researcher in the study.

Since chronic alcohol abuse has such a negative effect on a person’s cognitive skills, it makes sense that researchers wanted to look into anything else that would further impair a person’s brain functioning, especially after they have abstained from alcohol abuse.

Researchers found that those who abstained from alcohol and cigarette smoking showed marked improvement in cognitive skills like processing speed, learning and memory during the first month of abstinence. The group of participants who continued to smoke cigarettes but were still abstinent from alcohol had poorer results on cognitive tests than the other group.

It is no secret that smoking cigarettes is an unhealthy behavior. The smoke from cigarettes appears to be the biggest culprit in hindering a person’s (especially a recovering alcoholic) cognitive abilities. The toxins found in cigarette smoke, paired with the stress that smoking puts on the repertory part of the body, inhibits cognitive functioning. People who have quit drinking but continue to smoke are still contaminating their bodies with toxins that are having a negative effect on their brain’s ability to function.

This new information shows that there are variables that have an effect on a person’s ability to recover from alcohol abuse. While it is highly advisable for those who abuse alcohol to enroll in some sort of treatment center for their problem, this evidence shows that if they quit smoking they will have better chances at maintaining an overall healthier lifestyle with stronger cognitive ability.