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.

New Medication Could Aid Alcoholics

Reducing alcohol intake is the goal for many people throughout the country. Unfortunately, this is not always an easy thing to accomplish. In fact, alcohol is one of the most abused drugs in the world. So, in order to help people reduce the amount of alcohol they consume, a group of scientists have developed a medication that shows promise. Nalmefene is a medication that has shown effective in clinical trials in getting heavy drinkers to reduce their alcohol intake. This is promising because cutting back on alcohol is especially hard for heavy drinkers.

“The goal is to decrease alcohol consumption, and in our systematic review of randomized controlled trials of the drug, we found that there was a significant reduction in the number of heavy drinking days and a decrease in total alcohol consumption compared with placebo, so we feel that nalmefene constitutes a new pharmacological treatment paradigm for alcohol-dependent patients who are unable to reduce alcohol consumption on their own,” explained Meelie Bordoloi, MD, psychiatry resident, University of Missouri, Columbia.

Medically-assisted intervention is not new when it comes to addiction. Heroin abusers can take methadone or suboxone, and there are several medications in the works for cocaine addicts. Alcohol is one of the most lethal drugs because it effects the liver, stomach, mouth and esophagus. Alcoholics who suddenly stop drinking can also suffer from seizures or even death. These medical risks make it complicated for treatment counselors and medical professionals to treat. A medication like nalmefene could help solve these problems.

While nalmefene does not prevent alcohol intake, like Antabuse (a medication that blocks the effects of alcohol and makes the person sick if they consume alcohol while taking the drug), it does minimize the urge to over drink. Experts are hoping that this will allow heavy drinkers to lower tolerance and allow for further intervention that would lead to alcohol abstinence.

The treatment field is an ever changing environment that is being shaped by new innovations and approaches. New medications like nalmefene are likely to change the landscape of treatment even further.

Retirees At Risk for Increased Alcohol Abuse

Samuel Bacharach and Peter Bamberger have recently written a book entitled, “Retirement and the Hidden Epidemic: The Complex Link Between Aging, Work Disengagement and Substance Misuse – and What To Do About It.” The book highlights the problems that many retirees face and how they oftentimes turn towards alcohol to get through the latter part of life. They realized that this was a topic worth writing about after they spoke with over one thousand retirees and found that alcohol abuse was a very common thread among the elderly.

According to the authors, 10 to 17 percent of retirees are misusing alcohol. There are a variety of reasons behind this high level of abuse. Some point to the fact that retirees have an increased amount of free time on their hands. Not knowing what to do with all the time, some turn to alcohol, which can create a late in life addiction. Others claim that because retirees are no longer working they have lost their sense of purpose, this oftentimes leads to a sort of depression that alcohol is used to cover up. Some experts say that because many retirees socially drank during their lives it is an easy transition into addiction after they retire.

Regardless of the reason, it is important that people understand that this problem is occurring so they can spot it in their loved ones. There are treatment options that exist for those that are suffering from an alcohol addiction problem at any age. “If you can kill the stigma, there’s hope. This research points to that possibility,” explained Bamberger.

Banberger and Bacharach are pleased that their book is gaining attention. They hope that if people understand that some retirees are suffering from depression and subsequent alcohol abuse that society will begin to do something about it. Increased alcohol intake by the elderly is something that affects more than just the addict. Health care costs rise as well as social welfare costs. Properly treating the alcohol abuse and any co-occurring disorders can create a happy retirement free from damaging substances.

New Treatment for Heavy Drinkers May Be Possible According to New Study

When alcoholism or heavy drinking becomes a problem, the solution is usually to stop drinking altogether – a tough feat to accomplish on your own. Recent research shows that reducing alcohol consumption could be easy with the help of the anti-epilepsy drug, topiramate AKA Topamax.

The study included 138 heavy drinkers divided into two groups. One group took the drug for 12 weeks and the other group took an inactive placebo. Both groups participated in brief counseling to help them decrease their drinking.

After the 12-week period, the placebo group patients were five times more likely to have had a heavy drinking day compared to the patients in the Topamax group. Also, the Topamax group had twice as many patients who had no heavy drinking days during the last four weeks of the study.

Although there have been recent studies that associate anti-epilepsy drugs with alcohol recovery, this is the first that evaluates the drug as an option for patients who want to limit their drinking to safe levels, rather than stop drinking completely.

After further analysis, researchers discovered that only people with a specific genetic makeup found in 40% of European-Americans benefited from the treatment. As a result, it could be assumed that personalized treatments for heavy drinking may be on the horizon.

“Our hope is that the study will result in additional research focusing to help patients who have struggles with heavy drinking and the problems it causes, but who are unable or unwilling to abstain from alcohol altogether,” explains Dr. Henry Kranzler, director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Studies of Addiction.

The results of the study not only supported the theory that the drug helps in decreasing alcohol consumption, but also point to what groups of people the drug could help. Hopefully future research will shine a light on what the use of Topamax could mean for alcoholics continuing to struggle with recovery.