Category Archives: Science

Video: Alcohol and Your Brain

Here’s a seven minute video covering the basics of how alcohol affects the brain. It’s simple and straightforward, making up in clarity what it lacks in detail:

Yet another “false dichotomy” story

Just a couple of weeks after the New York Times, in a column by a person pushing a book, presents a false dichotomy between Alcoholics Anonymous and science-based moderation as the only alternatives on the table, Slate does the same thing. And, it’s story author is a Slate staffer who doesn’t even have the excuse of publishing a book. You can comment on the page or Tweet Brian Palmer here.

The story’s good otherwise; Palmer knows the history of AA’s semi-official opposition to medical assistance for addiction, counseling and more. But, there’s not a single word in there about secular sobriety organizations. Only by people like us contacting people like Palmer to get the full story out there, can we get the full story out there.

And, whether Palmer’s analysis of AA is close to correct or not is not the primary point of this blog post. (That said, I do think he is broadly correct.)

Mental health affects substance abuse

It is probably of little surprise to those who battle depression, bipolar disorder, PTSD or other issues, that substance abuse problems and mental health struggles are connected. The evidence seems clear, anecdotally.

And, it’s more than just anecdotal. The National Institute on Drug Abuse confirms it, with research data. The study doesn’t cover “everyday” depression, but it’s still of value.

In the current study, 9,142 people diagnosed with schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, or bipolar disorder with psychotic features, and 10,195 controls matched to participants according to geographic region, were selected using the Genomic Psychiatry Cohort program. Mental disorder diagnoses were confirmed using the Diagnostic Interview for Psychosis and Affective Disorder (DI-PAD), and controls were screened to verify the absence of schizophrenia or bipolar disorder in themselves or close family members. The DI-PAD was also used for all participants to determine substance use rates.

Compared to controls, people with severe mental illness were about 4 times more likely to be heavy alcohol users (four or more drinks per day); 3.5 times more likely to use marijuana regularly (21 times per year); and 4.6 times more likely to use other drugs at least 10 times in their lives. The greatest increases were seen with tobacco, with patients with severe mental illness 5.1 times more likely to be daily smokers. This is of concern because smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.

One more thing to watch, if you will.

If you are interested in how Lifering may be able to help you in this area, note that we have a “dual diagnosis” email group.

A New Year’s thought – quit now, while you’re younger

If you’re a new visitor to Lifering, and either you or a friend has made a New Year’s resolution to quit drinking, I have one good reason to stand by that resolution.

Likewise, if you or a friend is considering that resolution, but not yet sure about it, I have one good reason to follow through.

It does get worse as you get older.

Scientific evidence is starting to come in that hangovers get worse as people get older.

So, why wait? Save yourself some pain, or encourage a friend to do the same.

Predicting the Chances of Relapse

Dick Sprague, a Colorado LifeRinger, forwards an interesting article that deals with predicting relapse. The academic article stems from the distressing fact that more than one-third of liver transplant recipients — most of whom, presumably, need the transplant because of damage from drinking — relapse after the transplant. Pause and think about that — you’ve damaged your liver to the point where it’s function is so compromised that you need a transplant. You convince the doctors that you won’t waste their time, energy and money by resuming drinking; you go through the wait for a donor liver and the trauma of the surgery and recovery … and then you go back to drinking. What an example of the power of addiction!

The article (actually the abstract of the article) offers a list of nine factors that predict the risk of relapse, and most of them certainly don’t just apply to transplant recipients:

Nine of 25 hypothesized risk factors were predictive of alcohol relapse after liver transplant: absence of hepatocellular carcinoma, tobacco dependence, continued alcohol use after liver disease diagnosis, low motivation for alcohol treatment, poor stress management skills, no rehabilitation relationship, limited social support, lack of nonmedical behavioral consequences, and continued engagement in social activities with alcohol present.

Read the abstract Here.

— Craig Whalley