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Category Archives: Science

A Sober Look at Death From Drinking

A recent article in The Atlantic points to a study in Italy that makes the somewhat obvious point that drinking is bad for your health. The article starts out:

“A number of studies in the past few years have suggested health benefits from drinking small or moderate amounts of alcohol. This can encourage people to look at alcohol almost as if it’s medicine. A recent study of alcohol use in Italy paints a much more sobering picture.

“Death rates from infections, diabetes, diseases of the immunological, nervous, cardiovascular, respiratory, and digestive systems, and violent causes all were elevated, as were death rates from many types of cancer. And while women in the study fared better than men, they still fared worse than the rest of the population.

“It’s hardly news that alcoholismis bad for the health. But few studies have examined these effects in such detail and in such a large population.”

Read the entire article HERE

Alcohol has Different Effects for Women vs. Men, Young vs. Old, Article Says

An article at the Star.com website of the Toronto (Canada) Star newspaper discusses what researchers have discovered about differences in the effects of alcohol on females — especially adolescent females — from their male counterparts.  In both genders, one researcher says, “Quantity and frequency can be a killer for novice drinkers. Adding alcohol to the mix of the developing brain will likely complicate the normal developmental trajectory. Long after a young person recovers from a hangover, risk to cognitive and brain functions endures.”

The article also discusses ongoing studies about differences between the brains of addicts of all kinds and non-addicts. The brain’s reward system, in which certain parts of the brain react to the presence of dopamine by imparting feelings of pleasure, is weaker in addicts. Some of that is an effect of drinking or using: too much stimulation of the system by addictive drinking/using causes a scaling back in the number of receptors, which in turn leads to the “need” for addicts to use more and more of the drug of choice as time passes. It’s possible, though not yet proven, that some individuals are born with a relatively weak brain reward system, predisposing them to being vulnerable to addiction.

Read more by clicking  HERE

Drug Shows Promise for Help in Preventing Relapse

A new study — on mice, not people — shows promising results with the use of a drug called Mifepristone to reduce relapse stemming from high stress levels. The drug was initially commercialized by the name RU-486, a drug that is widely used for inducing terminations of pregnancy. “It seems to impede the activity of progesterone and cortisol in the brain that play a major role in supporting alcoholism and relapse.” The article about the study goes on to say:

“’It’s well-known that stress can lead to relapse in people who are trying not to drink. Until now, we have had very few interventions that showed potential as possible treatments,’ commented senior author Selena E. Bartlett, PhD, director of medications development at the Gallo Center.” The study was conducted by researchers from the University of California San Francisco and the Earnest Gallo Clinic.

Read the full article HERE

More on addiction is in the brain

The New York Times’ Nick Kristof has a good new column about the biochemical nature of addiction, based on its influence on dopamine and other brain chemicals. He’s writing about DavidLinden’s new book, “The Compass of Pleasure,” which I am now reading.

Kristof notes that things like altruism and acts of charity, not just chemical addictions or “process” compulsions/addictions, can light up the pleasure centers of our brain, as can things like exercise. (And yes, the research that Linden notes says that “processes,” i.e., gambling, overeating, and extreme sexual behavior, can become addictive in the same way as chemicals.

More on this below the fold:

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The economy and drinking

It should be of no surprise to anybody that people who are unemployed, especially for longer periods, struggle with drinking. However, according to Live Science, a new study shows that people who have jobs are also more likely to drink problematically, including binge drinking and driving while intoxicated, during recessionary times. A possible explainer:

“The way we explain this, is even though employed individuals have a job, they could be affected psychologically (e.g., fear of losing their job) from an economic downturn, leading them to have more drinking days and driving under the influence episodes as the state-level unemployment rate increases,” French said.

So, if you are sober, even if you have plenty of time being sober, if you have any worries about your job, your career field, etc., the obvious advice is: Be open about your fears, talk to others, be proactive with sobriety support.