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Tag Archives: alcohol

No, moderate drinking is NOT healthier

No, this is NOT necessarily “heart healthy.”

It seems like every several months, though, there’s a new story out touting the health benefits of moderate drinking. Often, but not always, it seems focused on not just the alcohol, but on certain microchemicals in red wine. These studies all claim that the moderate drinking, and especially the wine, are “heart healthy.”

If you’re like me, even if these studies don’t have liquor industry sponsorship, you may wonder how accurate they are.

Perhaps not so much, according to a big new study which says moderate drinking is often NOT healthy. It’s actually a meta-study of a number of previous studies, and it says all those other studies dropped the ball by missing the genetics angle:

They found that those with a form of a gene tied to lower levels of drinking generally had healthier hearts. The gene affects how a person’s body breaks down alcohol, resulting in unpleasant symptoms such as nausea and facial flushing. Having this variant has been shown to lead to lower drinking over the long term, the researchers explained.

But the new study authors went beyond that:

“While the damaging effects of heavy alcohol consumption on the heart are well-established, for the last few decades we’ve often heard reports of the potential health benefits of light-to-moderate drinking,” study senior author Juan Casas, a professor of epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said in a university news release. “However, we now have evidence that some of these studies suffer from limitations that may affect the validity of their findings.

“In our study, we saw a link between a reduced consumption of alcohol and improved cardiovascular health, regardless of whether the individual was a light, moderate or heavy drinker.”

So, don’t let the “lizard voice” or “addict voice” or whatever tempt you into believing you’re being healthy by grabbing that Merlot! It’s not true.

And (shockingly!) the authors note one other problem with most of these previous studies:

“Studies into alcohol consumption are fraught with difficulty, in part because they rely on people giving accurate accounts of their drinking habits,” Dr. Shannon Amoils, senior research advisor at the British Heart Foundation, said in the news release “Here the researchers used a clever study design to get round this problem by including people who had a gene that predisposes them to drink less.”

A drinker trying to pretend his or her drinking not accurately reporting drinking amounts for a study? Noooo!

So, there you go … stay sober and stay healthy.

 

Philip Seymour Hoffman: A caution, about triggers

Philip Seymour Hoffman, via Slate

Science writer Seth Mnookin has a very good piece about Hoffman’s death.

First, there’s the scary part. Now, in recovery, we want to grow to the point where fear isn’t our primary motivator, but, we should still have a healthy fear for addiction. That’s why this scary part is of the “healthy fear” type:

I cried when I heard about Philip Seymour Hoffman. The news scared me: He got sober when he was 22 and didn’t drink or use drugs for the next 23 years. During that time, he won an Academy Award, was nominated for three more, and was widely cited as the most talented actor of his generation. He also became a father to three children. Then, one day in 2012, he began popping prescription pain pills. And now he’s dead.

Why he started back, we don’t yet know, and maybe never will. But, he did.

And, contra some recent columns that tout how much “moderation” may be able to help people, it usually doesn’t. Hoffman’s addiction progressed until he died with a heroin needle in his arm, and heroin dangerously “cut” with the narcotic fentanyl. (Updated, Feb. 13 — Although fentanyl from new “cuts” of heroin was under suspicion at the time this was written, none was found in Hoffman’s case.)

Mnookin goes on, to reveal his own background:

My first attempt at recovery came in 1991, when I was 19 years old. Almost exactly two years later, I decided to have a drink. Two years after that, I was addicted to heroin. There’s a lot we don’t know about alcoholism and drug addiction, but one thing is clear: Regardless of how much time clean you have, relapsing is always as easy as moving your hand to your mouth.

He got and stayed sober after that, but later got “reminders” himself. What we might call “triggers”:

Being back in Boston was a visceral reminder that there’s an important part of my past that isn’t on the bio page of my website: From 1995 to 1997, the last time I’d lived in the area, I’d been an IV drug addict. Living here again made me acknowledge that past every day: The drive to my son’s preschool took me within blocks of the apartment that I’d lived in during those years; my route from his school to my office went past the free acupuncture clinic where I’d sought relief from withdrawal pangs. One afternoon, I looked up and realized I was in front of the emergency room I’d been taken to after overdosing on a batch of dope laced with PCP. I did a double take and looked to my wife, but, of course, that wasn’t a memory we shared. We met in 2004, when I’d been sober for more than six years.

One truism of addiction science is that long-term abuse rewires your brain and changes its chemistry, which is why triggers (or “associated stimuli,” in scientific parlance) are major risk factors for relapse. But these changes can be reversed over time. Walking past the apartment where my dealer used to live didn’t make me want to score; it made me feel as if I was in a phantasmagoria of two crosshatched worlds—but I was the only person who could see both realities.

Give the whole thing a read. It’s worth it.

And, although Lifering has no formal “program” of recovery, talk like Mnookin’s is why many in Lifering talk about the issue of “triggers.”

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:

First, ‘methadone maintenance’; now, ‘beer maintenance’?

Use of methadone to help keep heroin addicts off of smack has always had some degree of controversy.

But, given that the amount of heroin addicts is far less than the number of alcoholics, methadone maintenance is surely far less controversial, or scary, than beer maintenance for alcoholic drinkers, I would think. Nonetheless, just that thing is being tried in …. where else, one might say? … Amsterdam.

After more than a decade out of work because of a back injury and chronic alcoholism, Fred Schiphorst finally landed a job last year and is determined to keep it. He gets up at 5:30 a.m., walks his dog and then puts on a red tie, ready to clean litter from the streets of eastern Amsterdam. …

His workday begins unfailingly at 9 a.m. — with two cans of beer, a down payment on a salary paid mostly in alcohol. He gets two more cans at lunch and then another can or, if all goes smoothly, two to round off a productive day.

“Interesting,” to say the least. It’s a partnership between the Dutch government and a nonprofit group.

The program, started last year by the Rainbow Foundation, a private but mostly government-funded organization that helps the homeless, drug addicts and alcoholics get back on their feet, is so popular that there is a long waiting list of chronic alcoholics eager to join the beer-fueled cleaning teams.

Oh, I’m sure it’s popular. It also perpetuates an old stereotype, which likely adds to the problem, rather than helping solve it:

One of the project’s most enthusiastic supporters is Fatima Elatik, district mayor of eastern Amsterdam. As a practicing Muslim who wears a head scarf, Ms. Elatik personally disapproves of alcohol but says she believes that alcoholics “cannot be just ostracized” and told to shape up. It is better, she said, to give them something to do and restrict their drinking to a limited amount of beer with no hard alcohol.

But, alcohol is alcohol, whether in beer, wine or spirits.

The second page of the story gets at the heart of the city’s stance, with this quote:

Read more ...

‘Drinking mommy’ still real, still not cute

The mother, especially the stay-at-home, mother who drinks away her afternoons, isn’t just a 1960s stereotype. It’s still real, and apparently being even more glamorized than before.

But, not only is it still real, the fact that in many cases, there’s an alcoholic mom that that drinking mommy becomes, is also still real. And here is a realistic look at that.