Thursday, February 16, 2017

Think Binge Drinking Is Safer for Your Liver Than Regular Heavy Drinking? Think Again.

Effect of alcohol of body
Newswise, February 16, 2017 — Alcoholic liver disease (ALD) occurs on a spectrum of severity. The majority of people who drink excessively develop a fatty liver, which though often symptom free, can progress to a state of inflammation, fibrosis, and cell death that can be fatal.

Little is known about liver disruption that may occur in problem drinkers who are not alcohol dependent. To help understand the development of ALD, this study used a rodent model to examine differences in liver damage between binge drinkers and heavy drinkers.

Researchers at UCSF compared the metabolic effects in mice of repeated binge-like alcohol drinking, a single binge-drinking session, and repeated moderate alcohol drinking. Several markers of early- and later-stage liver disruption were examined.

Results indicated that even limited binge-like alcohol drinking disrupts liver function, which could lead to more severe forms of liver damage. These findings point to several aspects of early liver dysfunction seen in humans, including fatty liver, induction of the liver metabolic enzyme CYP2E1, and increased alcohol metabolism.

The study, funded by the NIH/NIAAA, also demonstrates the great potential value of preclinical studies for understanding human disorders.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Gambling Addiction Triggers the Same Brain Areas as Drug and Alcohol Cravings

Gambling and Drug Addiction triggers
Newswise, February 13, 2017 — Gambling addiction activates the same brain pathways as drug and alcohol cravings, suggests new research.

The study, by international scientists including researchers from Imperial College London, suggests targeting these brain pathways may lead to future treatments for the condition.

The findings, published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, also suggest connections between the parts of the brain that control our impulses may be weakened in people with gambling addiction.

This work provides vital clues into the biology of gambling addiction, which is still largely unknown, explained Dr Henrietta Bowden-Jones, co-author from the Department of Medicine at Imperial, and director of the National Problem Gambling Clinic, at Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust.

"Gambling addiction can have a devastating effect not just on patients, but also their families. It can result in people losing their job, and leave families and children homeless.

"We know the condition may have a genetic component - and that the children of gambling addicts are at higher risk of gambling addiction themselves - but we still don't know the exact parts of the brain involved. This research identifies key brain areas, and opens avenues for targeted treatments that prevent cravings and relapse."

The study, funded by the UK Medical Research Council, found that two brain areas, called the insula and nucleus accumbens, are highly active when people with gambling addiction experience cravings.

Activity in these areas, which are found deep in the centre of the brain and involved in decision-making, reward and impulse control, has been previously linked to drug and alcohol cravings.

Problem gambling may affect up to 593,000 people in the UK. The condition can be treated by talking therapies, such as cognitive behavioural therapy, or medications that combat cravings.

In the research, which was conducted between Imperial and the National Problem Gambling Clinic, scientists studied 19 patients with gambling addiction, and 19 healthy volunteers.

The most commonly reported problematic forms of gambling among the patients were electronic roulette and sports gambling.

Each volunteer went into a magnetic resonance imaging scanner - which uses a powerful electromagnet to monitor brain activity - and were shown various images. These included pictures of gambling scenes, such as a roulette wheel or a betting shop.

All participants were asked to rate their level of craving when they saw the images.

The team, which included scientists from the University of British Columbia and the University of Cambridge, then assessed which brain areas were activated when the volunteers experienced cravings.

They found that, in problem gamblers, the insula and nucleus accumbens were highly active when they were shown an image associated with gambling, and experienced a craving.

Interestingly, the team also found that weaker connections between the nucleus accumbens and an area called the frontal lobe in problem gamblers were associated with greater craving.

The frontal lobe, which is involved in decision-making, may help keep the insula in-check by controlling impulses, explained Professor Anne Lingford-Hughes, co-author from the Department of Medicine at Imperial.

"Weak connections between these regions have also been identified in drug addiction. The frontal lobe can help control impulsivity, therefore a weak link may contribute to people being unable to stop gambling, and ignoring the negative consequences of their actions. The connections may also be affected by mood - and be further weakened by stress, which may be why gambling addicts relapse during difficult periods in their life."

Professor Lingford-Hughes added that monitoring activity and connections in the insula and nucleus accumbens in gambling addicts may not only help medics assess effectiveness of a treatment, but may also help prevent relapse - a common problem in addiction.

The group are now investigating which treatments may reduce activity in these areas, in an attempt to reduce cravings.

They would also like to compare the brain activity of problem gamblers with people who gamble but do not have an addiction, to investigate why the addiction escalates in some but not others.

Ignition Interlock Laws Reduce Alcohol-Involved Fatal Crashes

--Estimated 1,250 alcohol-involved fatal crashes were prevented in 21 states where mandatory interlock laws have been implemented

Newswise, February 13, 2017 — State laws requiring ignition interlocks for all drunk driving offenders appear to reduce the number of fatal drunk driving crashes, a new study by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Colorado School of Public Health researchers suggests.

The study — published Jan. 5 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine — found that mandatory interlock laws were associated with a seven percent decrease in the rate of fatal crashes with at least one driver with a blood alcohol content over the legal limit.

The decrease translates into an estimated 1,250 prevented fatal crashes in states with mandatory interlock laws since states first started passing such laws in 1993.

An ignition interlock is an alcohol-sensing device, connected to the ignition of a vehicle, which detects alcohol in the driver’s breath. If alcohol in excess of a preset limit is detected by the sensor, the vehicle will not start.

While all 50 states have some type of ignition interlock laws, 26 have mandatory laws requiring all individuals convicted of a DUI offense to use an interlock in order to drive legally, as of March 2016.

This is the first study to look at all the different types of interlock laws across all 50 states.

The researchers found that interlock laws which are mandatory for all DUI offenders were much more effective than those applicable to only some offenders, such as only repeat offenders or those with a very high blood alcohol content.

In the United States in 2014, alcohol-involved fatal motor vehicle crashes caused approximately 10,000 deaths, about one-third of all motor vehicle crash deaths.

“Our study demonstrates the value of mandatory ignition interlock laws across the United States,” says study leader Emma E. “Beth” McGinty, PhD, MS, deputy director at the Johns Hopkins Center for Mental Health and Addiction Policy Research at the Bloomberg School.

“We already know that alcohol plays a tragic role in the number of motor vehicle crash fatalities each year. Interlock laws which are mandatory for all DUI offenders save lives. "

To estimate the effects of existing ignition interlock laws, the researchers studied the effects of interlock laws on trends in alcohol-involved fatal crashes over a 32-year period, 1982 to 2013, and controlled for other motor vehicle safety laws and trends in crashes over time.

The team assessed changes in pre- and post-interlock law rates of alcohol-involved fatal crashes with crash data obtained from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), and measured them against the different categories of interlock laws: permissive (at the discretion of a judge), partial (applicable to only some DUI offenders), and mandatory for all.

The researchers used two measures based on FARS data: alcohol-involved fatal crashes with a driver having a blood alcohol level of 0.08—the legal limit—and a second data set with a driver with a blood alcohol level greater than 0.15.

“Until recently, there hasn’t been any evidence on whether these laws prevent alcohol-involved fatal crashes, and specifically whether mandatory/all laws are more effective than permissive and partial laws,” McGinty says.

“Our study suggests that they are effective, and it’s encouraging to see more and more states moving towards this evidence-based policy change. Since 2005, we’ve seen over 20 states adopt interlock laws for all drunk-driving offenses. We’d like to see the remaining states follow suit.”

“Ignition Interlock Laws: Effects on Fatal Motor Vehicle Crashes, 1982–2013” was written by Emma E. McGinty, PhD, MS; Gregory Tung, PhD, MPH,; Juliana Shulman-Laniel, MPH; Rose Hardy, MPH; Lainie Rutkow, JD, PhD, MPH; Shannon Frattaroli, PhD, MPH; and Jon S. Vernick, JD, MPH.

The study was supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (#1R49CE002466-01).

Friday, February 10, 2017

More than a Quarter of U.S. Adults, Roughly 9 Percent of U.S. Youth Use Tobacco

Roswell Park scientists report findings from first wave of PATH Study in New England Journal of Medicine

Newswise, February 10, 2017. — More than 1 in 4 adults and nearly 1 in 10 youth use tobacco, according to findings from the Population Assessment of Tobacco and Health (PATH) Study, published online ahead of print in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The PATH Study, established in 2011 through collaboration between the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute on Drug Abuse and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products, is a uniquely large, nationally representative longitudinal study designed to examine tobacco use behaviors and health among the U.S. population over multiple years of follow-up.

The PATH Study is being conducted by Westat of Rockville, Md., with Roswell Park Cancer Institute as the scientific lead.

“Tobacco use continues to be an overwhelming economic and personal burden in this country. This research provides a unique and much-needed long-term approach to understanding tobacco use and the impact those behaviors have on individuals and on society as a whole,” says Andrew Hyland, PhD, Chair of the Department of Health Behavior at Roswell Park Cancer Institute and principal investigator of the PATH Study.

The present study reports findings from the baseline wave of data collection, conducted from September 2013 to December 2014.

As part of that first wave of the PATH Study data collection, 32,320 adults and 13,651 youths (ages 12-17) were asked about their use of 12 types of tobacco products, including cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars, pipe tobacco, hookah, smokeless tobacco and snus. 

The research team found that 27.6% of American adults are current tobacco users and 8.9% of youth reported using tobacco in the previous 30 days. Use of multiple tobacco products was common among both adult and youth users, with cigarettes and e-cigarettes being the most common combination. 

“These findings will serve as the baseline for comparison to future waves of PATH Study data in our effort to understand changes in use of tobacco products over time, including switching among types of products, quitting tobacco, and trajectories of use of multiple products,” says Karin Kasza, MA, Senior Research Specialist in the Department of Health Behavior at Roswell Park and lead author of the study published today.

“The study documents that tobacco use is about much more than just cigarettes,” adds study co-author Wilson M. Compton, MD, Deputy Director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Both youth and adults use a remarkably broad variety of tobacco products.”

“The findings from the PATH Study will help inform the FDA’s efforts to regulate tobacco products in such a way that reduces harm and protects public health.

“We look forward to findings from future study waves that will help us better understand patterns of tobacco use in the U.S. and, ultimately, how such behaviors influence health,” says David L. Ashley, PhD, Director of the Center for Tobacco Products’ Office of Science.

Additional PATH Study partners are the Truth Initiative, the University of California at San Diego, University of Waterloo, Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth, Medical University of South Carolina, Rutgers University and University of Minnesota.

This manuscript is supported with federal funds from the National Institute on Drug Abuse, National Institutes of Health, and the Food and Drug Administration, Department of Health and Human Services, under a contract to Westat (Contract No. HHSN271201100027C). The study, “Tobacco-Product Use by Adults and Youths in the United States in 2013 and 2014,” is available at

Friday, February 3, 2017

Police Sobriety Checkpoints Can Reduce Drunk Driving Better Than Increased Penalties

Police Sobriety Checkpoints Reduce Drunk DrivingNewswise, February 3, 2017 — Driving while impaired (DWI) causes more than 10,000 deaths per year in the United States. Although enforcing criminal sanctions for DWI is the traditional response, the success of these measures has been inconsistent.

This study looked at risk perceptions as a method of reducing the frequency of DWI - in other words, whether the threat of being apprehended for DWI can deter people from engaging in this behavior.

Researchers examined survey data collected from individual drivers, police, and defense attorneys specializing in DWI in eight U.S. cities.

They compared two measures to determine which was a better deterrent of alcohol-impaired driving: the threat of being apprehended for DWI or harsher penalties for DWI.

Individuals reported that a greater perceived chance of being pulled over for DWI corresponded to less alcohol-impaired driving on their part.

Conversely, individual perceptions of DWI penalties were unrelated to their self-reports of current or future alcohol-impaired driving. The authors suggested that increasing the certainty of apprehension by increasing police staffing and/or conducting more sobriety checks would likely be more effective in reducing alcohol-impaired driving than legislating increased penalties.