Thursday, July 31, 2008

Right Place + Right Time Can Trigger Drinking

ScienceDaily (July 31, 2008) — Strong cravings for alcohol can be sparked by the mere sight, smell and taste of a person’s favorite drink. Responses to such cues that are associated with the positive effects of drinking are a lead cause of relapse in abstinent alcoholics.

Using a behavioral animal model, researchers of a new study, scheduled for publication in the August 1st issue of Biological Psychiatry, have found that the physical surroundings where alcohol cues are experienced can greatly influence the ability of those cues to trigger relapse.

Specifically, Chaudhri and colleagues taught rats to learn that a brief tone signaled when a small amount of alcohol would be available in a fluid receptacle for them to drink. This learning occurred in a distinctive environment consisting of a particular appearance, smell, and lighting. They were then put into a second, unique context with a different appearance, smell, and lighting, and were repeatedly exposed to the tone but never given alcohol.

Click here to read entire article at Science

Friday, July 25, 2008

Frequent Family Meals Might Reduce Teen Substance Use

ScienceDaily (July 25, 2008) — Parents who have regular meals with their adolescent children might help lessen the chances they will start drinking or smoking later in their teen years, according to new research.

Past studies have shown that family meals provide many benefits, including offering a venue for parents to communicate with their adolescents about their daily activities, as well as monitor their moods and whereabouts.

In the new study, researchers noted benefits in families that ate five or more meals together each week, and found that about 60 percent of the participants did so.

“Sixty percent having regular family meals is about what we would expect for middle school students,” said lead author Marla Eisenberg of the Division of Adolescent Health and Medicine at the University of Minnesota. “The percentage is lower among high school students, who are more likely to have afterschool activities or more freedom to spend time away from home.”

Click here to read entire article at Science

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Coffee And Cigarette Consumption Are High Among AA Attendees

ScienceDaily (July 22, 2008) — More than one million Americans currently participate in the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) program. While AA participants are reportedly notorious for their coffee drinking and cigarette smoking, very little research has quantified their consumption of these two products. Recent findings confirm that coffee and cigarette use among this population is greater than among the general U.S. population: most AA members drink coffee and more than half smoke.

"Drinking coffee and smoking cigarettes are part of the culture of AA, but we knew little about the degree to which this occurred, how much more prevalent these behaviors were compared to the general American population, or why AA participants actually drank coffee or smoked cigarettes," said Peter R. Martin, professor of psychiatry and pharmacology, director of the Vanderbilt Addiction Center at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and corresponding author for the study.

Martin added that many questions remain about the effects of coffee and cigarettes on recovering alcoholics. "What do cigarettes or coffee do for them; how do they believe that they are affected by smoking and drinking coffee?," he asked. "Is this behavior simply a way to bond or connect in AA meetings, analogous to the peace pipe among North American Indians, or do constituents of these natural compounds result in pharmacological actions that affect the brain? Perhaps most interesting, how do these consummatory behaviors affect the brain and what is their role in recovery?"

Click here to read entire article at Science

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Teen Smokers Struggle To Kick The Habit; Most Want To Quit And Can't

ScienceDaily (July 20, 2008) — Most teenagers who smoke cigarettes make repeated attempts to quit but most are unsuccessful, according to new research from the Université de Montréal and funded by the Canadian Cancer Society.

"The study found that teen smokers make their first serious attempt to quit after only two and a half months of smoking, and by the time they have smoked for 21 months they have lost confidence in their ability to quit," says Dr. Jennifer O'Loughlin, the study's lead author and a researcher from the Université de Montréal's department of social and preventive medicine.

Dr. O'Loughlin analyzed data from 319 Montreal teens who completed reports on their smoking habits every three months for five years. The study found that teen smokers progress through stages or milestones in their attempts to stop smoking. These stages are:

  • Confidently declaring that they have stopped smoking forever, one to two months after their first puff;
  • Expressing a conscious desire to quit with a growing realization that quitting requires serious effort;
  • Over the next two years, as cravings and withdrawal symptoms increase, gradually losing confidence in their ability to quit;
  • A year later, they are smoking daily and now realize they still smoke because it is very hard to quit;
  • About two years after starting to smoke cigarettes daily, teen smokers are showing full-blown tobacco dependence.

Click here to read entire article at Science

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Does Gene Variant Make Women More Prone To Alcoholism?

ScienceDaily (July 9, 2008) — A particular gene variant might make women more susceptible to alcoholism. At least, a study carried out by the Universities of Bonn and Sweden's Karolinska Institute makes this a plausible conclusion. Accord-ing to this, a gene in the endorphin metabolism is altered in a typical fashion more often in women alcoholics than in healthy women. In mice too, endorphins seem to play an important role in the amount of alcohol consumed, particularly among females.

Endorphins are known as 'happiness' hormones. They activate what is known as the reward system in the brain and thereby ensure a good mood. This could be the case after jogging (experts talk about 'Runner's High'), after a bar of chocolate or also after a glass of beer or wine. The body endeavours to repeat this high, in the worst case ending in addiction.

Without these 'happiness' hormones you should be going easy on the alcohol, the theory also says. Researchers have tested this hypothesis. For this they examined mice that could not produce any endorphins due to a genetic mutation. The laboratory mice had the choice of quenching their thirst with pure water or an ethanol solution. 'Overall, mice without endorphins drank less alcohol than their relatives with endorphins,' Dr. Ildikó Rácz from the Bonn Institute of Molecular Psychiatry explains. She led the study together with her colleague Britta Schürmann and the director of the institute, Professor Dr. Andreas Zimmer.

Click here to read entire article at Science