The Secret to Staying Sober on Vacation

January 16, 2013 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

On the cathedral square

Photo credit: Oleg Sidorenko

Being in recovery shouldn’t affect your ability to live a full life. For many people, however, alcohol and other drugs are a large part of traveling. Your vacation is a time to unwind and blow off steam, but there are ways to do it that won’t compromise your sobriety. In this article, we look at some ways to make the most of your time abroad without relapsing.

Stay Away From All-inclusive Resorts

For families traveling together, all-inclusive resorts are a convenient way to travel without having to worry a lot about logistics. But between the free drinks, college kids eager to party and the swim-up bars, the temptation to drink can be too much. Avoid the big resorts and stay at a local hotel or homestay. You’ll save money and see another side of life in your destination.

Take a Cultural Vacation

The best way to avoid drinking while on vacation is to fill your day with other activities. Skip the beach and visit archeological sites, museums and cultural performances. If you’re at a loss as to what to do, there are many tourist organizations, such as NYC Sober Tours and TravelSober.com, which cater to those in recovery.

Stay Active

There are few things better for your peace of mind than doing yoga on the beach as the sun rises. If yoga’s not your thing, go for a hike or rent a bicycle for an afternoon. You can also use your vacation as an opportunity to take up something new; try taking a surfing lesson or salsa class.

Have a Support Team

If you’re traveling with family or friends, let them know that you will need their help. Ask your spouse to support you by abstaining as well. Having an eager travel partner can motivate you to try new things and will give you someone to be accountable to.

Eat

You’re on vacation – you should indulge yourself! Let your diet lapse for a few days. Try local specialties, tour community markets, take a cooking lesson. Food is one of the greatest pleasures life has to offer, and experiencing all its diversity can be uniquely rewarding.

Treat Yourself

Remember, you’ll be saving money by not drinking. Why not put that toward a distinctive souvenir? Find the perfect gift for yourself – it will be a unique and memorable reward for having made it through your vacation without succumbing to temptation.

Whether you’re a week out of rehab or have been sober for years, a vacation can be a stressful time in your recovery. It doesn’t have to be, though. If you are vigilant and make an effort to fill your time with activities, not only will staying sober be easy, you also will have a once-in-a-lifetime experience that is far more rewarding than a boozy week on the beach.

About The Author:

Adrienne is a blogger and aspiring writer. When she’s not blogging about tech and social media, you might find her practicing her French, whipping up some recipes she found on Pinterest, or obsessing over vintage postcards and stamps.

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10 Health Tips for Women Age 65 and Older

I just found this health related video on YouTube … and thought you might enjoy it!

youtube.com/watch?v=Ng7C9WoaRZc%3Fversion%3D3%26f%3Dvideos%26app%3Dyoutube_gdata

This video provides 10 health tips for women age 65 and older. These recommendations are based on expert clinical opinion presented in UpToDate online version 18.3. This video was produced by Dr. Nicholas Cohen, MD. The content of this video is not intended nor recommended as a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your own physician or other qualified health care professional regarding any medical questions or conditions.

Tell us what you think about this video in the comments below, or in the Battling For Health Community Forum!
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Wine Types & Selection Tips : Wine Drinking Health Problems

July 7, 2011 by  
Filed under VIDEO

I just found this health related video on YouTube … and thought you might enjoy it!

youtube.com/watch?v=B91Q5JhuBnE%3Ff%3Dvideos%26app%3Dyoutube_gdata

Drinking more than the recommended limits on wine creates a situation of putting one’s health in jeopardy and will cause adverse effects to a body. Know when to say when while drinking wine to prevent health problems with advice from a wine connoisseur in this free video on wines. Expert: Gabriel Chisese Bio: Gabriel Chisese and his brother Victor Chisese run Estate Wines in an upmarket area of North London. Filmmaker: Kathy Stannard

Tell us what you think about this video in the comments below, or in the Battling For Health Community Forum!
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Wine Types & Selection Tips : Wine Drinking Health Problems

July 7, 2011 by  
Filed under VIDEO

I just found this health related video on YouTube … and thought you might enjoy it!

youtube.com/watch?v=B91Q5JhuBnE%3Ff%3Dvideos%26app%3Dyoutube_gdata

Drinking more than the recommended limits on wine creates a situation of putting one’s health in jeopardy and will cause adverse effects to a body. Know when to say when while drinking wine to prevent health problems with advice from a wine connoisseur in this free video on wines. Expert: Gabriel Chisese Bio: Gabriel Chisese and his brother Victor Chisese run Estate Wines in an upmarket area of North London. Filmmaker: Kathy Stannard

Tell us what you think about this video in the comments below, or in the Battling For Health Community Forum!
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Great tasting, zero alcohol, low calories: holiday cocktail recipes

December 22, 2010 by  
Filed under ADDICTION, CANCER, HEART AND STROKE

Hey, wanna try some real cool cocktails this New Year without the day-after complaints and the lifetime risks? Well, that’s what we are bringing you with this post today – recipes for great tasting cocktails without the alcohol and the calories. Yuck! Mocktails, you might say. Well, let say, just give it a try. I sure did and loved it. What’s more, every can drink them – the kids, the pregnant, the alcoholics, the drivers. Perfect for family-friendly holiday gatherings where you can really drink to everyone’s health.

Here are some recipes, courtesy of the MD Anderson Cancer Center and the American Institute for Cancer Research:

Holiday Citrus Punch

The orange juice and cranberry juice in this recipe offer a healthy dose of cancer-fighting antioxidants like vitamin C. You’ll get the most vitamin C if you use freshly- squeezed orange juice, but refrigerated or frozen concentrate will also do the body good.

Ingredients

  • 4 cups orange juice
  • 2 cups 100% cranberry juice
  • 4 cups sparkling water or club soda
  • 1 orange, sliced horizontally into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1 lime, sliced horizontally into 1/4-inch slices

Directions

In large punch bowl, combine juices and sparkling water or soda. Float orange and lime slices on top and serve.

Yield: 20 servings

Serving size: 1/2 cup

Each serving provides:

  • Calories: 33
  • Total fat: 0 grams
  • Saturated fat: 0 grams
  • Carbohydrates: 0 grams
  • Protein: Less than 1 gram
  • Dietary fiber: 0 grams
  • Sodium: 1 milligram

Sparkling Grape Party Punch

This recipe packs a hefty antioxidant punch. The grapes and grape juice provide a powerful dose of resveratrol — the same cancer-preventing antioxidant in red wine — with none of alcohol’s drawbacks. And, the orange juice and lemon juice in this recipe gives you a generous amount of vitamin C.

Ingredients

  • 1 bottle (46 oz.) 100% grape juice
  • 1 bottle (25 oz.) sparkling apple-grape juice
  • 4 to 6 cups sparkling spring water
  • 1 to 1 and 1/2 cups 100% orange juice
  • 2 to 4 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 4 thin lemon slices
  • 4 thin orange slices
  • 2 cups frozen grapes

Directions

Make sure all beverages are cold. Pour grape juice, sparkling apple grape juice, sparkling spring water, orange juice and lemon juice into large punch bowl. Add ice, if desired.  Top with lemon slices, orange slices and grapes.

Yield: 16 servings

Serving size: 1/2 cup

Each serving provides:

  • Calories:91
  • Total fat: 0 grams
  • Saturated fat: 0 grams
  • Protein: Less than 1 gram
  • Dietary fiber: Less than 1 gram
  • Sodium: 10 milligrams

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Your guide to drinking alcohol during the holidays

December 14, 2010 by  
Filed under ADDICTION, CANCER, HEART AND STROKE

`Tis the season to be jolly… and tipsy? Well, the holiday season is full of parties. And parties are full of alcohol.

Research studies have reported conflicting findings on the benefits and hazards of alcohol. On the one hand, low to moderate alcohol, especially red wine, is said to have cardiovascular benefits. On the other hand, even just a little sip of alcohol may increase ones’ risk for breast cancer.

So what should it be this holiday season? Complete abstinence or unlimited imbibement?

Well, in this post we give you some resources on how to drink to your health this season:

The MD Anderson Cancer Center gives the follow tips in their Guide to Drinking Alcohol:

Stick to the recommended serving size.

There may be varying opinions about the health effects of alcohol but there is one thing that every expert agrees upon: heavy drinking is to be avoided and binge drinking can kill you. So sticking to the recommended size makes sure you had enough. “The National Cancer Institute recommends that women have no more than one drink per day and men have no more than two drinks per day.”

Select low-calorie options.

Alcoholic drinks are literally swimming in calories. And when it comes to calorie content, cocktails and eggnogs are the champs.

Stay away from 100-proof liquor and spirits

Now, not all drinks are created equal when it comes to alcohol content. Spirits and liquors are especially strong on alcohol. So take it easy on that vodka.

Aside from the alcohol, however, liquors, especially dark ones, contain other compounds that may be toxic and cause severe hang over, according to researchers at Brown University. Thus, bourbon will probably give you worse hang over symptoms than vodka. Take note though that vodka is far from harmless. According to Brown researcher Damaris Rohsenow

“People did feel sicker the morning after bourbon than after vodka, but they still feel plenty sick after drinking all that vodka.”

Stay away from the sweet drinks.

This one’s from me. I had the bad experience once of imbibing too much white martini. It was quite sweet and quite palatable to the tongue unlike other liquors. The morning after was something I would never forget.

Sweet drinks make you forget they are still alcohol. The Spanish Sangria is another sweet and cheap drink. So are the so-called “alcopops”, a kind of alcoholic soda. Beware of these sweet temptations.

Non-alcoholic drinks are probably best.

Okay, you knew this is coming, right? But it is great to know that in every party and restaurant, there are non-alcoholic alternatives that look like the real ones. I love mocktails – non-alcohol cocktails – and alcohol-free beer. In the coming posts, I will bring you some links to recipes of the best non-alcoholic cocktails.

Expat Life and Alcohol

October 27, 2010 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

Being an expat and a trailing spouse is tough. I am one. That is why I fully understood what this woman has gone/is going through. And I admire her bravery for sharing her story…Thanks, B!

To all Recovering Moms in Switzerland, this is for you.

I love red wine.  The way it looks, smells, and tastes.  I love the way it brings people together with smiles, toasts, and pleasant wishes.  Alcohol….a source of celebration and happiness for many. Not for me.  Alcohol brings me physical pain (in the form of hangovers or unforced self-injuries),  guilt (from drinking again after vowing to stop), and shame (from having done or said something I regretted while drunk).  I also feel shame because I want to stop but can’t.  

I have chosen to remain anonymous because I am not yet ready to tell the world about my horrible and dangerous disease and we all know how small Switzerland is. I have only recently shared this with my immediate family and the only reason I did was because I had reached the point of either getting help or dying.  My daughters are still young so dying is not an option. They deserve better than this.  I did not bring them into this world to leave them motherless in a few years because of alcohol abuse.  I wanted to speak up because I know there are many of you out there who are in the same boat as I and are afraid to reach out and get help. If you think you have a problem you need to know that you are not alone.  There are many of “us” out there.   I didn’t have a problem back in college or graduate school. I partied like everyone else did, I didn’t drink everyday (nor alone), and I excelled academically.  Drinking was a social thing for me.  My problems came later on when life got more serious and settled (when I married and became a mother).  

I love being a mom.  My kids are my reason for living.  I would do anything for them!  Unfortunately I started to drown in my home life.  Laundry, cooking, cleaning, diaper changing, driving….there was no escape from my housekeeping duties.  Life wasn’t perfect with my husband either at times and that didn’t help. Being a SAHM (stay at home mom) or dad can be very isolating and lonely. My drinking problem started a few years ago when I would have a drink or two on some evenings (usually red wine).  I especially loved doing this while I prepared dinner.  Nothing wrong with that right?  I deserved it!  A small token after doing so much during the day and being stressed out with the kids and all of the activities I had to deal with.     As time progressed so did my drinking.  I went from one to two glasses a couple of nights during the week to several nights per week.  My alcohol intake advanced as well. One/two glasses were not enough anymore.  I reached the point (this year) where I’d end up guzzling a whole bottle and hiding the evidence from my husband deep down in the garbage bag.  My social drinking also changed: I’d continue drinking at home alone (behind my husband’s back) after we would return from a restaurant or party.  Something else I started doing? I’d chug a glass of wine while no one was watching and drink a new glass pretending to be one of them.  Yes…I would pretend to be a responsible and controlled drinker.  
A couple of years ago I started to wonder if I had a drinking problem.  Naah!  If I had a problem somebody would have pointed it out already right?  I thought: “I’m responsible. I take care of my kids and pay our bills.  I make playdates and medical appointments on time.  I’m doing my job!  I also don’t look like an alcoholic. My face isn’t red and puffy and I’m not living out of a box under a bridge, dressed up in rags. I don’t have the “shakes” or need a drink first thing in the morning.  How can I be an alcoholic?”     Oh! How I fooled myself into thinking I was normal through all of these thoughts and rationalizations!  The truth came loud and clear a few weeks ago when I got very drunk at a birthday party. I don’t remember much about the night (just little bits and pieces).  Apparently I lost it and went crazy when we arrived home. I made my girls cry that night because I had threatened to leave Switzerland (I said I would go away and never come back).  My husband had to get away from me so he left the house. My daughters started to call daddy on the phone because they thought he was going to leave them too.    After a couple of hours I ended up passing out on the couch and waking up at 2am.  I knew I had done something very bad.  I didn’t remember anything specific but I had the flashback of my girls crying big fat tears and my heart sank.  I was not able to go back to sleep and was extremely anxious the rest of the early morning.  That is when I said “enough is enough”. I knew I didn’t want to keep doing this anymore. I knew I was slowly killing myself and needed help.  So I made the decision to tell my husband about my secret drinking life and problem. I had no choice. I had wanted to do this before but I was afraid because to say the words “I am an alcoholic” is a very scary thing.  I was terrified but it was “do” or “die”.  I decided to choose life and get better for me and my family.

I am very lucky to be where I am right now.  Alcoholism is a progressive disease and it can turn bad and ugly very quickly.  The lucky ones get help before they lose their job, spouse, family or cause a major tragedy (like Diane Schuler, the mother who killed eight people including herself and four children on a NY parkway in July).  I am very blessed to still have my life and the people I love in it.
I have been sober for a few weeks now and am seeing things more clearly than ever. I urge any parent (mom or dad) who is struggling with alcohol abuse to talk to someone and reach out for help. You are not alone!   If you would like to meet other moms going through the same struggles with alcohol abuse (or if you think you might have a problem and would like to explore it further) please join our
Recovering Moms in Switzerland” online group:   health.groups.yahoo.com/group/recovering_moms_Switzerland/     (you can join anonymously if you wish)

Alcohol and heart health: the latest updates

September 6, 2010 by  
Filed under HEART AND STROKE

Alcohol. Is it or is it not good for our health? Over the years, there have been hundreds of studies investigating this topic but the results have been contradictory. Below, we look at 3 of the most recent studies and what they have to say.

More evidence of benefit of light/moderate drinking
In a large study of 245,000 Americans, researchers at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston report that light to moderate alcohol consumption is actually better than complete abstention when it comes to benefits for cardiovascular health. According to the authors:

“These data bolster previous epidemiological studies that have found lower rates of incident cardiovascular disease among moderate drinkers but also provide cautionary evidence that drinking above recommended limits eliminates this risk reduction.”

Binge drinking heightens death risk in those with high blood pressure
Binge drinking? Watch your blood pressure! This is according to Korean researchers at the Yonsei University in Seoul. Heavy drinking brings you closer to the grave. And the main effect of too much alcohol is on the cardiovascular health, especially on the blood pressure. Thus those with hypertension should especially be careful because binge drinking increases their risk of dying 12-fold.

The study participants consisted of 6100 residents of Kangwha County. The authors defined binge drinking as having six or more alcoholic drinks within a short period of time. Based on this classification, 20.4% of the study participants are actually binge drinker. Although the cardiovascular mortality risk increased with heavy drinking, the specific risk for stroke is not increased.

Does drinking alcohol temporarily heighten stroke risk?
Ok, so heavy drinking is bad for the health, that is clear. And light to moderate alcohol consumption can actually do one some good. Or does it? Results from the Stroke Onset Study indicate that even 1 single alcoholic drink can double the risk of ischemic stroke 1 hour after its consumption. The researchers looked at 390 patients who were hospitalized for stroke. The patients were interviewed about their activities and alcohol consumption during the hours before stroke attack as well as their habitual drinking pattern. The interview revealed that 3.6% of interviewees consumed alcohol an hour before stroke symptoms started, 27% imbibed within 24 h, and 64% within the year prior to their stroke. Statistical analysis showed that alcohol, no matter how little, increases the risk for a stroke even within 1 hour of consumption.

Alas, which study results do we believe? In research, the bigger the sample size, the more robust and reliable the data that come out. The third study, with its preliminary data from less than 400 participants is less credible than the first one with almost 250,000.

For me, the safest bet is to stick to light alcohol consumption and avoid heavy binge drinking. And that is what I do.

Alcohol, drugs and fights

April 29, 2010 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

Drugs and alcohol are associated with high-risk behaviour especially among adolescents. Let us take a look at the manifestations of these high-risk behaviours.

Physical fights

Every now and then, young people are engaged in physical fights. It is sad, however, when these fights can lead to more serious consequences such as death, disability, arrest, and criminality. Involvement in physical fights is a sign of risky behaviour. Most of these fights are associated with drug abuse or excessive alcohol consumption.

Here are some statistics from 2001 on fighting among high school students:

Girls fight, too

Can you imagine girls in a fight club? It is not only boys who can hit or kick. Girls get into fights, too. Serious physical fights that intent to hurt and do physical damage. Data from SAMHSA’s National Survey on Drug Use and Health show that although 43% of those who engaged in fighting were male, a large number of teen girls age (24%) 12 to 17 years get into fights, and these fights, too, are associated with binge drinking or drug use.

Other risky behaviours

Unfortunately, physical fights are just half of the story. Other risky behaviours also come with fighting, including:

Fights with weapons

Fights can turn deadly especially when weapons are involved. Those are intoxicated or stoned are most likely to use weapons when fighting, thus causing serious injuries and even death. Statistics showed that when drugs or alcohol is involved, 51% of those engaged in fights use weapon and 61% sustain serious or even fatal injuries. Without substance involvement, serious injuries have been reported in only 18% of fights.

Once the causes of high-risk behaviour have been identified, steps can be taken to help the young. Rehabilitation starts with addressing possible addiction plus other psychosocial factors involved. There are also programs on conflict resolution and anger management and even peer-mediation programs.

Pediatricians should warn patients about alcohol abuse

April 13, 2010 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

Can you imagine your 13-year old daughter sipping a margarita? Or your 15-year old son downing a pint of beer? It seems unimaginable but it is more common than we think. During the last couple years, there have been more and more cases of teenagers collapsing following binge drinking, some even falling into alcohol-induced coma or dying.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is urging pediatric doctors to discourage their patients to consume alcohol. This is according to the latest policy statement issued by the AAP. The reasons for this call may seem obvious but here are some things we should be aware of:

Adolescent alcohol consumption:

But hey, how can teenagers get access to alcohol? That’s what the alcohol age limit is for, right?

Unfortunately, there are lots of ways and means by which teenager can cheat or get around alcohol legislations.

False ID. Having a false ID is the most common way by which teens get access to alcohol. The IDs are for sale on the streets and a large proportion of urban teens have them.

Loopholes in the legislation. Alcohol legislations are full of loopholes. Here are some examples:

  • In Switzerland, teens are not allowed to enter clubs and other establishments where alcohol us served. There is, however, a loophole: they can, if they are accompanied by an adult, somebody who is at least 18 years old. In other words, a group of teens would only need one fake ID to get into these places. Once they are in, access to alcohol gets easier.
  • In the US, some states have lower age limit than others. Thus, young people can cross statelines and get drunk there legally.

Alcohol at home. Finally, the easiest way for teens to get access to alcohol is by raiding dad ‘s or mom’s stock.  In the UK, even children have alcohol if supervised by an adult at home. Unfortunately, the term “supervision” is not clearly defined by law, leaving its implementation at the discretion of the parents.

Finally, here are some statistics from the Center of Disease Prevention and Control (CDC):

The new AAP policy statement indicates that parental guidance on alcohol may not be enough, that inputs from health care professionals, especially primary care physicians, may curb the growing teenage alcohol problem.

Deadly combinations: medications, street drugs and alcohol

April 1, 2010 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

Combining different types of drugs legal or illegal is dangerous and can be fatal. The deaths of Health Ledger, Anna Nicole Smith, and Michael are related to one of more drugs. All these died within the privacy of their homes. A 2008 study looked at US death certificates from 1983 to 2004 and looked at the causes of death. Home medication errors seem to account of large number of these deaths.

There are several types of medication errors, defined as:

  • Type 1 errors are those that come from combining medications with alcohol and/or street drugs, resulting in deaths at home.
  • Type 2 errors are those which do not involve alcohol or street drugs, again leading to deaths at home
  • Type 3 errors are those which involved alcohol and/or street drugs but death did not occur at home.
  • Type 4 errors are those that result in deaths outside the home and did not involve any alcohol or street drugs.

All 4 types of errors are on the rise but some more than the others. Type 1 error has increased by a whopping 3,196%, type 2 by 564%, type 3 by 555% and type 4 by 5% only. The results indicate that the combination of home setting and the use of alcohol and street drugs accounts for the highest increase in fatal medication errors.

According to lead author Dr. David P. Phillips, sociology professor at University of California at San Diego

“Increasingly, people take their medications at home, away from hospitals and clinics. But most studies of fatal medication errors have focused on those clinical settings. We wanted to know three things: how many of these fatal errors happen at home; how many involve alcohol and/or street drugs; and are these numbers going up?”

Combining different drugs and drugs with other substances (e.g. alcohol, some foods) is dangerous. Millions of people are swallowing pills every day. Drug- drug interaction happens when two perfectly safe drugs become suddenly dangerous when combined inside the human body. The prescribing information and the product labeling of a drug clearly specify what other drugs should be avoided to prevent interactions. Patients, however, do not pay much attention to these warnings. In addition, illegal drugs and alcohol should, by default, not be taken concomitantly with medically prescribed drugs. Those with a drug or alcohol habit however do not even care.

In addition, most studies on medical error focuses on children and the elderly. This study shows that such errors can easily occur in adolescents and younger adults as well. Sometimes these so-called errors are actually not really errors but results of addiction.

England re-examines alcohol access for the underaged

February 10, 2010 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

While Americans are debating whether to lower the minimum legal drinking age from 21 to 18, teenagers in Europe are falling into coma or are dying from overintoxication. Many countries in Europe have a minimum legal drinking age of 18. In England, a country where adulthood (e.g legal age) is at 16, there is no such thing as minimum age for drinking. According to English law, parents are allowed to give their children alcohol at home – starting – brace yourself – at age 5!

Recently however, UK’s Children Secretary Ed Ball issued a warning about the dangers of under-age drinking (source: BBC). This is in response to a survey carried out by Mumsnet which revealed that many parents in Britain do not consider alcohol consumption a serious risk to the underaged, e.g. those between the age of 9 and 16 years. Most parents are more worried about illegal drugs, vehicular accidents and teenage pregnancy. In fact, only about twenty-five (25%) of parents surveyed took the time to talk to their kids are the dangers of alcohol. About two-thirds (approximately 66%) of the parents did not consider the fact that their children get access to alcohol before they reach 16 a problem. In fact, a previous survey showed that 20% of 13-year-olds already consume alcohol at least once a week.

The Children Secretary, however, emphasized that alcohol is closely linked to risky behavior and the very issues that most parents are most concerned about in the first place, namely teenage pregnancy and traffic accidents.

According to Mr. Ball

“Research tells us that young people who regularly drink alcohol are more likely to fall behind in school, be involved in road traffic accidents or have unsafe sex…If parents discuss the link between alcohol and these other issues, they can make sure it’s their child making the decisions, not the alcohol.”

Secretary Ball is not the one campaigning against laxness about alcohol. England’s chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson said in a BBC interview that “children aged under 15 should never be given alcohol, even in small quantities.” In fact, a new official guidance was issued recently that says adolescents under 15 should not consume alcohol and those under 18 should only drink under the supervision of an adult. Donaldson continues:

“Across England, 500,000 children between the ages of 11 to 15 years will have been drunk in the past four weeks….
The science is clear – drinking, particularly at a young age, a lack of parental supervision, exposing children to drink-fuelled events and failing to engage with them as they grow up are the root causes from which our country’s serious alcohol problem has developed…
The more [children] get a taste for it, the more likely they are to be heavy drinking adults or binge drinkers later in childhood.”

Alcohol impairment persists till the morning after

January 13, 2010 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

Partying, feasting, drinking. That was what most of us did on New Year’s Eve. Then we crashed into bed in the wee hours of the morning and slept through most of New Year’s Day. So how did you feel the morning after? Some of us may have suffered from mild to severe hang over. Some of us may just feel fine and dandy. But the question is, are really fit enough to get on with our daily routine?

Well, researchers at Brown University have this question in mind when they conducted their study. The study participants consisted of 95 healthy people aged 21 to 33 who were nevertheless heavy drinkers. The participants got legally drunk for a night (legally drunk = 0.080 percent Blood Alcohol Concentration all states in America) and then had 8 hours of sleep. The following morning, the sober participants were tested on how well they cna make quick decisions and pay attention.

The study results showed that even after hours of rest, with blood alcohol level at zero, the participants still exhibited some degree of postdrinking impairment. This impairment can affect the ability to drive a vehicle, operate complex machinery, or make critical decisions.

According to researcher Damaris Rohsenow, professor of Community Health at Brown University:

“Don’t consider driving the morning after the night before. If a person is going to get drunk, they should be doing it on a night when they are not going to be needing to drive the next morning.”

There are misconceptions about the duration of the effects of alcohol.  Many people think that alcohol can easily be “slept off”. Others believe a strong cup of coffee would easily do the trick. However, alcohol’s effects persist long after the last drink has been downed. Alcohol in the stomach and intestine will continue to enter the blood stream. Once in the blood, the alcohol circulates throughout the body and into the brain.  Alcohol easily penetrates the so-called blood-brain barrier and once in the brain, it stays there for a while and cause impairment.

What about the effect of caffeine?

Does coffee really sober you up?

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism

Caffeine may help with drowsiness, but it doesn’t counteract the effect of alcohol on decision-making or coordination. The body needs time to metabolize (break down) alcohol and even more time to return to normal. There are no quick cures—only time will help.”

Beware of the New Year Hazards

December 31, 2009 by  
Filed under Featured, HEALTHCARE

Sorry, I don’t want to be such a spoilsports and dampen your holiday spirit. But studies have shown that a lot of accidents happens at certain time of the year, especially around the 4th of July in the US and during the holiday season. Here are the reasons why

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol is all part of the New Year’s celebrations. And we all know that drinking and driving do not mix. According to Dr. Thomas J. Esposito, a trauma surgeon at Loyola University Health System in Maywood, Ill., as interviewed by the New York Times:

“Any degree of alcohol increases the chances your judgment or coordination can be impaired, whether on New Year’s Eve or any other day. Alcohol is associated with 50 percent of the injuries we see in the emergency rooms.”

However, it is not only the drivers who should pay attention to their blood alcohol levels. The NYT report continues to point out that pedestrians should take care as well. In fact, a study have shown that

“January 1 (New Year’s Day) has more pedestrian crash deaths on average, plus it has the fifth largest number of deaths per day overall, also due to alcohol impairment.”

The NYT report gives the following safety advice to inebriated pedestrians on New Year’s Day:

  • Stay and drink in one place. Avoid moving from one place to another.
  • Call a cab or get a ride with a “sober” driver.
  • Walk with a “sober” buddy.
  • Walk in a large group.
  • Wear lightly colored clothes to make you visible to drivers. Reflectors are especially useful.

Weather

If you are celebrating in the northern hemisphere, you know how the weather is at this time of the year. Even a sober driver can have problems with icy streets and snowstorms. For pedestrians, icy streets are fall hazards. Combined with alcohol, it can be fatal.

Now, if you are celebrating in the tropics or in the southern hemisphere, you have to deal with other climate hazards. In Australia, barbecue parties are very popular during the holidays but the risk of bush fires is rather high at this time of the year.

In addition, alcohol and heat can be a fatal combination that lead to drowning, heatstroke, as well medical conditions such as cardiovascular events.

Food

We eat more than we are supposed to at this time of the year. It is only expected that some adverse effects can come with it.

We’ve tackled this topic many times on this site so I don’t want to say much more. Too much fat, too much calories, and too much sugar can wreak havoc with our body. However, aside from these usual culprits, foodborne outbreaks caused by such nasty bugs like Salmonella and Campylobacter have been reported during celebrations with severe and sometimes fatal consequences.

In addition, a high incidence of food allergies also needs to be reckoned with at this time of the year.

Fireworks

In many countries, fireworks are part of the New Year’s celebrations. However, fireworks can be very dangerous if not handled correctly. Injuries due to fireworks are widely reported the world over, with the highest in the age group 5 to 14 years of age in India. Injuries were serious, even fatal. In the US,  a study released in 2006 reported the following:

“An estimated 85800 pediatric fireworks-related injuries were treated in US emergency departments during the 14-year study period. Injured children had a mean age of 10.8 years, and 77.9% were male. Fireworks users accounted for 49.5% of the injuries, whereas 22.2% of the injuries were to bystanders; however, user status could not be determined in 28.3% of cases. The overall fireworks-related injury rate decreased significantly during the study period, but subgroup analysis did not indicate consistent declines among all ages and types of fireworks. Injuries were most commonly caused by firecrackers (29.6%), sparklers/novelty devices (20.5%), and aerial devices (17.6%). The most commonly injured body sites were the eyeball (20.8%), face (20.0%), and hands (19.8%), and the most common injury type was burns (60.3%). Approximately 91.6% of all children with fireworks-related injuries were treated and released from hospital emergency departments, 5.3% were admitted, and 2.3% were transferred to another institution. Bystanders accounted for 13.3% of admitted cases and 20.6% of transferred cases.”

Despite all these warnings, I wish you all a Happy New Year and as the Germans say ” a safe and smooth slide” into the New Year.

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Those who managed to quit

July 29, 2009 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

alcohol_champagne_glassesQuitting – be it smoking, drinking, taking pills – is difficult, no doubt about that. However, it is not impossible. I therefore list here a few well-known people who had alcohol problems, still have problems, but managed to quit. In doing so, I hope to inspire those who want to quit to try and try and try.

George W. Bush. Despite his shortcomings as US President, former President George W. Bush is a living example that quitting is possible. He admits to having some alcohol problems up to the age of 40, referring those years as his “nomadic” and “irresponsible youth” period. He has a criminal record for disorderly conduct (age 20) and drunken driving (age 30). According to this 2000 New York Times article.

“… as he approached 40, an age when Al Gore was already a senator running for president, George W. Bush was just a heavy-drinking, fun-loving oilman struggling to control his temper, salvage his business and hold on to his marriage.

However, the article went on to say that Bush was late bloomer who redeemed himself at midlife and in the process, achieve something extraordinary – serving as the 43rd US President.

Richard Harris. The Irish actor was an inveterate drinker who managed to quit and went teetotal till his death at the age of 72. In his early years, he was well-known for his role as King Arthur in the film Camelot and as a mercenary in The Wild Geese. His most recent and perhaps most memorable role however, was as Professor Dumbledore, Harry Potter’s friend and mentor, in the first two Harry Potter films. In addition to being an actor, Harris also wrote poetry.

Alice Cooper. The leader of the American rock group KISS looks like somebody out of a horror film when he turns out for a show. In real life however, the 61-year old Vincent Damon Furnier is a devoted father and born again Christian. He credited his religious beliefs and his passion for golf as the major factors that helped him overcome his alcohol and drug problems. He says that when he took up golf, he replaced one addiction with another, albeit a healthier and better one. He plays golf six days a week and is almost a “pro.” His 2007 autobiography was entitled

Alice Cooper, Golf Monster: Rock ‘n’ Roller’s 12 Steps to Becoming a Golf Addict.

Samuel L. Jackson. Mr. Jackson is another one of those showbiz people who had an alcohol and drug problem but managed to stay dry during the last 15 years after undergoing rehabilitation. Like Cooper, he too, took up golf and got hooked. In fact, “he has it written into contracts that he must have time out from filming to play twice a week.” Check out this article on Jackson

From coke addict to golf addict: How Samuel L Jackson found salvation on fairways to heaven.”

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College, alcohol and preventive measures

July 9, 2009 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

alcohol-barThere’s been a heated discussion going about the possibility of lowering the minimum legal drinking age in the US down to 18. There’s also been a surge of research studies that evaluated the consequences of such a change. Recently, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) released some statistics on college drinking.

  • The number of alcohol-related deaths in 2005 was 1,825, up from 1,400 in 1998. This is mainly due to traffic-related accidents involving 18 to 24-year old students.
  • Binge drinking (heavy episodic drinking) increased from 42% to 45%.
  • Incidence of drunk driving increased from 26.5% to 29%.

The figures were published in a supplement to the July issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

According to NIAA acting director Dr. Kenneth Warren

“This supplement is a valuable resource that underscores the growing number of research-driven strategies that college administrators and health officials can put in place to address serious student drinking problems.”

The figures seem to indicate that despite having one of the highest minimum legal age for drinking alcohol in the world, the US seems to be having major alcohol-related problems among college students.

However, it’s not all bad news. It seems that preventing these problems is possible and prevention programs in the colleges themselves seem to be effective. Here are some examples of these programs:

  • On campus counseling. Northeastern University counselors report on the effectiveness of an assistance program that helps students with alcohol problems alter their behavior. The one-to-one counselling helped students use “coping skills.”
  • Community law enforcement. Two studies report the effective use of law enforcement – in the form of increased police patrols – on campus as well as off campus (surrounding community). These programs resulted in reduced drinking off campus.
  • On campus motivational enhancement. College officials at the University of Central Florida believe in motivational interviews which seem to work well among high risk drinkers. Researchers at the Loyola Marymount University in LA report that the long-term effectiveness of this approach is limited and needs to be regularly boosted up.

Many experts believe that a combination of these strategies will effectively counteract alcohol-related problems on as well as off campus.

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Alcohol: brain damage in 6 minutes

June 18, 2009 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

alcohol-bottleEver heard of the expression “letting your drink get into your head?” This figure of speech may actually have some literal truth in it. Alcohol does get to the brain. In just SIX MINUTES. That is how fast it takes for alcohol to travel from the mouth, to the stomach, to the blood, and then to the brain. This is the result of a study by German researchers at the University of Heidelberg. Using magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) techniques, the researchers looked at how fast alcohol is absorbed by the body to affect the brain. Consumption of 3 glasses of beer or 2 glasses of wine is enough to reach the blood alcohol level of 0.05 to 0.06%, the level which many countries consider as the blood alcohol content that impairs the ability to drive. (Mind you, there are some countries with lower alcohol limits for drivers). At this level, the researchers also observed the following changes:

  • The brain reacts very quickly to alcohol. It takes six minutes from the glass to the brain.
  • The harmful effects of alcohol also set in rapidly.
  • The level of creatine, a compound essential in energy metabolism and provides protection to the cells, decreases as the concentration of alcohol increases.
  • The level of choline, which is a component of cell membranes, also decreases.

According to Dr. Armin Biller of the working group for cerebral metabolism at the Department of Neuroradiology at Heidelberg University Hospital

“Our study provides evidence for alternative energy utilization upon alcohol ingestion, i.e. the brain uses an alcohol breakdown product instead of glucose for energy demands…That [choline reduction] probably indicates that alcohol triggers changes in the composition of cell membranes.”

Is the damage to the brain caused by alcohol permanent? Thankfully not. The researchers found that the damage caused by moderate drinking is actually reversible and would be gone by the next day. This means, we can still enjoy a glass of wine every now and then without fearing for our brain cells.

However, excessive alcohol consumption can lead to irreversible damage not only to the liver but to the brain, too.

Dr. Biller continues

“we assume that the brain’s ability to recover from the effect of alcohol decreases or is eliminated as the consumption of alcohol increases. The acute effects demonstrated in our study could possibly form the basis for the permanent brain damage that is known to occur in alcoholics. This should be clarified in future studies.”

The researchers also demonstrated that the effects of alcohol on the brain are not dependent on gender. Males and females are affected in the same way although other factors may play a role, e.g. body mass, stomach contents, as well as individual differences.

So next time you hold a drink in your hand, remember what I’ve just shared with you. Know your limit. That way, you can avoid permanent brain damage.

 

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Think before you drink

May 18, 2009 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

alcoholAlcohol consumption is part of many people’s lifestyles. It is normal to enjoy a drink every now and then. However, it is important to know your limit. And to know your limit is to know how much alcohol is in your drink.

So do know how much alcohol is in your drink? It might be easy to know this by reading the labels of beer cans and wine bottles. After all, alcoholic drink manufacturers are required to give full disclosure of the alcohol content in their products.

What you should be more careful about are the mixed drinks and cocktails you order at the bar.

People would say “I had a one drink!” But how do you define “a drink?” How much alcohol are you really consuming?

According to HHS Healthbeat, a public service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services “… most people don’t know what a drink is. A drink is the amount of alcohol in 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or a one half ounce shots of 80 proof spirits like vodka.”

A regular can of beer (12 fl oz) contains about 5% alcohol, a malt liquor (8-9 fl oz) 7%, a glass of wine (5 fl oz) about 12% and a shot of hard liquor (1.5 fl oz) 40%. Mix them in your cocktail and you don’t know how much alcohol you are actually getting. For example, mixed drinks like Long Island iced tea, despite its seemingly innocuous name, could contain several times the alcohol in a standard drink.

The HHS has come up with a tool to calculate the amount of alcohol in your cocktail. By providing information about your cocktail’s ingredients (alcoholic as well as non-alcoholic), the alcohol calculator gives you an idea what you are up against in terms of % alcohol per volume of drink.

Knowing more about what you are drinking is important to avoid high risk drinking behavior.

Here is the drinking pattern in the US based on a survey of 43,000 by the National Institutes of Health:

So how do you find out at what risk level are in terms of alcohol consumption? The HHS is offering a free resource booklet called Rethinking Drinking: Alcohol and your health, which gives information on:

  • What counts as a drink?
  • How much alcohol do common drink containers contain?
  • What is your drinking pattern?

Remember, alcohol can affect your brain so it is better to think first before you drink.

Alcohol: even a little increases cancer risk

February 26, 2009 by  
Filed under CANCER

Alcohol is a substance of contradictions. Some cultures dismiss it as evil, some consider it as an integral part of their lifestyle. Some health experts swear to its benefits, while others are sceptical. Now, here is a study that will surely cause uproar.

The latest results from the Million Women Study suggest that “even low to moderate alcohol consumption significantly increases the risk of cancer, both overall and at specific sites.”

The study looked at 1,280,296 middle-aged women (median age is 55 years) in the UK recruited between 1996 and 2001 and followed up for an average of 7.2 years. The drinking habits and cancer incidence among the participants were analyzed, with the following results:

  • 68,775 study participants were diagnosed with cancer.
  • 25% of the participants drank alcohol regularly.
  • 98% of those who drink consumed on average, one drink per day, which is considered to be low to moderate consumption.
  • Very few drank excessively, e.g. three or more drinks a day
  • The risk for all types of cancer increased with increasing consumption of alcohol.

The study identified specific types of cancer that is especially linked to alcohol consumption and there are cancers of the breast, rectum, and liver. When combined with smoking, alcohol consumption can also lead to an increase in the risk for cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx, esophagus, and larynx.

Whereas several studies have previously shown that some alcoholic drinks are more benevolent than others, this study reports that the kind of drink doesn’t make much of a difference.

The study concluded:

Low to moderate alcohol consumption in women increases the risk of certain cancers. For every additional drink regularly consumed per day, the increase in incidence up to age 75 years per 1000 for women in developed countries is estimated to be about 11 for breast cancer, 1 for cancers of the oral cavity and pharynx, 1 for cancer of the rectum, and 0.7 each for cancers of the esophagus, larynx and liver, giving a total excess of about 15 cancers per 1000 women up to age 75.

The results of this study are really “sobering” in many ways and contradict many study results before it. Many women in developed countries, especially in Europe and North America drink occasionally. In many parts of Europe, drinking a glass of wine during meal is part of the culinary culture. I do like a glass of wine every now and then. After all, alcohol, especially red wine, when taken in moderation, is said to have some benefits for cardiovascular health.

However, sceptics cannot deny the power of this research study based on its large sample size and long follow-up period. Editors of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute wrote “from a standpoint of cancer risk, the message of this report could not be clearer. There is no level of alcohol consumption that can be considered safe.” Their advice is “Alcohol, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer: Treat With Caution.”

The study was done excluively on women so it is not clear whether these risks are true for men as well. It has been well-documented that alcohol can have some gender-specific effects.

Resource article for July: Alcohol and CVD Part II

July 31, 2008 by  
Filed under HEART AND STROKE

The adverse effects of heavy drinking: too much of a good thing can be bad

As promised, I present here the second part of the series of resource posts on alcohol consumption and its effect on cardiovascular health. In the first part, I’ve tackled the health benefits associated with light to moderate alcohol drinking. In this post, I present a review of the adverse effects of alcohol drinking.

In a review paper [1], Swiss researchers found that the health consequences of drinking can be acute (e.g. traffic accidents) or chronic (e.g. diseases).

We all know that drinking and driving don’t mix and we hope that all of us will keep this in mind. This resource post, however, will dwell more on the chronic adverse health effects, especially on the heart and the vascular system, of alcohol consumption.

Alcohol and chronic diseases

Many chronic diseases have been linked to alcohol consumption, namely [1]:

  • Cardiovascular disorders which include hypertensions, coronary heart disease, stroke, and cerebrovascular disease.
  • Different types of cancer, including cancers of the mouth, throat, esophagus, liver, and breast.
  • Neuropsychiatric disorders such as unipolar major depression, epilepsy, and other alcohol use disorders.
  • Digestive disorders such as cirrhosis of the liver
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Fetal alcohol spectrum (FAS) disorder (for infants born to chronic and heavy drinking mothers)

Alcohol and cardiovascular disorders

While light to moderate drinking may have some cardiovascular benefits, heavy and binge drinking can easily reverse the protective mechanism of alcohol.

Heavy drinking appears to lower the threshold at which the ventricular heart muscle begins a rapid contraction pattern; without prompt intervention, this pattern prevents normal heart function and results in death.” [1].

In an Irish study [2], heavy drinking was observed to lead to hypertension and atherosclerosis in men and ventricular enlargement in women.

In another study [3] on 2609 white Americans aged 35 to 80, drinking alcohol outside mealtimes was shown to adversely affect blood pressure and lead to hypertension, regardless of the amount of alcohol or the type of drink consumed.

So what does heavy drinking to our heart and vascular system? A few observations are listed below [1]:

  • Occasions of heavy drinking can lead to increased low density lipoproteins (LDL) levels in the blood;
  • Irregular occasions of heavy alcohol consumption have been linked to thromobosis or blood clot formation;
  • Irregular but heavy drinking episodes increase the risk for structural changes in the myocardium (heart muscle) which can interfere with the electrical impulses and lead to fibrillation.

In sum, a pattern of irregular heavy drinking occasions is mainly associated with physiological mechanisms that increase the risk of sudden cardiac death and other cardiovascular outcomes [1].

Alcohol and cancer

Alcohol consumption has been linked to cancers of the upper digestive tract (e.g. mouth, throat, and esophagus) but there is limited data on this. An earlier study reported increased risk for breast cancer with every glass of alcoholic drink. Women who drink one or two glasses of alcohol a day have a 10% higher risk for breast cancer. With 3 glasses, the risk increases by 30%. The type of alcohol drink consumed doesn’t matter [4].

Alcohol and pregnancy

Alcohol consumption during pregnancy is strongly discouraged. A Danish study [5] – and many other studies before it – show that binge drinking, 3 times or more during pregnancy highly increases the risk of stillbirth. Alcohol consumption also causes the so-called fetal alcohol spectrum (FAS) disorder. According to the Canadian Paediatric Society, the exact prevalence of FAS is unknown but has been estimated to be as high as 43 out of 1000 (4.3%) births among babies born to heavy drinkers.

In another study on Swedish women [6], an estimated 30% of women continue to drink alcohol during pregnancy. However, only about 6% admits to doing so.

Know your limit

Although many of the research studies presented tried to define the difference between light to moderate drinking which is beneficial and heavy drinking which is harmful, the demarcation line is pretty fuzzy. The American Heart Association defines “drinking in moderation” as follows:

If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation. This means an average of one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women. (A drink is one 12 oz. beer, 4 oz. of wine, 1.5 oz. of 80-proof spirits, or 1 oz. of 100-proof spirits.)

However, individuals vary in terms of their tolerance to alcohol. It’s still up to us to find out what is best for us.

Here are some tips to make sure that we don´t overimbibe:

  • Do not drink alcohol when you are thirsty. This will only lead to you to overconsumption. There is nothing better to quench thirst than water.
  • Do not drink on an empty stomach. The alcohol is rapidly absorbed into your system. A glass of wine is enjoyed best with a meal.
  • Know your limit and know when you’ve had enough. Listen to your body. Although most research studies try to define the difference between moderate and heavy drinking, alcohol consumption and its effects can actually depend on so many other factors including body weight, genetics, food consumption, and interaction with drugs and medications. I have low tolerance to alcohol and I know it. This is probably due to my size and my Asian genes. What is light drinking to some people is just too much for me. I know my limit – it’s half a glass of wine.
  • If you feel that you are drinking too much, do not hesitate to seek professional help. It’s your health and your life that is at stake.

Remember – too much of a good thing can actually be bad.

Next in this series: Women benefit less from alcohol than men.

 

Sources:

 

  1. Alcohol Res Health. 2003;27(1):39-51. Review.
  2. Heartwire, 15 May 2008.
  3. Hypertension. 2004 Dec;44(6):813-9. Epub 2004 Oct 11
  4. CBCNews Canada, 27 Sept 2007
  5. Obstet Gynecol. 2008;111:602-609.
  6. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, April 2008

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NOTE: The contents in this blog are for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, treatment or a substitute for professional care. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional before making changes to any existing treatment or program. Some of the information presented in this blog may already be out of date.