When it comes to drunkenness, caffeine does not help

February 17, 2011 by  
Filed under ADDICTION

A strong cup of black coffee is not an antidote to alcohol intoxication. Neither are 2 cups. Or even three. Of a caffeine-rich energy drink for that matter.

Caffeine is known as a stimulant that can keep you awake and boost performance. The popular use of caffeinated energy drinks among young people during exams week attest to this.

However, the notion that caffeine is an effective antidote to the sedating effect of alcohol is completely wrong.

The appearance of caffeinated alcoholic beverages (CAB) in the market is causing concerns among health experts. Several manufacturers recalled their CAB products following FDA warnings last year but the practice of mixing caffeine with alcohol has not abated. It is as easy as simply mixing their own cocktail.

According to researcher Dr. Jonathan Howland of the Department of Community Health Sciences and Department of Emergency Medicine, Boston University:

“Although several manufacturers of caffeinated beer have withdrawn their products from the market, there is no sign that young people have decreased the practice of combining alcohol and energy drinks. Critically, CABs may increase alcohol-related risks in a number of different domains, but have been subject to very little systematic research.”

Risky behavior has been attributed to this dangerous mixture including intoxicated driving (either as driver or passenger), committing and being a victim of sexual assault and having an alcohol related injury or accident.

In order to clarify once and for all the belief that caffeine blunts the effect of alcohol, thus allowing one to drink and drive, the researchers tested 129 people ages 21 to 30 drink alcohol with or without caffeine. After 30 minutes, they were tested on a driving simulator. The results showed that all drinkers were not fit enough to drive – regardless whether they had taken caffeine or not. The take home message, according to Dr. Howland, is:

“If you’re intoxicated – whether you have caffeine or not – you shouldn’t be driving. Your performance really falls apart.”

Let us hope we can get the message across!

Parents are the key to prevent teen driving crashes

January 25, 2011 by  

I have twin seven-year old boys and though I look forward to the day when they leave the nest, I also dread the coming of puberty and the potential problems that come with it. Alcohol, drugs and smoking are just a few of the possible pitfalls that await them. As parents, we do our best to steer our kids clear of these dangers. Yet, risky and dangerous behaviours among teens are as common as ever.

But the situation is not as hopeless as it may seem. Studies that shown that teenagers generally would listen to what their parents have to say. Thus, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is calling to all parents to talk to their adolescents about driving safety, with the firm belief that parents “play a key role in preventing teen crashes, injuries and deaths.”

Here some statistics from the CDC about teen crashes:

Here is a recommendation from Dr. Arlene Greenspan of the CDC:

Talk with your teen about the dangers of driving, and keep the conversation going over time. In addition, supervise your teen’s driving as often as possible.”

She suggests at least 30 to 50 hours of supervised practice driving over a minimum of six months and this should include different roads and road conditions and times of the day.

In addition, CDC recently launched the campaign “Parents Are the Key” with the following recommendations to help reduce the risk for teenage crashes:

I have one more tip to add: set a good example.

From the backseat, your kids are observing how you drive. By setting a good example and explaining to them the safety issues as they happen, I believe we can convey to our kids early on the principles of early driving. Here’s some of the conversation I have with my kids while driving:

“I can only drive 50 kph here. See that sign over there?”

“I have to drive slowly and carefully today. It’s foggy/snowy/raining and I can’t see as clearly.”

“See what that guy did? He turned without signaling. That’s very dangerous.”

And finally, do not drive while intoxicated! Show your kids the right and safe way.

Viagra use in older men linked to increased STD infection risk

November 8, 2010 by  

The late 90s witnessed the widespread use of erectile dysfunction drugs among men, especially in the middle-aged and older. These drugs were welcomed as treatment for sexual dysfunction among men which translated to increased quality of life.

The most popular of these drugs is Viagra (sildenafil) and it is easily available over-the-counter in many countries and is extensively marketed over the Internet. Estimates showed that since the introduction of Viagra in the US market in 1998, the rate of erectile dysfunction drug use increased. By 2002, about 20% of American men older than 40 have tried taking an erectile dysfunction drug.

The increased use of erectile dysfunction drugs also coincided with an increase rate of HIV infection among men in the same age group. Thus researchers investigated whether there is a link between erectile dysfunction drug use and increased risk for sexually transmitted disease (STD). Insurance records of more than 1.4 American men over 40 were analyzed. The results suggest that

“…those who used ED drugs were more likely to have sexually transmitted diseases than were non-users.”

The study thus suggests that erectile dysfunction drug use is linked to increased risk for sexually transmitted diseases (STD), with HIV infection as the most frequently acquired STD, followed by chlamydia. However, STD rates in the general population did not increase. It is thus possible that the use of erectile dysfunction drugs led to increased risky sexual behaviour that could lead to high risk for STD infection.

According to lead author Dr. Anupam B. Jena of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Department of Medicine

“Anyone who does not practice safer sex, no matter their age, can contract an STD. Even though STDs are quite rare among older men — on the order of 1 per 1,000 individuals — we found that STD rates in men who used ED drugs were two to three times higher, both before and after they filled their first prescription.”

It is possible that older men probably belong to a generation who were not well-educated on the topic of safe sex. This is in contrast to younger people whose generation grew up with warnings against the likes of incurable STD infections such as hepatitis C and HIV.

Doctors who are asked to prescribe erectile dysfunction drugs are also urged to discuss the importance of safe sex practices with their patients even with older patients. Remember, nobody is too old to learn and nobody is too old to catch STD.

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.

Don’t be bored to death – literally!

February 15, 2010 by  

Bored? You have to be careful that you don’t end up bored to death – literally.

You see, boredom can lead to an early death, according to researchers at the Department of Epidemiology and Public Health of the University College London in the UK.

The study surveyed participants of the famous Whitehall II cohort study, which consisted of thousands of London-based civil servants aged 35 to 55 years old. A total of 7524 participants had to answer questionnaires which evaluated their level of boredom during the past 4 weeks. They rated their boredom as

  • not at all
  • a little
  • quite a lot
  • all the time

The researchers found that high level of boredom is associated with death at a young age.

The profile of those who are chronically bored are

  • Young
  • Female
  • Low rank of employment
  • Low levels of physical activity

In addition the chronically bored rate their health as worse than their peers and have a higher likelihood to die from a fatal cardiovascular event such as stroke or heart attack.

The authors of the study Annie Brittonand Martin J Shipley concluded:

We conclude that those who report being bored are more likely to die younger than those who are not bored. However, the state of boredom is almost certainly a proxy for other risk factors. Whilst some aspects of life may not be so easily modified (e.g. disease status or position in society), proneness to boredom, particularly in younger populations, could be indicative of harmful behaviours such as excessive drinking, smoking, taking drugs and low psychological profiles. Finding renewed interest in social and physical activities may alleviate boredom and improve health, thus reducing the risk of being ‘bored to death’.

Previous studies have shown that boredom can lead to early death due to its association with risky behaviour, unhealthy lifestyle, and psychological problems. A study by researchers at the University of West Florida showed that undergraduate students who were prone to boredom scored high in the Hopkins Symptom Checklist that include disorders such as Obsessive-Compulsive, Somatization, Anxiety, Interpersonal Sensitivity, and Depression.

Thus, next time you feel bored, maybe you should take a look at your lifestyle. Remember: a lot of the so-called boredom busters (alcohol, drugs, entertainment, etc.) are not necessarily the solution to your problems. Boredom is not just about the lack of something to do. The studies reviewed here indicate there are deeper causes to boredom – and it can cost you your life.

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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.