How do people decide: Should I go, stay, drink?

Many studies of alcohol use disorders (AUDs) use tasks that involve monetary rewards or losses to examine individual decision-making vis-à-vis alcohol and other substance use. Yet drinking typically occurs in specific social and incentive contexts that do not involve economic decision-making. This study examined decisions about attending, and drinking in, hypothetical drinking/social contexts wherein several different incentive and disincentive options were provided to the individual.

Researchers used community advertisements to recruit 434 adults (240 men, 194 women), between 18 and 30 years of age, who varied widely in lifetime alcohol use as well as antisocial problems. Using a computer screen, all participants were presented with six different hypothetical scenarios of drinking at a party; incentives involved party-time fun activities and disincentives involved next-day responsibilities.

Full story at Science Daily

Drinking alcohol while pregnant could have transgenerational effects

Soon-to-be mothers have heard the warning — don’t drink while pregnant. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued numerous statements about the dangers of alcohol consumption during pregnancy, as it can lead to Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) in newborns.

Despite this, many women drink during pregnancy, a choice that scientists have known for years could hurt these mothers’ children. Today, there is a new reason why an expectant mother should put down that glass of wine — drinking alcohol during pregnancy will not only affect her unborn child, but may also impact brain development and lead to adverse outcomes in her future grand- and even great-grandchildren.

Full story of alcohol during pregnancy and FASD at Science Daily

Naltrexone: Injectable or oral?

Medications can help people who drink excessive amounts of alcohol. One medication that can reduce alcohol craving and help promote recovery is naltrexone, which is approved for treatment of alcohol dependence by the Food and Drug Administration. It is available in two forms — injectable and oral. This pilot study evaluated the feasibility of injectable versus oral naltrexone, administered in a hospital setting to enhance treatment compliance when patients leave the hospital.

Fifty-four veterans diagnosed with alcohol use disorder were recruited from a larger population of 113 veterans hospitalized for an acute medical or psychiatric illness. Participants were randomly divided into two groups: one received either 50-mg oral naltrexone for daily use plus a 30-day prescription; the other received a 380-mg intramuscular 30-day sustained release naltrexone injection prior to discharge, with a second injection one month later. Researchers followed up with both groups at 14 and 45 days following discharge.

Full story of injectable versus oral naltrexone at Science Daily

Strokes may cause increased preference for alcohol, research suggests

Brain changes after stroke may lead to increase in alcohol-seeking behavior, at least in animal models, according to research published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Although it is known that excessive alcohol intake (more than two drinks per day) is a risk factor for stroke, there hasn’t been much scientific study about how alcohol-related behavior might change after a stroke has occurred. When researchers at the Texas A&M College of Medicine looked into the issue, they found that strokes in a certain part of the brain increase alcohol-seeking behavior and preference for alcohol.

“It’s important because although stroke is a severe disease, more and more people are surviving and recovering after their first stroke,” said Jun Wang, MD, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics at the College of Medicine and co-principal investigator of this project. “Therefore, it is important to study behavior change after stroke, and how that behavior can affect the chances of having another one, which is often fatal.”

Full story of preferences in alcohol and strokes at Science Daily

The blink of an eye may predict risk for alcohol problems

The startle response, often recorded as an eye-blink reflex, is a defensive measure believed to reflect emotional processing. Patients with alcohol use disorders (AUDs) show abnormal startle-reflex responses to alcohol-related stimuli. This study examined startle-reflex responses to various visual stimuli among heavy drinkers, and assessed whether certain patterns predict the development of AUDs four years later.

Researchers measured the startle-reflex responses of 287 men recruited from public health-care centers in Spain: 239 non-dependent, heavy-drinking men and 48 healthy men who comprised the control group. All participants were exposed to four types of pictures: alcohol-related, aversive, appetitive, and neutral. The participants were subsequently examined four years later to determine the predictive value of their startle response on drinking status.

Full story of eye-blink reflex and AUDs at Science Daily