More underage drinkers end up in ER on New Year’s

By Michelle Healy, USA TODAY


Alcohol-related New Year’s celebrations send an alarmingly high number of young people to hospital emergency rooms, says a report out today.

In 2009, 1,980 hospital emergency department visits involved underage drinking, according to the report from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). That’s nearly four times the daily average number of emergency department visits for drinking-related visits by people under 21, the report says. It’s two to three times the number of visits recorded on other “party” holidays, namely Fourth of July weekend (942) and Memorial Day weekend (676)

The study looked at all alcohol-related ER visits, but it did not specify whether they involved traffic accidents, alcohol poisoning or other issues.

The huge rise of drinking-related incidents on New Year’s “should startle us. It should wake us up,” says Peter Delany, director of SAMHSA’s Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, which did the analysis.

Though any underage alcohol consumption is cause for concern, drinking can also increase the likelihood of other risky behaviors, Delany says.

The findings are in line with other research showing more alcohol-related problems over the winter holidays, SAMHSA says.

Two to three times more people die in alcohol-related vehicle crashes during that time than during comparable periods the rest of the year, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says. And 40% of traffic fatalities during winter holidays involved an alcohol-impaired driver, compared with 28% for other dates in December.

Fueling the underage drinking problem, especially at this time of the year, is “a combination of greater access to alcohol, less parental oversight and mixed messages” about celebrating with alcohol, Delany says.

Young people are told “don’t drink, don’t do that, but in every third commercial in recent weeks, we see something linked to alcohol and drinking,” he says.

And there’s also the issue of “what kind of message parents may give,” Delany adds. “Maybe they’re drinking a lot. Kids see that it’s OK.”

What is needed is a long-term message “that underage drinking is not OK,” he says. “But adolescents don’t do well with ‘Just say no.’ We have to find ways to help young people make good decisions.”

Lowering The Drinking Age Is Unlikely To Curb College Binge Drinking

On December 10, 2010, in Public Health, Substance Abuse, by Christopher Fisher, PhD


Although presidents at some United States colleges have argued that lowering the minimum legal drinking age could help curb binge drinking on campuses, a new study in the January issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs suggests such a measure would be ineffective.

In 2008, a group of college presidents and chancellors formed the Amethyst Initiative, a call to rethink the current minimum legal drinking age of 21. They argue that the law encourages underage college students to drink at parties, where binge drinking is common. The main argument states that if students as young as 18 could legally drink in bars and restaurants, they might instead learn more moderate drinking habits, which could then lead to less binge drinking on college campuses.

So far, 135 college presidents have signed the Initiative’s public statement urging lawmakers to reconsider the legal drinking age.

But to simply lower the drinking age without an understanding of its effects would constitute a “radical experiment,” said Richard A. Scribner, M.D., M.P.H., of the Louisiana State University School of Public Health, one of the researchers on the new study.

So Scribner and colleagues at BioMedware Corporation in Ann Arbor, MI, and other institutions used a mathematical model to estimate the effects that a lower drinking age would have on college binge drinking.

The model, developed based on survey data from students at 32 U.S. colleges, aimed to evaluate the “misperception effect” emphasized by the Amethyst Initiative – that is, the idea that underage students widely perceive “normal” drinking levels to be higher than they actually are and that students would adjust their own habits if they were surrounded by social drinkers rather than binge-drinking party-goers.

Overall, the researchers found that the campuses that were most likely to see a decline in binge drinking from a lowered legal drinking age were those that had the poorest enforcement of underage drinking laws – being surrounded, for instance, by bars that do not check identification – and a significant level of student misperception of “normal” drinking (that is, students thinking that the average fellow student drinks much more than he or she actually does). If misperception levels were not present or were at the levels shown by the survey data, these campuses would likely see more binge-drinking if the legal age were lowered.

On “drier” campuses, the study found, student misperceptions would have to be even greater.

“The higher the level of enforcement of underage drinking laws, the higher the level of misperception would have to be for the Amethyst Initiative to have any hope of being effective,” explained lead researcher Dr. Jawaid W. Rasul, of BioMedware Corporation. “The misperception effect would have to be extremely large.”

And without data supporting the existence of such high levels of student misperception, Rasul said, lowering the legal drinking age would be unlikely to curb college binge drinking.

Scribner also pointed out that lowering the drinking age would not only affect college students but all currently underage young adults. And past research has suggested that when alcohol becomes more readily accessible to young people, alcohol-related problems, such as drunk driving, go up.

Material adapted from Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

Reference
Rasul, J. W., Rommell, R. G., Jacquez, G. M., Fitzpatrick, B. G., Ackleh, A. S., Simonsen, N., & Scribner, R. A. (January 2011). Heavy Episodic Drinking on College Campuses: Does Changing the Legal Drinking Age Make a Difference? Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, 72 (1), 15- 23.

Energy Drink Consumption Is Strongly Linked With Risks Of Heavy Drinking And Alcohol Dependence

On November 19, 2010, in Health | Fitness, by Christopher Fisher, PhD


A hallmark of college life is staying up late to study for an exam the following morning, and many students stay awake by consuming an energy drink. Also increasing in popularity is the practice of mixing alcohol with energy drinks. But these drinks are highly caffeinated and can lead to other problems, in addition to losing sleep. Unfortunately, the contents of energy drinks are not regulated. The results will be published in the February 2011 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research

New research indicates that individuals who have a high frequency of energy drink consumption (52 or more times within a year) were at a statistically significant higher risk for alcohol dependence and episodes of heavy drinking.

Amelia M. Arria, the lead author of the study, Director of the Center on Young Adult Health and Development at the University of Maryland School of Public Health, and a Senior Scientist at the Treatment Research Institute, said that prior research has highlighted the dangers of combining energy drinks with alcohol.

“We were able to examine if energy drink use was still associated with alcohol dependence, after controlling for risk-taking characteristics. The relationship persisted and the use of energy drinks was found to be associated with an increase in the risk of alcohol dependence.”

The study utilized data from more than 1,000 students enrolled at a public university who were asked about their consumption of energy drinks and their alcohol drinking behaviors within the past 12 months. The researchers found that individuals who consumed energy drinks at a high frequency were more likely to get drunk at an earlier age, drink more per drinking session, and were more likely to develop alcohol dependence compared to both non-users of energy drinks and the low-frequency users.

The results of this study confirm and extend earlier research about the risks of energy drink consumption. A major concern is that mixing energy drinks with alcohol can lead to “wide-awake drunkenness,” where caffeine masks the feeling of drunkenness but does not decrease actual alcohol-related impairment. As a result, the individual feels less drunk than they really are, which could lead them to consume even more alcohol or engage in risky activities like drunk driving.

“Caffeine does not antagonize or cancel out the impairment associated with drunkenness – it merely disguises the more obvious markers of that impairment,” says Kathleen Miller, a research scientist from the Research Institute on Addictions at the University at Buffalo. According to her, the next steps in this research include identifying links between energy drinks and other forms of substance abuse, as well assessing the overall prevalence of energy drink use by adolescents and young adults.

“Also needed is research that directly assesses students’ reported reasons for mixing alcohol and energy drinks. Anecdotal reports suggest that part of this phenomenon may be driven by the perpetuation of myths (e.g., mixing alcohol and caffeine reduces drunkenness, prevents hangovers, or fools a breathalyzer test) that could be debunked through further education.”

Arria agrees, adding that further research and regulations are needed to curb this disturbing trend.

“The fact that there is no regulation on the amount of caffeine in energy drinks or no requirements related to the labeling of contents or possible health risks is concerning.”

Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research

New CEUs: Grief, Depression, Loss & Substance Abuse

Complicated Grief
Standard CEU Hours: 5 CEU Cost: $15.00
NBCC CEU Hours: 4 CEU Cost: $12.00

This course provides personal and professional information, testimonies and time-tested tools for healthy ways to cope and adjust to life after sudden and/or violent loss. It looks at the reality of sudden loss with perspective and insight, including the author’s (Dr. Gabriel Constans) personal experiences, as well as his clients and colleagues, who have been walking, crawling and sometimes running in the midst of sudden, unexpected, often horrific circumstances.

Grief and Depression
Standard CEU Hours: 2 CEU Cost: $6.00
NBCC CEU Hours: 2 CEU Cost: $6.00

This short course discusses the differences and interrelationships between Grief and Depression according to the DSM-IV. This is another course in a series on Grief and Loss by Dr. Gabriel Constans.

Men and Grief
Standard CEU Hours: 2 CEU Cost: $6.00
NBCC CEU Hours: 2 CEU Cost: $6.00

This course explores the different ways in which men react to and heal from grief and sadness. The course weaves in the complex web of biology and environment to illuminate how and why men may respond differently than women, as well as how their responses are similar. By exploring some of the different and similar emotional responses and their roots, the hope is to be better able to support one another through painful times.

Behind Bars II: Prison Population and Substance Abuse
Standard CEU Hours: 12 CEU Cost: $36.00
NBCC CEU Hours: 15 CEU Cost: $45.00

This report constitutes the most exhaustive analysis ever undertaken to identify the extent to which alcohol and other drugs are implicated in the crimes and incarceration of America’s prison population. Any individual interested in this issue or working with inmates who abused substances prior to incarceration will benefit from this course.

Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter
Standard CEU Hours: 16  CEU Cost: $64.00 Exam Only / $96.00 with Book
NBCC CEU Hours: 12  CEU Cost: $48.00  Exam Only / $72.00 with Book

This course was developed from the book, Good Grief: Love, Loss and Laughter by Gabriel Constans, PhD, which was written for professionals and everyday people who face death and grief. The writing is complete with real situations and honest stories to help bring love and hope to this difficult situation. Those in the mental health, medical, or social work field as well as parents, teachers, students, friends, or anyone else dealing with death and grief could benefit from the practical and compassionate information presented.

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New Online CEUs Added


Dissociative Identity Disorder
Standard CEUs/NBCC CEUs:  8
Course Cost: $24

Considerable progress has been made in the diagnosis, assessment, and treatment of dissociative identity disorders (DID) during the past decades, as reflected by increased clinical recognition of dissociative conditions, the publication of numerous research and scholarly works on the subject, and the development of specialized diagnostic instruments.  Treating Dissociative Disorders in Adults is a course that was developed using guidelines from the Journal of Trauma and Dissociation, which summarizes expert consensus concerning safe and effective treatment for DID patients.  The course material offers a practical guide for the management of these patients and would be appropriate for any professionals who may encounter these clients or for anyone interested in gaining further knowledge about Dissociative Identity Disorder.


Managing Depressive Symptoms in Substance Abusing Clients

Standard CEUs: 12  Cost: $36
NBCC CEUs:  14     Cost: $42

This informative course was developed using material from the Treatment Improvement Protocol,  Managing Depressive Symptoms in Substance Abuse Clients During Early Recovery, developed by the US Department of Health and Human Services Center for Substance Abuse Treatment. The material was designed for use by substance abuse treatment counselors and other professionals who work with clients who have substance abuse issues and depressive symptoms. When depressive symptoms occur in substance abuse treatment, they can interfere with the clients’ recovery and ability to participate in treatment. This course will help professionals gain the skills necessary to assist clients who are struggling with depressive symptoms, particularly in the first year of treatment.  The course also includes several vignettes which provide specific examples of how to work with clients facing substance abuse and depressive symptoms.


Veterans and Substance Abuse

Standard CEUs: 2  Cost: $6
NBCC CEUs: 1     Cost: $3

Numerous studies show that rates of alcohol and other drug use disorders are high among veterans within the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) health care system. This course gives a brief overview of clinical considerations in the treatment of veterans with substance use disorders and other co-occurring mental health issues.  This is an excellent course for any professional who may come in contact with this population or for anyone who is interested in gaining knowledge in this subject area.