Alcohol use disorder: Brain damage may progress despite sobriety

A new study goes against the grain of previous research by suggesting that alcohol-induced brain damage does not stop when alcohol use ends. Instead, the harmful effects of alcohol may continue during abstinence. The findings have important implications for the process of recovery from alcohol dependence.

Most of us are familiar with the immediate effects that alcohol consumption has on the brain. Euphoria, depression, memory loss, blurred vision, slurred speech, and a general state of confusion are only some of these effects.

However, for those who consume excessive amounts of alcohol over extended periods, this repeated brain damage can have a long-lasting effect on neuronal and mental health.

Full story at Medical News Today

Who is most likely to experience ‘hangxiety?’

New research has found that very shy people are more likely to have anxiety, possibly at debilitating levels, during a hangover. The findings also suggest that for these people, “hangxiety” might signal a higher risk of alcohol dependence.

Alcohol use disorder (AUD), a chronic condition, is characterized by a person’s inability to “stop or control alcohol use despite adverse social, occupational, or health consequences.”

AUD reportedly affects around 15 million adults in the United States and over 620,000 adolescents aged 12–17.

Its symptoms may be either mild or severe, and there are several factors that raise the risk of AUD. These include family history, social pressure, and stress.

Full story at Medical News Today

People with family history of alcoholism release more dopamine in expectation of alcohol

People with a family history of alcohol use disorder (AUD) release more dopamine in the brain’s main reward center in response to the expectation of alcohol than people diagnosed with the disorder, or healthy people without any family history of AUD, reports a new study in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.

“This exaggerated reward center stimulation by expectation of alcohol may put the [individuals with family history] at greater risk of alcohol use disorder, and could be a risk factor in itself,” said first author Lawrence Kegeles, MD, PhD, of Columbia University.

The study examined a range of risk for AUD, including 34 healthy participants with no family history of AUD, 16 healthy participants with a family history of the disorder (referred to as the family-history positive, or FHP, group), and 15 participants diagnosed with AUD. Dr. Kegeles and colleagues used PET brain scanning to measure the amount of dopamine release in areas of the brain important for reward and addiction. The participants underwent the brain scans after receiving either an alcohol drink — a cocktail of vodka, tonic, and cranberry — or a placebo drink without the vodka. Although the participants didn’t know the order in which they would receive the drinks, if they received the placebo drink first they were cued into expecting the alcohol drink next.

Full story at Science Daily

Greek life membership associated with binge drinking and marijuana use in later life

A scientific study finds that close to half of residential fraternity members had symptoms of alcohol use disorder (AUD) by age 35, and that living in a fraternity or sorority at college is associated with continued binge drinking and marijuana use through early midlife. The research, from the University of Michigan, is published in the Journal of Adolescent Health and was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of the National Institutes of Health.

The authors analyzed samples of U.S. high school seniors from the Monitoring the Future study who were followed via self-administered surveys up to age 35. The scientists found that males who lived for at least one semester in a fraternity house had significantly higher rates of binge drinking during and after college up through age 35, compared to their peers in college not involved in fraternities, and to non-students of the same age.  Among males at age 35, 45 percent of the residential fraternity members reported two or more AUD symptoms, compared to 32.7 percent of non-residential fraternity members, 30.4 percent of college students who were not involved in fraternities and 33.1 percent of their non-college peers. Similarly, women who were residents of a sorority had higher odds of two or more AUD symptoms at age 35 (26.4 percent) when compared to non-residential sorority members (19.1 percent), college students not involved in sororities (18.0 percent) or their non-college peers (16.9 percent).

Full story at drugabuse.gov

Marijuana use associated with cognitive dysfunction in people with HIV who have substance abuse disorder, study finds

Marijuana use is associated with cognitive dysfunction in people with HIV infection who have an alcohol or other drug use disorder, according to a new study from researchers at Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH), Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), and Boston Medical Center (BMC).

While researchers did not detect effects of lifetime cumulative exposure, the study, published in Substance Abuse, showed that more frequent current marijuana use was associated with a measure of cognitive dysfunction on the Medical Outcomes Study HIV Health Survey cognitive function scale.

“People with HIV infection have many reasons to have cognitive dysfunction, from the virus itself to medications for HIV infection and related conditions, particularly as they age,” said co-author Richard Saitz, professor and chair of community health sciences at BUSPH, who served as principal investigator on the study. “They also have symptoms like chronic pain and mental health symptoms, and use of marijuana, medically or recreationally, may seem like an option to consider. But at least among people with substance use disorders, it appears to have detrimental effects on cognitive function.”

Full story at Science Daily