New Studies Shed Much-Needed Light on Alcohol-Induced Memory Blackouts

Memory Induced Black OutsNational survey studies suggest that roughly one in four college students who drink will experience a blackout in a given year, making blackouts a surprisingly common outcome of excessive drinking.

Blackouts are periods of amnesia, caused by excessive consumption of alcohol, during which a person actively engages in behaviors but the brain is unable to create memories for what transpires. This leaves holes in a person’s memory that can range from spotty recall for the events of the previous night (known as fragmentary blackouts) to the utter absence of memory for large portions of an evening (known as en bloc blackouts).

Blackouts are very different from passing out, when a person falls asleep or is rendered unconscious from drinking too much. During blackouts, people can participate in events ranging from the mundane, like eating food, to the emotionally charged, like fights or intercourse, with little or no recall. According to Dr. Aaron White, Program Director for Underage and College Drinking Prevention Research at the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), “It can be quite difficult for an outside observer to tell if someone is in a blackout. The person could seem aware and articulate, but without any memory being recorded.”

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Study Links Prescription Drug Abuse and Depression, Suicidal Thoughts in College Students

Drugs, Depression, Suicide Among StudentsA new study finds college students who use prescription drugs for non-medical purposes are at increased risk of depression and thoughts of suicide.

The researchers analyzed the answers of 26,600 college students who participated in a national research survey by the American College Health Association. They were asked about their non-medical prescription drug use, including painkillers, antidepressants, sedatives and stimulants, as well as their mental health symptoms in the past year.

About 13 percent of students reported non-medical prescription drug use, Science Daily reports. Those who reported feeling sad, hopeless, depressed or considered suicide were significantly more likely to report non-medical use of any prescription drug. The link between these feelings and prescription drug abuse was more pronounced in females, the researchers report in Addictive Behaviors. The researchers conclude that students may be inappropriately self-medicating psychological distress with prescription medications.

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Prescription Painkillers Containing Hydrocodone May Become More Tightly Regulated

Hydrocodone To Be Tightly RegulatedAdvisers to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will meet this fall to discuss whether prescription painkillers containing hydrocodone should be more tightly regulated, Bloomberg reports. They will evaluate the risks and benefits of hydrocodone preparations that are used to treat pain and coughs.

Emergency room visits related to hydrocodone, the key ingredient in Vicodin and other painkillers, have soared since 2000. Vicodin, which also contains acetaminophen, is subject to fewer regulations than pure hydrocodone, the article notes.

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) wants to change the way drugs that combine hydrocodone with other products are classified, to require patients to have more interaction with doctors in order to obtain prescriptions for them. “It has to do with penalties for trafficking,” Barbara Carreno, a spokeswoman for the DEA, told Bloomberg. “You have to go back to the doctor when you run out of medicine. It’s more oversight by the doctor.” She said that if the FDA decides that the drugs should have more oversight, the DEA will change its drug classification schedule accordingly.

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Study Supports Using Lungs Transplanted From Smokers

Lung Transplant For SmokersPeople who receive a lung transplanted from a smoker live longer than people who need a transplant and don’t receive one, a new study finds.

While getting a lung from a smoker was better than not receiving one at all, it still was not as beneficial as receiving a lung from a non-smoker. The three-year survival rate for recipients of lungs transplanted from smokers was lower than for recipients of lungs from non-smokers, ABC News reports. Recipients of smokers’ lungs also had more complications. The study included 1,295 lung transplant recipients, 39 percent of whom received lungs from people who had previously smoked.

The findings support a policy of transplanting lungs from people who have smoked, the researchers said. “Donors with positive smoking histories provide nearly 40 percent of the lungs available for transplantation,” they wrote in The Lancet. “Rejection of this donor-organ resource would increase waiting-list mortality and is ill advised.”

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Beware of Drunk Drivers on Memorial Day Weekend

Beware of Drunk Driving This MemorialDrunk drivers are a threat on the road during Memorial Day weekend, warns Fox Business. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 397 people died over the three-day weekend in 2010, the latest year for which data is available. Of those crashes, 40 percent were alcohol-related.

In 2010, more than 10,000 people died in alcohol-impaired driving crashes—one every 51 minutes, notes the NHTSA. The agency has found fatal crashes involving an alcohol-impaired driver are more likely on weekends and at night, the article notes.

Alcohol interferes with a person’s coordination, driving skills and judgment. Drinking can cause people to lose control and become aggressive, which can in turn affect driving skills.

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