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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Reducing Binge Drinking Can Save Lives

There is no question, reducing ‘binge drinking’ among college students can save lives. Many young adults heading off to college are unaware of the risks associated with binge drinking, and when those risks include death, the need for curbing the practice becomes a public health concern. New research indicates that while educating college students on the dangers of binge drinking can be useful in lowering heavy drinking levels, counseling only has a temporary effect, Science Daily reports. The researchers found that, a year later, three out of four students will be back where they started.

The use of alcohol among college students leads to a host of problems. Every year, 1,825 students lose their life to alcohol-related unintentional injuries, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA). Alcohol is involved in more than 690,000 college student physical assaults and more than 97,000 students are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault, the NIAAA reports.

The goal of the new study was to determine which students were best served by alcohol education. The researchers involved in the yearlong study of 1,040 college students, found that men who play drinking games were the least concerned about their drinking, and least apt to respond to any short-term counseling efforts, according to the article.

"This research will help other colleges and universities better understand who is least and best served by standard student alcohol interventions," said the study's lead author, James Henson, PhD, a psychology professor at Old Dominion University. "Brief prevention efforts can be effective but may require colleges to implement intervention boosters to maintain these effects."

The research was published in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology.

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Teenage Consumption of Alcopops Leads to Injury

A new report has found that teenagers who drink supersized “alcopops” flavored drinks containing liquor such as Four Loko have an increased risk of injury, HealthDay reports. While makers of alcopops claim that their products are not intended for underage drinkers, the flashy packaging colors and fruit flavored contents most definitely appeal more to a younger market.

Researchers analyzed data collected from an online survey of more than 1,000 teens and young adults ages 13 to 20 who reported having consumed at least one alcoholic drink in the previous month, according to the article. Individuals who consumed super-sized alcopops were more than six times as likely to have experienced an alcohol-related injury, compared with those who did not have supersized alcopops.

The three types of alcopops are:
  • Malt-based flavored beverages (i.e. Mike’s Hard Lemonade or Smirnoff Ice).
  • Spirits-based premixed, ready-to-drink cocktails (i.e. Jack Daniel’s cocktails).
  • Supersized alcopops (i.e. Four Loko or Joose).
In a press release, the researchers who conducted the study pointed out that supersized alcohol beverages can contain the equivalent of between four and five alcoholic drinks. Consuming two or more flavored alcoholic beverages, according to researchers, was tied to reports of heavy episodic drinking, fighting and alcohol-related injuries.

“It is impossible to discuss harmful alcohol consumption among youth and not include supersized alcopops,” said study co-author David Jernigan, PhD, Director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “These low-priced and sweet-tasting beverages are associated with reports of dangerous consequences among youth.”

The findings were published in the American Journal of Public Health.

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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

YouTube Vidoes Portray Excessive Alcohol Consumption

In the digital age, the majority of teens spend much of their time on the computer, rather than watching television. Teenagers are constantly bombarded by advertisements for an assortment of goods, including alcohol and tobacco. What’s more, anybody can upload videos to the internet using streaming services, such as YouTube. In the past, research regarding the effects of alcohol related media exposure has shown that teen drinking behavior was influenced by what they were exposed to in the media.

New research shows that YouTube videos that depict drunkenness often portray excessive alcohol consumption in a positive light, TIME reports. The videos with the most “likes” were funny.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh found that the 70 most popular videos that showed drunkenness, accounted for more than 330 million views. Hardly any portrayals of the negative side of drinking could be found, according to the article.

The researchers searched keywords, such as:
  • Drunk
  • Buzzed
  • Hammered
  • Tipsy
  • Trashed
The researchers picked the most popular videos in those categories on YouTube. They found that most common beverage mentioned was hard alcohol, included men, and that almost half of the videos referred to a specific brand.

“There has been little research examining Internet-based, alcohol-related messaging,” lead author Brian A. Primack, MD, PhD, said in a news release. “While we know that some viewers may be savvy enough to skeptically view music videos or advertisements portraying intoxication as fun, those same viewers may be less cynical when viewing user-generated YouTube videos portraying humorous and socially rewarding escapades of a group of intoxicated peers.”

While the study was not able to make any connections between watching the videos and drinking more or drinking more dangerously, the findings show the alcohol-related content is available online, the article reports. Further research is required to understand the effects this kind of media could carry.

The report was published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

Lacing Television with Marijuana

It is no secret that citizens in a number of states are beginning to have more relaxed views about marijuana. Between medical marijuana and legal recreational use in a number of states (with more states soon to follow), it is becoming more and more clear that marijuana use is here to stay. Despite changing views, even advocates of relaxed laws would agree that the drug should be kept away from adolescents and small children. Keeping the drug out of the hands of kids is extremely important; it is also imperative that an accurate picture is painted by the media regarding the drug and the effects that drugs can have on people.

The marijuana industry has become a booming business, one expected to grow exponentially in the coming years. It is only natural that television would want to get a piece of the pie, piggybacking on the drug's ever growing popularity. There are an ever-growing number of television shows which are depicting the use of marijuana, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Some of the current, more popular television shows which have incorporated pot use or aspects of the marijuana industry include:
  • Modern Family (ABC)
  • Bones (Fox)
  • Justified (FX)
  • Broad City (Comedy Central)
There are a number of other sitcoms and reality television shows geared around marijuana in the works for the near future, according to the article. Which begs the questions, is portraying recreational marijuana use going to unintentionally glamorize the drug? Does drug use on screen drive increased drug use among the shows audiences?

Steve Pasierb, president and chief executive of the non-profit Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, argues that being exposed to many characters smoking marijuana throughout their daily routine can have an increasing impact on the viewers - especially young ones.

"Right now, marijuana’s hot. One of the biggest dangers of this is the normalizing force, that message that causes kids to overestimate how many people are [smoking pot] and to think they’re the only ones who aren’t. This is not a nanny state thing—‘the more we show this stuff the more kids are going to turn into reefer heads’—we’re just talking about the natural progression of how young people process the media,” Mr. Pasierb says.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

High Schools Treat E-Cigarettes More Severely

Despite e-cigarette companies contention that the devices are not marketed toward teenagers, a number of high school students have been found to have them on their person. While most schools treat e-cigarettes as another form of tobacco, some schools classify the devices as drug paraphernalia because they can be used to smoke illicit drugs, the Associated Press reports.

The most recent Monitoring the Future study found that more teenagers are using e-cigarettes than traditional tobacco cigarettes. This means that the likelihood of teenagers being caught with e-cigarette devices is much greater than it once was.

A drug paraphernalia offense carries a much stiffer punishment than being caught with tobacco. High school students caught with cigarettes usually face detention and a letter home, according to the article. Those caught with e-cigarettes that are viewed as drug paraphernalia often face long suspensions, drug tests, and can have possession of drug paraphernalia marked on their school record.

Schools that treat e-cigarette possession more severely can be found in:
  • North Carolina
  • New Jersey
  • Washington
  • Connecticut
“Our goal is to reduce access and discourage use on campus,” said Sarah D’Annolfo, Dean of Students at The Taft School in Watertown, Connecticut, a co-ed boarding school.

“It definitely sparks conversation within the school community about e-cigarette use and the possible dangers and the possible benefits,” D’Annolfo said. “That conversation alone is a hugely important learning opportunity.”

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Narcotic Use Among Children with IBD

Narcotic use among children is never a good thing, but unfortunately it often times cannot be avoided. A new study has found that the chronic use of narcotics is more than twice as prevalent in children with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) (i.e. Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis), compared with children not living with the disease, Medical News Today reports.

Researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill conducted a large cross-sectional study of children with IBD and children in the general population who were given multiple prescriptions over a two year period. When compared to the general population, 5.6 percent of IBD children had at least three prescriptions for a narcotic medication during a two-year period, according to the article. Only 2.3 percent of children without IBD had at least three prescriptions.

The study included a total of 21,720 children, with 4,344 IBD children (younger than 18 years old), each matched for age, sex and region with five children without IBD.

"Chronic narcotic use is common in pediatric IBD patients, particularly among those with anxiety and depression," said lead study author Jessie P. Buckley, PhD, MPH, from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. "Describing the characteristics of children with IBD using long-term narcotics is important to define the magnitude of this problem in the pediatric population and to identify potential strategies or interventions to reduce narcotic use."

Long-term narcotic use among children is not recommended, but for those with IBD side effects can include:
  • Disease Complications
  • GI Problems
  • Potential for Dependency
Chronic use of narcotics among children with IBD was more prevalent amongst those who were/had:
  • Older in Age
  • Increased Health-Care Utilization
  • Fracture
  • Psychological Impairment
The findings were published in the official journal of the American Gastroenterological Association, Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Drugged Driving Rates Rise

Driving under the influence puts countless lives at risk; fortunately drunk driving rates are down, but sadly drugged driving rates are on the rise, according to a new government report. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that since 2007 the number of drunk drivers has dropped by a third, while the number of drugged drivers has risen by 3 percent, the Associated Press reports.

“America made drunk driving a national issue and while there is no victory as long as a single American dies in an alcohol-related crash, a one-third reduction in alcohol use over just seven years shows how a focused effort and cooperation among the federal government, states and communities, law enforcement, safety advocates and industry can make an enormous difference,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind in a news release. “At the same time, the latest Roadside Survey raises significant questions about drug use and highway safety. The rising prevalence of marijuana and other drugs is a challenge to everyone who is dedicated to saving lives and reducing crashes.”

The report found that the number of drivers who tested positive for marijuana increased by almost 50 percent, from 8.6 percent in 2007 to 12.6 percent last year. Rosekind told the AP, “The rising prevalence of marijuana and other drugs is a challenge to everyone who is dedicated to saving lives and reducing crashes.”

The changing views about marijuana in this country have lead to a rise in recreational use in a number of states. Naturally, it means that more people will be driving with the drug in their systems. While there will be a number of people who think they can handle driving high, many do not realize that the drug slows their reaction time and disrupts their motor skills - which can be a fatal miscalculation.

The NHTSA conducted a separate survey which found that people who use marijuana are more likely to be involved in accidents. The association plans to conduct further research on drugged driving.

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