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Moderate Drinking Linked To Brain Changes And Cognitive Decline

Summary:

Consumption of seven or more units of alcohol per week is associated with higher iron levels in the brain, according to a study of almost 21,000 people. Iron accumulation in the brain has been linked with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and is a potential mechanism for alcohol-related cognitive decline.

FULL STORY

Consumption of seven or more units of alcohol per week is associated with higher iron levels in the brain, according to a study of almost 21,000 people publishing July 14 in the open access journal PLOS Medicine. Iron accumulation in the brain has been linked with Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and is a potential mechanism for alcohol-related cognitive decline.

There is growing evidence that even moderate alcohol consumption can adversely impact brain health. Anya Topiwala of the University of Oxford, United Kingdom, and colleagues explored relationships between alcohol consumption and brain iron levels. Their 20,965 participants from the UK Biobank reported their own alcohol consumption, and their brains were scanned using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). Almost 7,000 also had their livers imaged using MRI to assess levels of systemic iron. All individuals completed a series of simple tests to assess cognitive and motor function.

Participants’ mean age was 55 years old and 48.6% were female. Although 2.7% classed themselves as non-drinkers, average intake was around 18 units per week, which translates to about 7½ cans of beer or 6 large glasses of wine. The team found that alcohol consumption above seven units per week was associated with markers of higher iron in the basal ganglia, a group of brain regions associated with control of motor movements, procedural learning, eye movement, cognition, emotion and more. Iron accumulation in some brain regions was associated with worse cognitive function.

This is the largest study to date of moderate alcohol consumption and iron accumulation. Although drinking was self-reported and could be underestimated, this was considered the only feasible method to establish such a large cohort’s intake. A limitation of the work is that MRI-derived measures are indirect representations of brain iron, and could conflate other brain changes observed with alcohol consumption with changes in iron levels.

Given the prevalence of moderate drinking, even small associations can have substantial impact across whole populations, and there could be benefits in interventions to reduce consumption in the general population.

alcohol

Topiwala adds, “In the largest study to date, we found drinking greater than 7 units of alcohol weekly associated with iron accumulation in the brain. Higher brain iron in turn linked to poorer cognitive performance. Iron accumulation could underlie alcohol-related cognitive decline.”

Journal Reference:

Anya Topiwala, Chaoyue Wang, Klaus P. Ebmeier, Stephen Burgess, Steven Bell, Daniel F. Levey, Hang Zhou, Celeste McCracken, Adriana Roca-Fernández, Steffen E. Petersen, Betty Raman, Masud Husain, Joel Gelernter, Karla L. Miller, Stephen M. Smith, Thomas E. Nichols. Associations between moderate alcohol consumption, brain iron, and cognition in UK Biobank participants: Observational and mendelian randomization analyses. PLOS Medicine, 2022; 19 (7): e1004039 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1004039

Story Source: Materials provided by PLOS. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

July 14, 2022

source: www.sciencedaily.com


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Alcohol Should Have Cancer Warning Labels, Say Doctors and Researchers Pushing to Raise Awareness of Risk

Advocates of warning labels want Canadians to understand alcohol is one of top causes of preventable cancer

It’s not a secret, but it may as well be. Few Canadians know the truth, and few may want to hear it: Alcohol, any amount of alcohol, can cause cancer. There is no safe amount, and the calls to inform Canadians are growing.

“Even drinking one drink a day increases your risk of some cancers — including, if you’re a woman, breast cancer — but also cancers of the digestive system, the mouth, stomach,” said Tim Stockwell, a senior scientist with the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research at the University of Victoria.

“The risk increases with every drink you take.”

Alcohol has been classified as a Group 1 carcinogen (carcinogenic to humans) for decades by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. It’s right up there with tobacco and asbestos. Alcohol is also a  top cause of preventable cancer after smoking and obesity.

But the vast majority of Canadians have no idea of the risk.

Stockwell wants to change that, and he and other health experts are advocating for cancer warning labels on alcohol containers. People need to know, he says, that though there are other genetic and lifestyle factors that contribute to developing cancer, every drink comes with a risk.

“The risk from alcohol, it’s a dose response. The bigger and more frequent the dose, the higher your risk.”

Tim Stockwell, a senior scientist with the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research at the University of Victoria, is among the researchers and doctors pushing for cancer warning labels on alcohol. (University of Victoria)

Kathy Andrews had no idea that the wine she enjoyed most nights before she got pregnant was dangerous. The Vancouver resident was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016.

“Some of the risk factors for me were that I’d been through IVF with my child and then pregnancy, as well as a stressful lifestyle and drinking, not exercising enough. So all of those things, I think, played a role,” she said.

When Andrews did her own research after her diagnosis, she says she was shocked to discover that moderate alcohol consumption has been linked to an approximate 30 to 50 per cent increased risk of breast cancer.

Vancouver resident Kathy Andrews, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2016, talks about why she’s dismayed that most people don’t know that alcohol can cause cancer. 0:17

Andrews is not alone.

According to the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, only about 25 per cent of Canadian drinkers know that alcohol can cause cancer.

In Canada, alcohol was linked to 7,000 new cancer cases in 2020 alone.

Soaring alcohol sales since the start of the pandemic have triggered concerns of an impending global increase in related cancer cases. Experts say the risk has always been there, but is easy to ignore because drinking is so normalized and so celebrated as a form of relaxation and reward.

Pandemic’s stress and loneliness create dangerous cocktail for alcohol abuse

Alcohol and cannabis sales across Canada rose by over $2.6B during the pandemic, study suggests

“COVID will end, right, and cancer will continue, and there will be more cancer because people are drinking more,” said Dr. Fawaad Iqbal, a radiation oncologist at the Durham Regional Cancer Centre in Oshawa, Ont.

Iqbal says even among his cancer patients, the perception persists that consuming moderate amounts of alcohol has health benefits, particularly for cardiovascular health. Iqbal says studies suggesting health benefits have largely been debunked, yet they continue to circulate, adding to the general confusion and misunderstanding.

And he says that despite what those studies find, it doesn’t negate the fact alcohol can cause cancer and that people should be aware of that risk.

Dr. Fawaad Iqbal, a radiation oncologist at the Durham Regional Cancer Centre in Oshawa, Ont., describes the lack of knowledge even among cancer patients that alcohol is a carcinogen. 0:13

“It’s shocking. In an information era, we have warning labels on everything I can think of. I bought my kids fishing rods this summer, and their fishing rods have warning labels that say this fishing rod can cause cancer. Whereas, you know, a level-one carcinogen that is everywhere has no particular warnings on it.”

Iqbal has drafted a proposal to the Canadian Medical Association asking it to advocate for explicit labelling of alcoholic beverages warning of the carcinogenic risk to the consumer. He’s also reached out to Ontario’s liquor board, provincial and federal health authorities, as well as to the prime minister.

“I don’t like when people are lied to, including myself. This toxin is there for everybody to consume and nobody’s warning you.”

As for why so many people are in the dark, Iqbal says he thinks that, “it boils down to money. Alcohol is a $1.5 trillion a year [global] industry. They’ll lose money, and money wins at the end of the day.”

Stockwell says the experience of the Yukon is proof of that.

In 2017, public health researchers and the Yukon government agreed to test cancer warning labels on all alcohol containers in the government-owned liquor store in Whitehorse. But less than a month after the cancer labels were put on, they were taken off under pressure from the alcohol industry.

New booze labels in Yukon warn of cancer risk from drinking

Booze industry brouhaha over Yukon warning labels backfired, study suggests

Stockwell was one of the label study’s leaders. He says even though alcohol is a known carcinogen, industry representatives argued the cancer labels were alarmist and misleading. The territory, he says, couldn’t afford a potential costly legal battle, so the cancer warning labels were pulled while other labels, including information about standard drink size and low-risk drinking guidelines, remained.

“The industry’s claims of defamation were completely false, completely and utterly false,” Stockwell said. But, he added, “they serve the purpose of delaying, freezing things from happening, and in some ways, keeping that message out of the awareness.”

Labels warning of the health risks associated with alcohol are seen on bottles involved in a labelling test program in Yukon. (Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research)

alcohol

CBC’s The National reached out to Beer Canada, Spirits Canada and Wine Growers Canada asking whether they accept the link between alcohol and cancer, and whether they believe they have a responsibility to inform consumers of that risk. All three focused their answers on the need to drink responsibly and in moderation.

In a statement, Beer Canada said, “The decision whether to drink, and if so, how much, is a personal one. Responsible, moderate consumption can be part of a balanced lifestyle for most adults of legal drinking age.” It added that it is common knowledge that over-consumption comes with health risks and that, “For some people, even moderate consumption may be associated with health risks.”

Wine Growers Canada (WGC) said it is aware of the health risks that may be associated with alcohol consumption, and it recently launched the The Right Amount initiative, “to provide Canadians with information and tools to help make informed decisions on alcohol consumption.” It noted that the website includes responsible drinking guidelines, a standard drink calculator, and harm reduction recommendations for at-risk groups including pregnant women and youth.

It also added that, “the right amount of alcohol for some is none.”

Why some women are pushing back against alcohol and the wine-to-unwind culture

As for Spirits Canada, it maintains there are health benefits to drinking. In a statement, it said, “moderate consumption of alcohol has long been recognized as contributing to a healthy lifestyle and research has consistently indicated beneficial effects for cardiovascular diseases, reducing the risk of stroke and some diseases associated with aging.”

Spirits Canada added there are several policies in place to ensure consumers are aware of the risks of misusing alcohol, including government-controlled liquor boards, legal drinking age requirements, as well as restrictions on where alcohol can be sold and the setting of minimum prices. “Against this comprehensive background of control and management of alcohol, warning labels have not been shown to be useful in altering consumer behaviour or reducing the amount people drink.”

However, evidence of the effectiveness of alcohol labels is growing, including the results of the Yukon labelling study. It continues to be cited by researchers and governments around the world because, despite the alcohol industry’s intervention, the study found information had an impact on people’s behaviour.

Stockwell says even though the cancer labels were only in place for four weeks during the study, people remembered them. Combined with the other labels that remained on alcohol containers for a total of four months, researchers found that by the end of the study alcohol sales dropped by about 7 per cent.

Another key finding, says Stockwell, is that the more people knew, the angrier they got.

Tim Stockwell, a senior scientist with the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research at the University of Victoria, says that in a study of alcohol warning labels in Yukon, people were ‘furious’ when they were told about the cancer risks associated with drinking alcohol. 0:12

Dr. Erin Hobin co-led the study with Stockwell. A senior scientist at Public Health Ontario as well as a collaborating scientist with the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, Hobin says the study’s labels were effective because they were well-designed. They were intentionally colourful and used a bold font, which helped make the message clear to consumers.

Hobin says the Yukon study also found that the more aware people were about the risks related with alcohol, the more likely they were to support increases in its price.

“Which generally is not a popular policy among the public or policy makers, but is a policy that is well-established for reducing alcohol harm,” Hobin said.

Hobin adds that Canada is a world leader in designing effective tobacco and cannabis warning labels. She says recent research indicates that labels that are well-designed, “can be an effective tool for supporting more informed and safer decisions related to alcohol, and may even start to shift consumers’ perceptions of alcohol from a relatively benign substance to a substance associated with serious health risks that should be considered when drinking alcohol.”

A senior scientist at Public Health Ontario as well as a collaborating scientist with the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, Dr. Erin Hobin says Canada could apply its expertise in designing effective tobacco and cannabis warning labels to alcohol labels as well. (Jared Thomas/CBC)

Several European countries are considering cancer warning labels on alcohol.

Asked by CBC’s, The National whether Health Canada plans to do the same, a department spokesperson says it continues to fund research into the best ways to inform Canadians of the various harms associated with alcohol use, and that updates to the current national low-risk drinking guidelines and standard drink information are coming. Those updates are expected at the end of this year.

In the meantime, awareness is spreading through graphic public health campaigns around the world, including in the U.S. and Australia. Just before the pandemic, British Columbia’s Fraser Health Authority also ran posters spelling out the cancer risks that come with drinking.

Health professionals are urging governments at every level to act now to warn Canadians about the cancer risk as well as other alcohol-related diseases.

“I think it’s tragic,” said Dr. Eric Yoshida, a professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia and chair of the Canadian Liver Foundation’s Medical Advisory Committee. “I think it’s actually horrible. I think it’s unacceptable. I think the conversation should have started years ago, decades ago.”

Yoshida is calling for product warning labels to raise awareness and deter alcohol misuse. He says he has seen a “tidal wave” of patients in need of a transplant since 2019, when patients in B.C could qualify for a liver transplant without needing to abstain from drinking for six months.

Many of his patients, Yoshida says, are young people in their 20s and 30s who had no idea their drinking could cause so much harm.

“They were shocked,”‘ he said, to realize, “that the alcohol could actually kill them.”

Dr. Eric Yoshida, a professor of medicine at the University of British Columbia and chair of the Canadian Liver Foundation’s Medical Advisory Committee, says patients – particularly younger ones – often express shock and disbelief that alcohol has caused them serious illness. 0:34

Yoshida says warning labels must be part of a broader awareness effort.

“I think the government has to step up. I think  leaving it to the education system, leaving it to the media, leaving it to people’s families, I think it probably isn’t good enough.”

Breast-cancer survivor Andrews agrees, adding that had she known of the cancer risks linked to drinking, she would have abstained or consumed a lot less. She’s grateful that she’s now recovering, but wants people to know more than she did.

“It can cut their lives short and take them away from the people that love them. People are putting really dangerous stuff in their bodies, and they don’t know. And it’s not worth it.”

Ioanna Roumeliotis & Brenda Witmer · CBC News · Posted: Jan 08, 2022

source: www.cbc.ca


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Think a Little Alcohol Might Be Healthy? Think Again

Wine lovers, beer drinkers and those who enjoy a martini now and then have long been told that moderate drinking beats total abstinence.

Unfortunately, new German research is throwing some cold water on that advice, finding that premature death among non-drinkers is likely the result of unrelated health problems that have little to do with the decision to forgo Chardonnay or Tanqueray.

“For many years, the belief in medical care was that low-to-moderate alcohol drinking may add to health, in particular to cardiovascular health,” said lead researcher Ulrich John.

Red wine in particular, he noted, has received a lot of attention for its purported ability to give moderate drinkers a longevity leg up over abstainers.

“This does not seem to be justified in the light of the present study,” said John, a professor emeritus of prevention research and social medicine with the Institute of Community Medicine at University Medicine Greifswald, in Germany.

Why? Because “the majority among abstainers seem to have severe risk factors in their life” that existed before any decision to not drink.

In a report published online Nov. 2 in PLOS Medicine, John and his colleagues presented results of a survey of more than 4,000 German men and women who were 18 to 64 years of age when they were interviewed between 1996 and 1997.

All were asked to reveal their drinking habits in the preceding year, along with information about their overall health history, and alcohol and drug use. Death data were available from a follow-up 20 years later.

Just over 11% said they had abstained from alcohol during the prior year. But about nine in 10 of them said they had been drinkers at one time, the findings showed. Nearly three-quarters had at least one major risk factor for early death, including risky alcohol consumption and tobacco use.

wine

Among abstainers, just over one-third said they had a prior alcohol abuse problem, while about half said they smoked daily, for instance. About 11% described their overall health status as “fair” or “poor.”

The investigators also found that premature death from cancer or heart disease was no higher among the abstainers who had no other health risk factors than it was among low-to-moderate drinkers.

“We were surprised by the large proportion of those who had former alcohol or drug use disorders among the abstainers,” John said.

But in the end, he added, “the majority of alcohol abstainers had severe health risk factors that might explain the greater likelihood to die early, in contrast to the low-to-moderate drinkers.”

John’s advice: “Please do not drink alcohol for health reasons.” If a healthy life is the goal, he added, “the optimum is not to drink alcohol.”

The findings come as little surprise to Lona Sandon, program director of the department of clinical nutrition at the UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

There is no compelling reason a non-drinker should start using alcohol in order to promote health or reduce risk of disease, she said.

“And for people with high risk of cancer, particularly breast cancer, any amount of alcohol is not recommended,” Sandon added.

But what about all the reported health benefits of red wine?

In an online report, the Mayo Clinic acknowledged that antioxidants in red wine may increase levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol, while polyphenols such as resveratrol have been said to help limit blood vessel damage and reduce blood clotting risk.

Could that mean that red wine is the exception to the new advice? So far, the research aiming to prove as much has been inconclusive, according to the Mayo Clinic report.

And Sandon cautioned that when it comes to promoting health, “red wine does not make up for poor diet, and lack of exercise or other healthy habits.”

She recalled a client who was an avid runner.

“She wanted to lose some body fat in hopes to improve her running times,” Sandon said. “She was also drinking red wine on a near daily basis as she believed it to be a healthy habit.”

As it turned out, the woman was actually drinking the equivalent of two to three drinks a day. “At this amount, it is no longer healthy, and the extra calories were not helping her to reach her weight-loss goals,” Sandon said.

Her advice: “Don’t fool yourself into thinking red wine is the fountain of youth. It may actually do more harm than good.”

SOURCES: Ulrich John, PhD, professor emeritus, prevention research and social medicine, Institute of Community Medicine, University Medicine Greifswald, Germany; Lona Sandon, PhD, RDN, LD, program director and associate professor, clinical nutrition, School of Health Professions, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas; Mayo Clinic, “Red wine and resveratrol: Good for your heart?”, Oct. 22, 2019; PLOS Medicine, Nov. 2, 2021, online

By Alan Mozes  HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 3, 2021 (HealthDay News) 

source: www.webmd.com


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Fun Fact Friday

 

  • It’s ok and “I’m fine” are the two most common lies spoken in the world.

  • Marijuana was initially made illegal in 1937 by a man who testified the drug made white women want to be with black men.

 

  • Giving up alcohol for just one month can improve liver function, decrease blood pressure, and reduce the risk of liver disease and diabetes.

  • Research has shown that people are happiest at 7:26pm on Saturday evening.

 

~ Happy Friday!~


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Alcohol Responsible For More Hospital Admissions Than Heart Attacks Last Year: Report

Measurement could be ‘an important indicator for monitoring public health’

 

There were more hospital admissions in Canada last year
for alcohol-related conditions than for heart attacks,
the Canadian Institute for Health Information said.

There were more hospital admissions in Canada last year for alcohol-related conditions than for heart attacks.

Alcohol poisoning, alcohol withdrawal, liver disease, chronic alcohol abuse and other conditions that are “100 per cent caused by the harmful consumption of alcohol” accounted for about 77,000 admissions, according to a report released Thursday by the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI).

That’s 212 each day, on average, not including those who were treated in emergency departments and released.

The 2015–2016 year was the first time CIHI has looked at this statistic, believing that its impact on the health system can provide insight generally into the harms caused by alcohol.

“Our expectation is that this will be an important indicator for monitoring public health,” said Geoff Hynes, manager of the Canadian Population Health Initiative for CIHI. “We can look at patterns, which could inform what governments and the health system can do to address these high numbers.”

alcohol hospitalizations
(Canadian Institute for Health Information)

In  the absence of any previous data to compare, CIHI related the figure to that of admissions for heart attacks in the same period, which was 75,000.

Leading cause of injury and death

Excessive drinking carries a number of known health risks, including illnesses such as pancreatitis, liver cirrhosis, diabetes and cardiovascular disease — not to mention the risk of death.

In 2015, there were 5,082 alcohol-attributable deaths in Canada, according to a study by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation cited by CIHI.

In fact, the Public Health Agency of Canada says alcohol is a leading cause of injury and death in Canada, including those resulting from impaired driving and from illnesses with known links to alcohol, like certain types of cancer.

Costs to the health care system, to society

Alcohol abuse doesn’t harm just the abuser; there are measurable societal costs, too.

For instance, in 2014–2015, the average cost for hospitalization that was entirely caused by alcohol was estimated at $8,100, compared to the average hospital stay for other causes at $5,800. That’s mostly because of longer stays (11 days on average compared to seven days, respectively).

Taking into account law enforcement, lost productivity as well as prevention and research initiatives, the estimated total cost of alcohol-related harm in Canada was more than $14 billion in 2002, the most recent year for which this data is available, CIHI said. About $3.3 billion of that was directly related to health care.

There are also broader social implications, the report said, such as unemployment, crime and the “substantial” impacts on people other than the drinker. These include injuries related to assault, workplace accidents, motor vehicle collisions, family disruption, violence and lost income.

The toll on families, coworkers and communities is impossible to tally because the relationships between consumption and harm are complex, Hynes said. These are influenced by things like individual, cultural and social factors, as well as how government regulates consumption and accessibility.

​Provincial, territorial variations

On average, there were more alcohol-related hospitalizations in the territories than in the provinces, and more in the west than in the east, with the exception of Nova Scotia. But regional variations can’t be easily explained.

Generally, where sales of alcohol are higher — measured in volume of litres per capita — there was also a higher prevalence of heavy drinking (five or more drinks for men and four or more drinks for women on one occasion at least once a month over a one-year period). And the rates of hospitalization typically followed: B.C., Alberta, Northwest Territories and Yukon had high rates of all three.

But in Quebec, where rates of sales and heavy drinking were both higher than the Canadian average, hospitalizations were low.

“So we know there is something else playing out,” Hynes said.

While no one factor accounts for the differences, CIHI pointed to significant variations in the “alcohol policy landscapes” across Canada.

For instance, B.C. had the highest rate of alcohol-related hospitalizations among the provinces. It also had a period of rapid growth in privatization of alcohol sales, which one study suggested was associated with an increase in alcohol-related deaths.

Pricing controls are another area that varies from region to region: some have minimum prices for items at retail, others have minimum prices set at bars and restaurants, and still others index the price of liquor to inflation or to alcohol content.

harm caused by alcohol
(Canadian Institute for Health Information)

“For us, those differences represent opportunities for potential improvement,” Hynes said. “Measuring this, and monitoring these rates can help us identify whether the policies and approaches are effective in reducing alcohol harm.”
And pricing, Hynes said, is “one of the most effective and cost-effective ways to reduce alcohol harm, population-wide.”

Basically, making liquor more expensive should curb consumption, as it did with cigarettes. Reducing hours of availability and number of stores, the report said, is also associated with reducing consumption.

It will take “a strategy that brings together multiple effective policies,” Hynes said.

By Sherry Noik, CBC News         Jun 22, 2017 
source: www.cbc.ca


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Study Finds Alcohol Makes You Aggressive; Pot, Pretty Much the Opposite

Pot heads are mellow, drunks can be mean. That’s the common wisdom, and now, thanks to a group of researchers from the Netherlands, it has some scientific validation. In a just-published study in the journal Psychopharmacology, they found that—doh!—people on  booze act out, while people on pot peacefully space out.

“The results in the present study support the hypothesis that acute alcohol intoxication increases feelings of aggression and that acute cannabis intoxication reduces feelings of aggression,” the researchers concluded.

The study itself sounds like fun. In a random, controlled trial, the researchers recruited 21 heavy pot smokers (at least three times a week), 20 heavy drinkers (at least three drinks a day for men, two for women), and a control group of 20 who used neither substance heavily.

alcohol_agression

They then had the drinkers drink until they were too drunk to legally drive (0.08% blood alcohol level) and the tokers vape up 300 micrograms of THC per kilogram of body weight, enough to get them nicely baked. The control group, being the control group, missed out on the intoxicants.

Then all three groups completed a number of tests designed to get people wound up. In one, subjects played a computer game in which the object was to win money by pressing buttons, but players’ efforts were undermined by an “adversary” that took money from them. The adversary was actually part of the computer program. In a second test, known as a “single category implicit association test,” subjects were shown images of violent and aggressive behavior and asked to match positive and negative words to the photos.

The researchers measured aggression by asking the subjects to rate how aggressive they felt on a 100-point scale, and weighed that against a baseline score established by asking them the same question before they had gotten wasted. And they ran the tests one more time a week later, with the same subjects, but without getting them high or drunk.

“Alcohol intoxication increased subjective aggression in the alcohol group,” the researchers found, but pot smokers became less aggressive when baked.

It wasn’t just subjective. While alcohol drinkers rated themselves as more aggressive when drunk, they were also found to be objectively more aggressive, as measured by their willingness to undermine their opponents in the computer game.

We already know that marijuana is a less harmful drug than alcohol, being both far less toxic and less addictive than booze. And now we get some scientific backing for something else that was already patently obvious.

By Phillip Smith       AlterNet       July 23, 2016       Hold the presses
Philip Smith is editor of the AlterNet Drug Reporter and author of the Drug War Chronicle.
source: www.alternet.org 

 

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Harm Caused By Drugs Table

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How to Reverse the Negative Effects of Marijuana Consumption

Every substance we put into our bodies has an impact on our mind and body functions. Marijuana is the most used illegal substance in the world. Millions of North Americans smoke marijuana occasionally (occasional users) while others use it on a regular basis (chronic users). As mentioned before, marijuana has a series of short and long term effects in several dimensions of the human body, and it’s not as light as presented, especially if there is an addiction or history of extended use, since often an addiction has tragic effects on the addict and their relatives. In this article we will address how to minimize the negative effects of marijuana. If you enjoy smoking or taking this drug, this could be a perfect way to minimize the possible guilt of using the substance and minimizing the negative side effects.

Minimizing and Reversing the Negative Effects of Chronic Marijuana Consumption

• Most people who use smoke their marijuana. Try using a vaporizer to minimize the side effects of the smoke in lungs. Marijuana could be a risk factor in pulmonary diseases like bronchitis or emphysema.
• Give yourself a break! The best way to minimize the effects of marijuana is by taking progressively fewer doses and progressively sensitizing the brain to low quantities. Sensitize is a reverse toleration. Toleration is a common phenomenon in substance abuse and is described as the need for higher substance concentrations to get the same effect . This occurs at a molecular level, where there the neurons get used to a particular quantity of the metabolites involved. If you take a periodic breaks from smoking, from 1 day to 1+ years, you’ll find the effects are stronger, because the brain starts to rebuild and to rest from the intense neurochemical firing, particularly in the brain reward center. If you don’t wish to stop smoking at all, take a few breaks every now and then to rest your brain and lungs, and clean your liver and blood from the chemicals involved. If you cannot stop, it may be a warning sign that you are addicted to cannabis.
• Move your body. Exercise. Smoking harms the body in 1000 different ways and scientists are still learning the effects of smoking in each of our cells. Exercise improves circulation, oxygen absorption, and appropriate wasting of toxins. Exercise is a preventive measure for lung cancer, diabetes and heart disease. It improves cognitive function as well, use exercise to improve your cardiovascular, mood and energy levels.
• Cognitive training. There is a debate if the popular brain gym training pages that circulates through internet are beneficial or not. Some propose that these type of games won’t transfer to real world situations. However, some studies suggest a positive effect in everyday functional outcomes. Games like chess, memory match, scrabble, puzzles, or hand coordination games like jenga, may be beneficial and help the brain to function even better.
• Yoga and anxiety. Some people use marijuana to relieve stress and to avoid anxiety. If you are less anxious, you will probably decrease the desire to smoke. Yoga and meditation have been shown to decrease social anxiety in several populations and improve quality of life. The focused attention on breath and sensations have been shown to reduce stress and anxiety.
• Detox. The by-products in marijuana are stored in fatty acids and secreted by sweat, feces, and urine. Some of the metabolites can store in your body for months, depending in the doses taken and body fat. Try fasting or detoxification with raw food and juice smoothies.

cannabis-infographic
By Andres Carvajal         Edited by Stephanie Dawson        Aug 19, 2013
 
Sources
  • Chiesa, A., & Serretti, A. (2009). Mindfulness-based stress reduction for stress management in healthy people: A review and meta-analysis. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 15, 593–600
  • Mendonca GV, Pereira FD, Fernhall B. Effects of cigarette smoking on cardiac autonomic function during dynamic exercise. J Sports Sci. 2011 Jun;29(9):879-86
  • MARIJUANA & THE BRAIN, PART II: THE TOLERANCE FACTOR By Jon Gettman, July 1995 High Times


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Alcohol Causes 7 Kinds of Cancer, Study Concludes

Alcohol researcher Jennie Connor says the link is a causal one and that no alcohol is considered safe and risk does go up as you drink.

Alcohol is a direct cause of seven forms of cancer. Tough words to swallow, but those are the conclusions of researchers from New Zealand, who say they found that no matter how much you drink, alcohol will increase your risk of cancer.

“There is strong evidence that alcohol causes cancer at seven sites in the body and probably others,” the authors write in the latest issue of the journal Addiction.

Those seven cancer sites are:

  • liver
  • colon
  • rectum
  • female breast
  • larynx, (the throat organ commonly called the voice box)
  • orolarynx (the middle part of the pharynx) behind the mouth
  • esophagus (commonly the “food pipe”)

The researchers from the University of Otago reviewed previous studies and meta-analyses, analyzing all the major studies done over the last decade on alcohol and cancer. They include studies from such prestigious names as the American Institute for Cancer Research and the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

alcohol

Several of these studies drew links between alcohol and cancer. But lead researcher Jennie Connor, the chair in preventive and social medicine at the university, says her team wanted to know if there was evidence of a causal relationship — meaning that alcohol was the direct cause of some of these cancers.

“And the first conclusion of the paper is that there is very strong evidence that the link we see between drinking and cancer in all these studies is a causal one,” Connor told CTV News Channel from Dunedin, New Zealand.

In fact, the team estimates that of all cancer deaths worldwide, 5.8 per cent of them can be attributed to alcohol.

The link between alcohol and cancer was strongest with cancer of the larynx and orolarynx than with the other cancers

Perhaps not surprisingly, the team found a “dose-response relationship” between alcohol and cancer, meaning that the more that a person drinks, the higher their risk to develop cancer.
So what constitutes a “safe” level of drinking?

“There doesn’t seem to be any threshold below which drinking is actually safe with respect to cancer,” Connor said.

“So the straightforward obvious answer to your question is that no alcohol is safe, and any alcohol increases your risk of some types of cancer.”

One bit of good news is that the cancer risk will drop for those who quit drinking, falling back to risk levels similar to “never drinkers” after 20 years.
As for what it is about alcohol that causes cancer, the researchers aren’t sure, as their paper was not designed to answer such questions.

“Confirmation of specific biological mechanisms by which alcohol increases the incidence of each type of cancer is not required to infer that alcohol is a cause,” they wrote.

This is not the first paper to conclude that alcohol is carcinogenic, and yet there persists a perception that a small amount of alcohol is not only safe but beneficial.

Many point to studies that found that drinking wine is good for the heart increases longevity. Connor says that there are a still a lot of myths about alcohol out there.

“(These myths) arise from research that has been updated now, or discredited, or there’s more doubt about it than they used to be,” she said.

“This paper also examines the connection between alcohol and being good for your heart – coronary disease – and it finds that evidence base is actually quite weak. So information evolves over time.”

Friday, July 22, 2016     CTVNews.ca Staff
 


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The Health Benefits of Drinking a Little Pinot Noir Wine Everyday

by Ireland Wolfe, Demand Media

Instead of drinking soda, consider drinking wine nightly with your dinner. Like all red wines, pinot noir contains polyphenols, antioxidants that can protect your heart. A specific type of polyphenol, resveratrol, is likely responsible for many of the health benefits. The resveratrol content varies depending on the region where the pinot noir is produced, but generally, the wine is high in this vital antioxidant.

Heart Benefits
Much research suggests that resveratrol may have a number of heart-healthy benefits, according to the Mayo Clinic. Resvaratrol may help to lower your bad cholesterol, raise good cholesterol, prevent blood clots and reduce inflammation. Although most studies have been animal-research or in vivo studies, a 2012 article published in “Pharmacological Research” examined the link between red wine and cardiovascular disease in 1,000 high-risk human subjects. The cross-sectional study looked at subjects with resveratrol in their bloodstream and compared their consumption of wine to their cardiovascular risk factors. Researchers found that subjects who drank wine had better heart rates and lower fasting blood glucose and cholesterol levels than those who did not.

Cancer Prevention
Drinking moderate amounts of pinot noir may help to inhibit the development of certain types of cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute. Researchers have examined resveratrol on many different types of cancer, such as leukemia, skin and prostate cancers, through in vivo and animal studies. A 2008 study published in “Cell Death and Differentiation” looked at resveratrol on breast cancer cells. Researchers found that resveratrol could contribute to cell death in breast cancer cells. However, more research, especially on human subjects, is needed.

wine
Pinot noir is a type of red wine.

Neurological Benefits
Pinot noir also may have neurological advantages. The resveratrol in pinot noir may help to prevent neurological diseases. A 2011 review published in the “Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences” examined stilbenoid compounds, which are found in resveratrol. Researchers stated that resveratrol showed favorable results in the treatment and prevention of degenerative diseases, such as Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s.

Precautions
Despite these promising health benefits, alcohol, including red wine, can cause health problems. Drinking too much alcohol can contribute to high blood pressure, liver disease, obesity and high cholesterol. Alcohol can be addictive, and you should drink red wine only in moderation. The Mayo Clinic states that drinking in moderation means only one glass of red wine for women. Pregnant women, people with certain chronic diseases or those who take some types of medication should avoid alcohol. Talk to your doctor for specific recommendations.

References

  • MayoClinic.com Red Wine and Resveratrol: Good for Your Heart?
  • Wellness Made Natural: Oregon Pinot Noir and Resveratrol: A Match Made in Wine Heaven
  • Pharmacological Research: High Urinary Levels of Resveratrol Metabolites are Associated With a Reduction in the Prevalence of Cardiovascular Risk Factors in High-Risk Patients
  • National Cancer Institute: Red Wine and Cancer Prevention: Fact Sheet
  • Cell Death and Differentiation: Role of Non-Canonical Beclin 1-Independent Autophagy in Cell Death Induced by Resveratrol in Human Breast Cancer Cells
  • Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences: Neuroprotective Properties of Resveratrol and Derivatives

About the Author
Ireland Wolfe has been writing professionally since 2009, contributing to Toonari Post, Africana Online and Winzer Insurance. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in psychology and Master of Arts in mental health counseling. She is also a licensed mental health counselor, registered nutritionist and yoga teacher.


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Drink More Safely This Holiday Season

Many of us will imbibe over the holidays,
but we can avoid needless suffering with some common sense advice.

By Chrisanne Grise      Substance.com    December 9, 2014

Let the fun begin! December is a month full of parties—and for many people, booze. Great. But if you are going out, it’s important to be smart about your drinking. There’s nothing merry about a hangover, after all, especially if you did something you regret…whether or not you remember it the next day. So how can we celebrate the season with alcohol, if that’s our choice, and still stay safe?

“There is nothing wrong with enjoying yourself and cutting loose a bit during the holidays,” points out Kenneth Anderson. He’s the founder and executive director of the HAMS harm reduction for alcohol network, the author of How to Change Your Drinking and a regular Substance.com contributor—in other words, the perfect person to ask about safer drinking.

While Anderson has no desire to dampen festive spirits, he’s also very aware of how dangerous drinking-gone-wrong can be. “Always plan for safety above all,” he says. “Death is always worse than a hangover.” Well, that’s for sure. So I asked him, along with a few moderate or not-so-moderate young drinkers, for some safer drinking suggestions.

Plan ahead

Figure out your transportation plans before you leave the house, so you won’t have any issues returning home, even if you’re inebriated. And if possible, always travel with friends, so you can look out for each other.

A spontaneous night of drinking with friends is fine—they’re sometimes the best kind. But if you’re going out frequently during the holidays, you’ll do better to arrange your schedule so you avoid alcohol-based socializing multiple days in a row. It may sound nerdy, but your body will thank you for it.

Keep listening to your body, too; make sure you get plenty of sleep in advance, so that you head out feeling well-rested, rather than fatigued. And some prior awareness of how much alcohol your body can handle is also invaluable.

“The major thing that’s helped me feel better is being realistic about how much I can drink now,” says 24-year-old Allison from New York City. “I can’t down eight beers a night like I did in college and feel fine the next morning.” These days, she knows and accepts that four drinks are her absolute limit—and she sticks to that. Once you’ve found out (hopefully not the hard way) how many drinks your body can withstand, it’s well worth making a similar rule.

If you think you may have trouble sticking to your self-defined limits, Anderson recommends writing out a plan for each situation you might encounter to keep your consumption at your chosen level. If a friend insists on drinking a shot with you, for example, you could sip yours slowly over half an hour even if he pounds his down. If Mom insists that everyone have wine with dinner, you can make one glass last the whole meal by drinking water too. And if you think you’ll need a reminder of your plan in the moment, write it down and carry the paper in your pocket. Luckily, the kind of situations you’ll encounter aren’t too hard to predict, which makes preparation a whole lot easier.

Eat and hydrate well

Speaking of preparation, what better form could it take than hearty eating? Drinking on an empty stomach is a bad move, because the alcohol will hit your bloodstream—and get you drunker—faster. Instead, help yourself to some fatty food first—fattier foods slow alcohol absorption most effectively, Anderson says. Make sure you drink lots of water before and during your night out too, because alcohol will dehydrate you, and you’ll drink more booze if you’re thirsty.

“I’ve gotten dehydrated from drinking to the point where I’ve passed out days later because I never replenished those electrolytes,” says 27-year-old Brooke, who also lives in New York. Staying well hydrated will ensure that you stay safer and feel better—both while you’re out and while you’re recovering the next day.

cheers

Choose your drink carefully

In theory, all alcohol is the same—whatever the drink that contains it—and if everyone drank it at the same rate, it would have the same effect. But as most of us know, it doesn’t always work that way in practice.

“People tend to drink different kinds of alcohol at very different rates,” Anderson says. “This is why people barhopping and switching from beer to whiskey to gin tend to wind up with puking blackouts.”

You may well find it easier (and safer) to stick with beer or wine instead of doing shots with buddies. And if you usually drink vodka too fast but find you can maintain a steady pace with bourbon, take advantage of that habit. It all comes back to knowing what works for you.

“Generally, the lower the alcohol content and the stronger the flavor, the slower people will drink,” says Anderson. “A careful plan of a pre-dinner cocktail, a wine with dinner, and two standard after-dinner drinks will be fine. Chugging a bottle of wine, a six-pack of beer and a pint of gin will leave you with the blind staggers.”

That said, if you choose a mixed drink, Anderson warns that carbonated drinks are absorbed more quickly by the body. What’s more, drinks made with diet soda result in higher blood alcohol content levels than those made with regular soda. So if you’re ordering a beverage with soda in it, be sure to take it slow.

Finally, choosing your drink wisely doesn’t just apply to which type of alcohol you pick: Never let a stranger pour your drink.

Pace yourself

There’s just no need to chug your beer, no matter what the rest of your buddies are up to.

“Sometimes when I start a drink, I give myself a minimum amount of time that needs to go by before I can finish it,” says 30-year-old Robert from Los Angeles. “I feel better that way, but I also figure I’ll enjoy the beverage more if I go slow than if I down it all at once.”

As well as the enjoyment factor, this is also a pretty good strategy to keep yourself from blacking out—so much so that Anderson also recommends using a watch to measure the pace of your consumption if necessary. Be sure to stick to a pace that works for you, and don’t let anyone pressure you to speed up. Alternating between booze and non-alcoholic drinks throughout the night can be a good way to handle this.

Skip the aspirin—and just about every other drug

You may have heard rumors that taking aspirin before a night of heavy drinking can prevent a hangover. But this is actually a terrible idea. “If you take aspirin before drinking, you will get much drunker on the same amount of alcohol,” Andersen explains. This apparently tends to affect men more than women, but is ultimately dangerous for both sexes.

However, it is generally safe to take an aspirin at the end of the night, as long as you have no tendency to stomach ulcers. (Take it with a big glass of water to help prevent dehydration the next day.)

Mixing alcohol with other drugs can be just asking for trouble. Drug/alcohol combos that are particularly dangerous, as rates of ER visits and overdose can attest, include opioids, benzos and cocaine—but that’s by no means an exhaustive list. Even excessive amounts of something as innocuous-seeming as caffeine can be risky, by encouraging you to keep drinking for much longer than you normally would.

If you’re in any doubt about whether the drug you’re taking is safe with alcohol, by far the safest thing to do is avoid booze entirely, at least until you can check with a medical practitioner.

Deal with your hangover safely

If you ignore all this wise advice and end up with a horrible hangover after all, the best thing to do is rehydrate and eat some food. Chocolate milk, tomatoes, bananas, and herbal teas are all good options. (Here’s an in-depth list of hangover cures—and here’s the ultra-expensive alternative, if you’re in NYC.)

But don’t just chug vast quantities of water, as that can lead to water intoxication, warns Anderson. In addition, mild exercise like yoga or walking may help you feel better.

Ignore the haters

Drinking should always be a choice—not something you feel pressured into, no matter what the occasion. If your family or friends give you a hard time about abstaining from alcohol on New Year’s Eve, Anderson suggests telling them you’re on antibiotics. Or you can quietly drink near-beer, grape juice, or soda and they will likely not even notice a difference.

Whatever your choice, the holidays can be fun with or without booze. “If you don’t want to drink at all, that is your right too,” Anderson says. “You will find nowadays that more and more people respect that.”


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License to Sin: How to Dodge a Devilish Self-Control Loophole

 You want another slice of cake or glass of wine, but you know you shouldn’t have one.

It’s the classic self-control dilemma.
But luckily there’s a loophole; sometimes we mentally give ourselves permission to indulge: “Well, I’ve worked hard today, so I’ll have another slice of cake or glass of wine.”
Now there’s a ‘license to sin’.
A recent study cleverly demonstrates this ‘license to sin’ and shows how dangerous it can be (de Witt Huberts et al., 2012).

A little snack

To investigate, the researchers tricked one group of people into thinking they’d worked twice as hard on a boring test as another group.
Both groups were then asked to do a ‘taste test’ of some rather tempting looking snacks.
The group that thought they’d worked harder now had more of a ‘license to sin’ as a reward to themselves.
And sure enough they ate, on average, 130 calories more in 10 minutes than the other group.
It’s fascinating that the participants did this without being told they’d worked harder or being given any other cues.
Also remember that, on average, both groups had their mental self-control muscles depleted the same amount as they’d both spent the same time doing the boring task.

Avoid the loophole

What this study is showing is that these well-worn mental thought processes can be insidious. The mind has all sorts of tricks it plays so that it can get what it wants.
The ‘license to sin’ is one of them. You want to over-indulge, so your mind creates this little story that says: I’ve worked hard, so I deserve it.
The clever thing is that it can completely bypass all those logical, rational things we’ve told ourselves about healthy eating (or whatever it is) and, non-coincidentally, we get what we want.
None of this is to say that we shouldn’t indulge ourselves from time-to-time, but the question is: how often is the license to sin being invoked?
It’s a way of allowing our misbehaviour that is like an exception we all know about, but somehow don’t pull ourselves up on.
Being more aware of, and watching out for this trick may be useful in bolstering our self-control.
source: PsyBlog