Category Archives: Alcohol

May 20 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: May 20

CDC Issues First Comprehensive Report on Children’s Mental Health in the United States
As many as one in five American children under the age of 17 has a diagnosable mental disorder according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report is the first expansive report on children's mental health ever done by the U.S. government and looked at six conditions:

  • attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • behavioral or conduct disorders
  • mood and anxiety disorders
  • autism spectrum disorders
  • substance abuse
  • Tourette syndrome

The most common disorder for children age 3 through 17 is ADHD (7 percent) followed by behavioral or conduct problems (3.5 percent), anxiety (3 percent), depression (2 percent), and  autism spectrum disorders (1 percent).

Five percent of teens reported abusing or being dependent on illegal drugs, 4 percent abused alcohol and 3 percent reported smoking cigarettes regularly. Boys were more likely than girls to have the disorders. Read more on mental health.

New PSAs Help Parents Talk to Younger Kids about the Dangers of Underage Drinking
“Talk. They Hear You,”
is a new national public service announcement (PSA) campaign from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) to empower parents to talk to children as young as nine about the dangers of underage drinking. SAMHSA research shows that more than a quarter of American youth engage in underage drinking, and  though there has been progress in reducing the extent of underage drinking in recent years, particularly among those aged 17 and younger, the rates of underage drinking are still unacceptably high, according to SAMHSA. A report from late last year shows that 26.6 percent of 12-20 year-olds report drinking in the month before they were surveyed and 8.7 percent of them purchased their own alcohol the last time they drank, despite the fact that all fifty states and the District of Columbia currently have laws prohibiting the purchase and use of alcoholic beverages by anyone under age 21.  

“Even though drinking is often glamorized, the truth is that underage drinking can lead to poor academic performance, sexual assault, injury, and even death,” said said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde.

The goal of the new PSA is to help parents start a conversation about alcohol before their children become teenagers. Read more on addiction.

Advocacy Groups Petition FDA to Ban Menthol Flavored Cigarettes
In response to a Citizen Petition by close to twenty health and tobacco control advocacy groups, the Food and Drug Administration has opened a docket for public comment on banning menthol in cigarettes. In 2009, according to the Tobacco Control Legal Consortium, the lead group on the petition, Congress banned all flavors in cigarettes except menthol, and directed the FDA to decide whether continued sale of menthol cigarettes is “appropriate for public health." According to the petition, menthol cigarettes are the source of addiction for nearly half of all teen smokers. Read more on tobacco.

Feb 12 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: February 12

Certain Alcohol Brands Dominate Underage Drinking
A small number of alcohol brands in particular are most popular with underage drinkers, according to a new study in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. About 27.9 percent of underage youth reporting they’d had Bud Light in the past 30 days, making it the most used. Smirnoff Malt Beverages and Budweiser were second and third. “Importantly, this report paves the way for subsequent studies to explore the association between exposure to alcohol advertising and marketing efforts and drinking behavior in young people,” said study author David Jernigan, PhD, director of the Center on Alcohol Marketing and Youth at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Read more on alcohol.

Report: Informational Tools Help Men Make Better Prostate Health Decisions
Decision-making aids help men make better—and more informed—decisions about prostate screenings, according to a new report in JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers found the aids help the men weigh different possible outcomes, such as catching extra cancers, possibly reducing their risk of death or avoiding unpleasant side effects. As many as one in four family physicians regular perform prostate screenings without first getting a patient’s permission, according to Reuters. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends against prostate-specific antigen tests for men who are not at high-risk. Read more on cancer.

Study: Kids Treated for ADHD Still Show Serious Symptoms
As many as 90 percent of kids who are treated for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) still show serious symptoms after six years, indicating the chronic condition requires advancements in long-term behavioral and pharmacological treatments, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry. The study did not look into issues such as whether medications were ineffective or not taken as prescribed. "Our study was not designed to answer these questions, but whatever the reason may be, it is worrisome that children with ADHD, even when treated with medication, continue to experience symptoms, and what we need to find out is why that is and how we can do better," said lead investigator Mark Riddle, MD, a pediatric psychiatrist at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center. ADHD causes difficulty in concentration, restlessness, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior. Read more on mental health.

Feb 8 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: February 8

Baby Boomers’ Health Trailing Their Parents’ Generation Despite Medical Advances

Baby boomers, the generation born in the two decades after World War II, are in worse health than their parents were at the same stage of life, according to a U.S. study published in JAMA Internal Medicine. Researchers analyzed data from National Health and Nutrition Surveys (NHANES) of people 46 to 64 years old between 1988 and 1994 and the baby boomers who were in the same age range between 2007 and 2010.

In spite of medical advances, the study shows the boomers fared worse than their parents at the same age:

  • 13 percent of the baby boomer generation reported being in “excellent” health in middle age, compared to 32 percent of the previous generation
  • 39 percent of boomers were obese, compared to 29 percent of the previous generation
  • 16 percent of boomers had diabetes, compared to 12 percent of the previous generation.

While the study doesn’t explain why baby boomers are in worse shape than their predecessors, Dana King, the study’s lead author believes it may be attributed to their poor lifestyle habits.

Read more on nutrition and obesity

Alcohol Price Increase Leads to Immediate Drop in Drink-Related Deaths

Increasing the minimum price of alcohol by 10 percent can lead to immediate and significant drops in drink-related deaths, according to a study published in the journal, Addiction. Conducted by Canadian researchers in the western province of British Columbia, the study looks at three categories of alcohol related deaths: wholly alcohol attributable, acute, and chronic.

Each death rate was analyzed from 2002 to 2009 against increases in government-set minimum prices of alcoholic drinks. The major finding relates to wholly attributable deaths in which a 10 percent price rise was followed by a 32 percent death rate drop. Researchers say the reason for the lower death rates are likely due to the fact that raising the price of cheaper drinks makes heavy drinkers drink less.

Read more on alcohol

Intimate Partner Violence and Maternal Depression May Be Associated with Child’s ADHD

Preschoolers with known exposure to intimate partner violence (IPV) or parental depression may be more likely to develop attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) by the age of six and be prescribed psychotropic medication, new research from JAMA Pediatrics Journal suggests. Researchers from Indiana University looked at 2,422 children who were part of the Child Health Improvement Through Computer Automation (CHICA) program, a computer-based decision support system that combines elements for implementing clinical guidelines in pediatric practice. Researchers collected information related to IPV and mental status of the parents, as well as the child's psychotropic drug treatment between 2004 and 2012.

Fifty-eight caregivers reported a history of IPV and/or parental depressive symptoms before their child turned three. Sixty-nine reported IPV only and 704 reported depressive symptoms only during this time frame. Children of parents reporting both IPV and depressive symptoms were more likely to have a diagnosis of ADHD and children whose parents reported depressive symptoms were more likely to have been prescribed psychotropic medication. While the study doesn’t prove a cause-and-effect link between IPV and/or maternal depression and likelihood of an ADHD diagnosis, the researchers say it does show a strong association.

The American Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology recently issued guidelines recommending that women get screened by their physicians for intimate partner violence at regular intervals, including during pregnancy. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, which advises the Department of Health and Human Services, recently issued final guidelines for doctors to screen women of childbearing age for intimate partner violence and either provide or refer women who appear to be victims of IPV for services.

Read more on pediatrics

Feb 6 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: February 6

U.S. Adults with Mental Illness Have Higher Smoking Rates
Adults with mental illness have a smoking rate 70 percent higher than adults with no mental illness, according to the February 2013 Vital Signs report released yesterday by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The report was done in collaboration with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and found that 36 percent of adults with a mental illness are cigarette smokers, compared with only 21 percent of adults who do not have a mental illness. Among adults with mental illness, smoking prevalence is especially high among younger adults, American Indians, Alaska Natives, those living below the poverty line, and those with lower levels of education. Differences also exist across states. Smoking prevalence for people with mental illness ranges from 18.2 percent in Utah to 48.7 percent in West Virginia. The data used to determine the smoking rates in the Vital Signs report comes from 2009–2011 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Mental illness was defined as having a diagnosable mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder, excluding developmental and substance use disorders, in the past 12 months. The report also found that, on average, adult smokers with mental illness smoke more cigarettes per month than those without mental illness (331 vs. 310 cigarettes) and are less likely to quit smoking. “Special efforts are needed to raise awareness about the burden of smoking among people with mental illness and to monitor progress in addressing this disparity,” said SAMHSA administrator, Pamela S. Hyde. Read more on tobacco.

NIH Announces Three Major Clinical Trials for Influenza Treatments
Three clinical trials aimed at finding more effective flu treatments are enrolling volunteers who have the virus at the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Center in Bethesda, Md., as well as at several dozen other domestic and international sites.

  • One study will look at whether the drug Tamiflu reduces the time that infected people continue to produce virus in the upper airway.
  • The second trial will test whether a combination of three licensed antiviral drugs works better than Tamiflu in people with influenza that have chronic health conditions, such as heart or lung disease, which put them at greater risk of severe illness.
  • The third trial will test whether treatment with plasma enriched with anti-influenza antibodies improves the condition of hospitalized influenza patients compared to standard antiviral treatment on its own.

“This year’s flu season came earlier than usual and has been particularly hard on the elderly,” said Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious diseases. “Despite our best efforts to prevent influenza through vaccination, people still get sick every year with the flu. At best, influenza infection is a miserable experience. At worst, it can be a deadly one. We need better ways to treat people with influenza, which kills thousands of people in the United States each year, and clinical research supported by NIAID helps to address that need.” Read more on flu.

Doctors Miss Opportunities for Underage Alcohol Screening
A new survey of more than 2,500 10th grade students published in Pediatrics found that 34 percent reported drinking alcohol in the past month and 26 percent said they had binged, defined as five or more drinks per occasion for males, and four or more for females. However, while more than 80 percent of those surveyed said they’d seen a doctor in the past year, just 54 percent of that group was asked by their physicians about drinking, and only 40 percent were advised about dangers associated with alcohol. In addition, of those students who had been seen by a doctor in the past year and who reported drinking in the past month, only 23 percent said they were advised to reduce or stop drinking. The survey was funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAA). The researchers say studies have shown that screening and brief interventions by health care providers, such as asking patients about alcohol use and advising them to reduce risky drinking, can result in significant, lasting reductions in drinking levels and alcohol-related problems among adults.  “Alcohol is by far the drug of choice among youth," says NIAAA acting director Kenneth R. Warren, PhD. “The findings reported [in this study] indicate that we must redouble our efforts to help clinicians make alcohol screening a routine part of patient care for young people in the United States.” Read more on alcohol.

Jan 9 2013
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Public Health News Roundup: January 9

Research Suggests Problems with Mental Health Treatment of Suicidal Teenagers
More than half of the U.S. teenagers who plan or attempt suicide have previously received mental health treatment, contradicting the belief that lack of access to the treatment is a factor in suicidal behavior, according to a new study in the journal JAMA Psychiatry. The research connects suicidal behavior to issues such as depression, attention-deficit disorder, eating disorders and substance abuse, and demonstrates the need to increase the range of treatment for severely suicidal teenagers. Read more on mental health.

N.C. Youth Overwhelming Oppose Smoking at Home, Indoors
A large majority of North Carolina youth are opposed to smoking in the home, indoors, at work and in cars, according to a new study in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Preventing Chronic Disease. Researchers found 80 percent of middle school students and 78 percent of high school students were against smoking, though the survey did not ask whether they thought it should be illegal. Researchers say the percentages are especially significant because tobacco plays a significant role in the state’s economy. "They're aware of the harmful effects of secondhand smoke exposure, and they understand the benefits of smoke-free policies," said study co-author Leah Ranney, associate director at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's Tobacco Prevention and Evaluation Program. "It tells you how effective our campaigns were. We are a tobacco-growing state, which makes it more challenging for us to successfully promote prevention of uptake of tobacco or cessation." Read more on tobacco.

Dec 18 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: December 18

Thinking Before Drinking During the Holidays
The National Institutes of Health is promoting an online and print booklet to make people think before drinking to excess during the holidays. Information includes medication and conditions that can interact badly with alcohol. Read more on alcohol.

Steep Rise in Recent Substance Abuse Hospital Admissions Linked to People Combining Certain Drugs
Substance abuse treatment admissions for addiction involving use of benzodiazepine together with narcotic pain relievers increased a total of 569.7 percent, to 33,701, from 2000 to 2010, according to a new report by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Overall substance abuse treatment admissions of people ages 12 and older in the same period rose 4 percent, to 1.82 million, the agency said. “Clearly, the rise in this form of substance abuse is a public health problem that all parts of the treatment community need to be aware of,” said SAMHSA Administrator Pamela S. Hyde. “When patients are battling severe withdrawal effects from two addictive drugs, new treatment strategies may be needed to meet this challenge. These findings will help us better understand the nature and scope of this problem and to develop better approaches to address it.” Read more on substance abuse.

Snacking on Healthier Foods Can Decrease Calorie Intakes for Kids
What you snack on matters. In a new study in the journal Pediatrics, 200 children in third to sixth grades were randomly given one of four snacks:  potato chips, cheese, vegetables, or a combination of cheese and vegetables. The kids were told to snack freely until they felt full, while watching a 45-minute cartoon. Children who ate the combination snack consumed 72 percent fewer calories compared to children who ate potato chips, and they needed significantly fewer calories to feel satisfied. Children offered only cheese also consumed fewer calories than those who were served potato chips. Read more on nutrition.

Nov 21 2012
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Recommended Reading: Don’t Drink and Shop…or Debate

Walmart, Sears and other big retailers kicked off a new Thanksgiving trend this week:  the stores will open their doors Thanksgiving evening for Black Friday sales, attracting dedicated bargain shoppers. But a thoughtful and well researched article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution published earlier this week might make you think twice: if you’ve been drinking alcohol during dinner (or are drowsy from turkey tryptophan) and head straight to the car, you pose a risk to yourself and others on the road. And that risk accelerates if you’re scanning your smart phone from the steering wheel, looking for the best buys in your neighborhood.  

As you get ready for the marathon shopping night leading into the biggest shopping day of the year, APHA’s Public Health Newswire offers some suggestions for a safe, healthy and drama-free Thanksgiving. The tongue-in-cheek article offers fun tips on how to safely discuss controversial health issues with extended family, as well as more serious public health hints, including proper food safety steps and how to consider health without counting calories. 

These hints will help you leave the dinner table alive. And above all have a safe, healthy Thanksgiving!

>>Read the driving safety article.
>>Read the healthy Thanksgiving article.

Nov 5 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: November 5

Third Vaccine Dose May Help Prevent Mumps Outbreaks
A third dose of measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine may have helped to control a mumps outbreak in a highly vaccinated New York community during 2009 and 2010, according to a new study, the first on the effects of a third MMR dose, published recently in Pediatrics. Most of the people in the community had received the two MMR doses currently recommended in the United States. In the outbreak community, a third-dose of MMR vaccine was offered to eligible 11 to 17-year-olds. After that intervention, mumps declined by 96 percent in the age group and by 75.6 percent in the community overall. Read more on vaccines.

Proximity to Bars May Increase Alcohol Consumption
A recent study in the journal Addiction finds that living close to a bar may increase the amount of alcohol that people drink. The study, conducted in Finland, found that when a person moved one kilometer (0.6 mile) closer to a bar, the odds of becoming a heavy drinker rose 17 percent. Read more on addiction.

Kid Screen Time Study Helped to Reduce Meals Eaten In Front of the TV
A new Pediatrics study finds that a program aimed at reducing the number of hours kids spend in front of televisions, computers and video games did not reach its goal of cutting screen time, but did reduce the number of meals children ate in front of the television. That may reduce childhood obesity rates, say the researchers from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Read more on obesity.

Oct 17 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: October 17

CDC: U.S. Cholesterol Levels Improved Since the 1980s
The total cholesterol and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels of an average U.S. adult have been steadily improving over the past two decades, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. High cholesterol is often a precursor to heart disease. Probable explanations for the overall improvement in public health include improvements in diet since the late 1980s, according to Reuters. "It's important and significant, the reduction that we see here, but it's not unbelievable," said Goodarz Danaei, MD, from the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, who was not a part of the study carried out by researchers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "I don't think we needed a huge change in diet... to produce this change." Read more on heart health.

Older Heart Attack Survivors Often Fail to Take Prescription Meds
Older heart attack survivors often do not follow through with their prescription medications meant to decrease the likelihood of another attack, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Researchers at the University of Maryland analyzed the long-term use of medications most often given to people post-heart attacks: statins, ACE inhibitors/angiotensin receptor blockers, beta-blockers and the blood thinner clopidogrel. Ilene Zuckerman, professor and chair of the department of pharmaceutical health services research at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy, said proper use of the drugs can result in a “long-term beneficial effect” on patient health. Read more on older adults.

Study: Alcohol a Bigger Cause of Early Death than Smoking
Alcohol abuse decreases life spans even more than smoking, according to a new study in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. Researchers followed the health of approximately 4,000 people over a 14-year period. Alcohol-dependent women were nearly 5 times as likely as those who were not to die prematurely; the rates was almost double for men. "This paper confirms the well-known association between alcoholism and premature death," said James Garbutt, MD, professor of psychiatry at the University of North Carolina. "It also supports the evidence that women are more likely to have more severe health problems from alcohol than men—'sicker quicker.'" Garbutt was not a part of the study. Read more on alcohol.

Oct 4 2012
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Public Health News Roundup: October 4

CDC: Teen Drinking and Driving Down 54% From 1991 to 2011
Drinking and driving by high school students ages 16 and older dropped 54 percent in the 20 years between 1991 and 2011, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC Vital Signs study showed that only 10 percent of the students in that age group drove after drinking in 2011. “We are moving in the right direction. Rates of teen drinking and driving have been cut in half in 20 years,” said CDC Director Thomas R. Frieden, MD, MPH. “But we must keep up the momentum -- one in 10 high school teens, aged 16 and older, drinks and drives each month, endangering themselves and others.” Read more on alcohol.

New Test Could Improve Genetic Screening in Newborns
A simple blood test could help doctors quickly diagnose and treat genetic conditions in newborns, according to a new study. The test is still in its early stages. Newborns are already screening for genetic disorders, but the tests can be costly and time-consuming, according to Stephen Kingsmore, MD, director of the Center for Pediatric Genomic Medicine at the Children's Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. If successful, this new test would speed up the process and allow for quicker treatment. "Genome analysis is moving from being a research tool that holds promise to being something that's ready to ... be used for real medical care in real patients," he said, according to HealthDay. Read more in infant health.

Study Links Aspirin, Slower Mental Decline in Older Women
A daily dose of aspirin could help slow mental decline in older women as it also helps protect against heart attacks, according to a study in the journal BMJ Open. The five-year Swedish study looked at approximately 700 women ages 70 to 92. The reason for the connection is not yet known, but may be related to a “neuro-protective effect” caused by the aspirin, according to study co-author Silke Kern, MD. The study found a correlation, but not causation, according to HealthDay. "I would not start taking aspirin because of this study," said Deepak Bhatt, MD, director of the integrated cardiovascular intervention program at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston. "This needs to be tested in a larger number of patients before we can say that aspirin has a role in preventing cognitive decline in women or men." Read more on heart health.