The image of the drunk artist or author is a common one, and many creative people struggle with alcohol and drug problems during their lives; in some cases in spite of tremendous financial and popular success. As a society we've often wrestled to comprehend the tragedy of such talented young people like Amy Winehouse or Jimi Hendrix that die sudden deaths at a young age from intoxication problems. It doesn't seem to make sense. Now, new scientific research is showing that, in fact, it makes perfect sense. An article published in Consciousness and Cognition explains that test subjects intoxicated at a blood alcohol level of 0.75, which is the equivalent of two pints of beer, performed better under tests designed to examine their creativity. Psychologists at the University of Illinois set 40 young men a series of brain teasers known as RAT tests (Remote Associates Test).
Drinking during adolescence has both short- and long-term negative health consequences. Prior research has shown that peer influence is one of the most important predictors of alcohol use in adolescence. This study used a high-school chat session to examine peer influence on adolescent drinking, finding that anti-alcohol norms seemed more influential than pro-alcohol norms, and that adolescents were more influenced by their high-status than low-status peers. Results will be published in the July 2012 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View. "The key short-term consequences of drinking during adolescence are aggression, motor vehicle accidents, unprotected sex, alcohol poisoning, and vandalism, " explained Hanneke A. Teunissen, a doctoral student at Radboud University Nijmegen as well as corresponding author for the study.
Underage female drinkers have been at a growing risk of fatal car crashes in recent years - so much that they've caught up with their male counterparts, according to a study in the May issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. Back in 1996, the U.S. had a gender split when it came to underage drinkers' odds of being involved in a fatal car crash: at any given blood-alcohol level, young men had a higher risk of a fatal crash than young women did. But by 2007, the new study found, that gender gap had closed. The exact reasons are not clear. But it's possible that young women are taking greater risks on the road. "Young women who drink and drive may be behaving more like young men who drink and drive, " says lead researcher Robert B. Voas, Ph.D., of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation in Calverton, Maryland.
The journal Alcohol and Alcoholism has published a new review of studies that have researched the association between alcohol consumption and breast cancer. The findings revealed that the risk of breast cancer rises by 5% for low level or moderate drinkers, i.e. women who have one drink per day, whilst the risk for those who consume three or more drinks daily (heavy consumption) is 40-50% higher. In Northern Europe and North America, about 5% of breast cancers are due to alcohol consumption, whilst in Italy and France, where alcohol consumption is more common amongst women, 10% of breast cancers are due to drinking alcohol. Breast cancer is the most common cancer amongst European and American women. Numerous population studies have demonstrated that light drinking is very common amongst women and that the risk of associated breast cancer is a major health issue in the western world.
The new UK alcohol strategy includes a plan to ensure that General Practitioners (GPs) advise heavy drinkers to cut down (The Government's Alcohol Strategy, 23 March 2012, downloadable*). There is good evidence that this can reduce how much people drink. The big question is, what should GPs say to their patients? A new study published online by the scientific journal Addiction analysed the advice given by GPs in all the major clinical trials evaluating this kind of advice, looking for common components linked to the largest reductions in drinking across the different studies. Among the many different components of the advice, such as providing information on the harms of excessive drinking, trying to boost motivation and self-confidence, and advising on avoidance of social cues for drinking, they found that the most effective piece of advice was to encourage the patient to monitor his or her alcohol consumption, typically by keeping a daily record.