Understanding Caffeine Addiction

Caffeine is found in most of the beverages which are consumed on a daily basis. However, addiction to caffeine may have certain harmful effects, which have to be taken care of to prevent psychological disorders.

Unbeknownst to most people in the world, they are addicted to caffeine on a lot of levels. It is present in a lot of things which are consumed on a daily basis. In fact, a regular cup of coffee contains up to 100mg of caffeine. In addition to that, a cup of tea contains 50mg of caffeine. However, there are many more things that contain coffee, and because of the consumption of such things on a regular basis, people inadvertently become addicted to caffeine. Out studies have revealed that over 60% of the world population is addicted to caffeine.

Based on our studies at www.newspsychology.com, you might wonder if there is something too harmful about consuming caffeine or not, because after all, there are more harmful addiction such as alcohol and drugs. In addition to that, caffeine gives you energy. So there is nothing essentially harmful about it. However, the truth is a different story altogether.

Harmful Effects Of Caffeine

Caffeine is something which has severe psychological effects which manifests itself if it is consumed to a really large extent. Therefore, it is important to understand the psychological effects of caffeine, to limit the amount of caffeine that is to be consumed. These include-

  • Irritability
  • Incoherent speech
  • Anxiety and stress
  • Unnecessary excitement
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite

That it is amply evident that when you consume caffeine, you are willingly inviting these serious psychological effects, which take several years, and in some cases, a whole lifetime to cure. It is best to limit the intake of the substance to a cup of coffee a day, and nothing more.

How To Deal With Addiction

Addiction is one of the most dangerous problems that psychologists have to deal with, and unfortunately also very common. Here are some of the best ways to tackle addiction.

Addiction is one of the greatest vices of people in today’s world. In fact, it has been so for time immemorial. People generally get addicted to dangerous substances, which puts them in a kind of trance, which separates them from reality. It is a means by which people try to dull their senses. Even when they are inclined to take such substances, it is psychological reason which compels them to do so. People can get addicted to things like alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, and many other things. They might even get addicted to things like caffeine. 

It is incredibly dangerous to get addicted to anything, as it has the power to alter the course of one’s life. In addition to that, it can also severely affect the psychology. Therefore, we conducted an extensive study, whereby we discovered the best, most effective, yet non-intrusive ways to ensure that people recover from their addictions.

Recovering from addiction

According to our studies at www.newspsychology.com, when a person is addicted, they are unable to comprehend the world around them in normal terms. This means that they become social secluded and withdrawn. They might also manifest their anger, frustration and inability through violence, self-harm and other such things. Some effective ways to handle this includes-

  • Distraction, which is the first thing that psychologists suggest. When the addict is able to get distracted, then they do not constantly think about eh substance to which they are addicted
  • Another sure shot way of treating such conditions is by providing alternatives and giving them something else to obsess with.

There are no medicines for this sort of condition. It is only the ability of the doctor looking over them, and their own will power, which could cure them of their addiction.

Caffeine addiction

Caffeine is a drug, it is a stimulant and it is a highly addictive substance and along with nicotine and alcohol, is one of the most commonly used drugs worldwide. Caffeine is a xanthine alkaloid. Its effects are mediated not only by the mesolimbic dopaminergic system but also by its ability to block adenosine receptors in the CNS. Endogenous adenosine has sedative, anxiolytic and anticonvulsant effects which are blocked by caffeine.

 About 10 billion pounds of coffee are consumed yearly throughout the world.

Low to moderate doses (30–200 mg/d) tend to improve some aspects of performance (eg, vigilance). The approximate content of caffeine in a (180-mL) cup of beverage is as follows: brewed coffee, 80–140 mg; instant coffee, 60–100 mg; decaffeinated coffee, 1–6 mg; black leaf tea, 30–80 mg; tea bags, 25–75 mg; instant tea, 30–60 mg; cocoa, 10–50 mg; and 12-oz cola drinks, 30–65 mg. A 2-oz chocolate candy bar has about 20 mg. Some herbal teas (eg, "morning thunder") contain caffeine. Caffeine-containing analgesics usually contain approximately 30 mg per unit. Symptoms of caffeinism (usually associated with ingestion of over 500 mg/d) include anxiety, agitation, restlessness, insomnia, a feeling of being "wired and somatic symptoms referable to the heart and gastrointestinal tract. It is common for a case of caffeinism to present as an anxiety disorder. It is also common for caffeine and other stimulants to precipitate severe symptoms in compensated schizophrenic and manic-depressive patients. Chronically depressed patients often use caffeine drinks as self-medication. This diagnostic clue may help distinguish some major affective disorders. Withdrawal from caffeine (> 250 mg/d) can produce headaches, irritability, lethargy, and occasional nausea.

Physical and psychological addiction can result from excessive caffeine intake. It is now termed as one of the fatal addictions because it is playing a major role in fabricating most of the heart and bones’ diseases. In an interview, Roland Griffiths, a professor in the departments of psychiatry and neuroscience at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said that studies had demonstrated that people who take in a minimum of 100 mg of caffeine per day (about the amount in one cup of coffee) can acquire a physical dependence that would trigger withdrawal symptoms that include headaches, muscle pain and stiffness, lethargy, nausea, vomiting, depressed mood, and marked irritability. Continued exposure to caffeine will lead the body to create more adenosine receptors in the central nervous system which makes it more sensitive to the effects of adenosine in two ways. Firstly, it will reduce the stimulatory effects of caffeine by increasing tolerance. Secondly, it will increase the withdrawal symptoms of caffeine as the body will be more sensitive to the effects of adenosine once caffeine intake stops. Caffeine tolerance develops very quickly. Tolerance to the sleep disruption effects of caffeine were seen after consumption of 400 mg of caffeine 3 times a day for 7 days, whereas complete tolerance was observed after consumption of 300 mg 3 times a day for 18 days.

In all the American and European states special counseling center have been developed to treat caffeine addiction and caffeine withdrawl as their fast paced environment is more prone to it. An institution Holistic Addiction Treatment Program not only cures other addictions but has started treating this addiction as well.

Caffeine addiction, if unwrapped to brutality causes different cancers. Thus, a timely diagnosis of this (so-called) disease is very important for one’s successful recovery and prevention from any fatal disease. Most of us don’t even know that even non-caffeinated products do contain some sorts of stimulants which can turn a normal person into an addict.

Withdrawal symptoms begin 12 to 24 hours after the last caffeine intake and become most severe after a couple of days. The symptoms die away over two to nine days:

Headache, Fatigue or drowsiness, Depressed or irritable moods, Anxiety, Difficulty in concentrating, Work difficulty, Nausea, Muscle pain or stiffness, Reduction in physical and cognitive ability.

Removing Caffeine Addiction can be problematic.  Because caffeine can cause both Chemical and  Psychological addiction patterns.

Brain study reveals the roots of chocolate temptations

Researchers have new evidence in rats to explain how it is that chocolate candies can be so completely irresistible. The urge to overeat such deliciously sweet and fatty treats traces to an unexpected part of the brain and its production of a natural, opium-like chemical, according to a report published online on September 20th in Current Biology, a Cell Press publication.

This means that the brain has more extensive systems to make individuals want to overconsume rewards than previously thought," said Alexandra DiFeliceantonio of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. "It may be one reason why overconsumption is a problem today."

DiFeliceantonio's team made the discovery by giving rats an artificial boost with a drug delivered straight to a brain region called the neostriatum. Those animals gorged themselves on more than twice the number of M&M chocolates than they would otherwise have eaten. The researchers also found that enkephalin, the natural drug-like chemical produced in that same brain region, surged when rats began to eat the candy-coated morsels, too.

It's not that enkephalins or similar drugs make the rats like the chocolates more, the researchers say, but rather that the brain chemicals increase their desire and impulse to eat them.

The findings reveal a surprising extension of the neostriatum's role, as DiFeliceantonio notes that the brain region had primarily been linked to movement. And there is reason to expect that the findings in rats can tell us a lot about our own binge-eating tendencies.

"The same brain area we tested here is active when obese people see foods and when drug addicts see drug scenes," she says. "It seems likely that our enkephalin findings in rats mean that this neurotransmitter may drive some forms of overconsumption and addiction in people."

The researchers now hope to unravel a related phenomenon that some of us might wish we could do more to control: what happens in our brains when we pass by our favorite fast food restaurant and feel that sudden desire to stop.


Journal Reference:

  1. Alexandra G. DiFeliceantonio, Omar S. Mabrouk, Robert T. Kennedy, Kent C. Berridge. Enkephalin Surges in Dorsal Neostriatum as a Signal to Eat. Current Biology, 2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.08.014

Exploring the two-way linkages between binge drinking and unemployment

Many studies have found that problem drinking is related to subsequent unemployment; however, the reverse association is unclear. Some studies have found that unemployment can increase total drinking, alcohol disorders, and/or problem drinking while others have found that unemployment can decrease drinking or have no effect at all. An analysis of binge drinking as either a predictor or outcome of unemployment has found that binge drinking among women seems to have a significant association with long-term unemployment.

Results will be published in the November 2012 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

"Problem drinking while employed could impact on your ability to perform work tasks, due to hang-overs, health problems caused by drinking, frequent absences, or actual 'drunk working,'" explained Mona C. Backhans, a postdoctoral researchers at the Karolinska Institutet as well as corresponding author for the study. "While unemployed, problem drinking may have an impact on your search activity. Employers are also likely to not choose people who lack references from a former employer, who have extensive absence records from their previous employment, or frequent job changes/periods of unemployment."

Backhans explained that contradictory research results may be due to varied circumstances. "Given that unemployment can be seen as a stressor, and alcohol can temporarily reduce tension, many have hypothesized that unemployment should lead to higher consumption," she said. "However, if you are an abstainer or light drinker, it is less likely that you use alcohol in this manner. In fact, given that the unemployed often have financial difficulties and may become socially isolated, some may even reduce their drinking."

Backhans and her colleagues analyzed data on 13,031 Swedish residents (45 % males), 20 to 59 years of age, and currently employed or on leave. The data were collected during two surveys, one in 2002 and another in 2007, and included one question about the frequency of binge drinking. Binge drinking was defined as consuming an amount corresponding to at least 37 cl of spirits at a single occasion in 2002. In 2007, the question was changed to the third AUDIT question and referred to six or more drinks, corresponding to at least 24 cl of spirits.

"For women, binge drinking once a week or more as a predictor was associated with long-term unemployment," said Backhans. "For both men and women, initial associations between frequent binges and any unemployment were explained by the characteristics of the binge drinkers — younger, lower educational qualifications — and in addition for men, more previous unemployment."

When analyzed as an outcome of unemployment, there were no associations between unemployment and later binge drinking for men. Conversely, there were initial associations between long-term unemployment and frequent binges for women, but this was explained by the characteristics of those who became unemployed, Backhans noted, such as prior drinking habits.

"These gender differences reflect the fact that frequent binge drinking probably is a stronger marker for problem drinking for women, as it is less common, and not 'normalized' to the extent that it is for men," said Backhans. "Also, the measure itself may be biased as it refers to the same level of consumption for both men and women, even though women's tolerance levels for alcohol tend to be lower."

Backhans believes it is important to continue researching this topic, in various settings and subgroups, and with various measures of alcohol drinking and problems. "A question here is to what extent a single question on binge drinking can be said to reflect or predict alcohol problems — something that may differ between settings and subgroups," she said. "A strength of our study is that we have been able to adjust both for unemployment and binge drinking prior to the exposure, which enhances the validity of findings, in that they are more likely to be causal than otherwise. Also, women are included, which is still rare. In addition, since women's employment is almost on a par with men in this setting, they are not a selected group, as they should be in societies where women's employment rates are low."

For the women in this group, added Backhans, binge drinking clearly preceded rather than was preceded by unemployment. "However, in times of distress it is always wise to watch one's alcohol intake, whether you are male or female," she said.

Both early alcohol use and early intoxication can herald trouble for college students

An early age at first drink (AFD) has been linked to later alcohol-related problems, which is one of the reasons behind the legal drinking age of 21 in the U.S. It is unclear, however, if increased risk is primarily due to initiation of any drinking, or initiation of heavier drinking. A comparison of the influence of these potential risk factors among college undergraduates found that both an early AFD as well as a quick progression from the first drink to drinking to intoxication independently predicted later problems.

Results will be published in the November 2012 issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research and are currently available at Early View.

"Many studies have found relationships between an early AFD and a range of negative alcohol-related outcomes later in life, including the development of alcohol use disorders, legal problems like DUI, and health problems like cirrhosis of the liver," said Meghan Rabbitt Morean, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of psychiatry at Yale University School of Medicine and corresponding author for the study. "There is also evidence that beginning to drink at an early age is associated with more immediate problems, such as compromised brain development and liver damage during adolescence, risky sexual behaviors, poor performance in school, and use of other substances like marijuana and cocaine."

Harriet de Wit, a professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at The University of Chicago, concurred. "While it is commonly believed that the earlier a person begins drinking alcohol, the more likely it is that he or she will develop problems with drinking, many factors potentially contribute to this relationship, and these factors can only be disentangled with systematic, longitudinal research."

While an early AFD is associated with many negative consequences, it is not clear that it directly causes heavy drinking or other negative outcomes, Morean added. "Prior research on early intoxication … suggested to us that making a distinction between the age at which an individual first has any alcohol and the age at which an individual first drinks to intoxication may have important implications for understanding the relative risk associated with starting to drink at an early age," she said.

Morean and her colleagues examined 1,160 freshman (766 females, 394 males) using data gathered from bi-annual assessments from the summer following high-school senior year through the fall of the fourth year of college (four years in total). Participants self-reported their age of drinking onset and age of first self-defined intoxication, as well as frequency of heavy drinking and alcohol-related problems. Analyses looked at the effects of AFD and the time from first use to first intoxication as predictors of heavy drinking and problems across the four years from high school through college.

"As expected, beginning to use alcohol at an earlier age was associated with heavier drinking and the experience of more negative consequences during senior year of college," said Morean. "Quickly progressing from first alcohol use to drinking to intoxication was also an important predictor of heavy drinking and the experience of alcohol related problems during senior year of college. For example, an adolescent who consumed his first drink at age 15 was at greater risk for heavy drinking and problems than an adolescent who took his first drink at age 17. Further, an adolescent who took his first drink at age 15 and also drank to intoxication at age 15 was at greater risk for heavy drinking and problems than an adolescent who had his first drink at age 15 and did not drink to the point of intoxication until he was 17."

"The authors also found that impulsive personality and family history of alcoholism were related to age of first drink and future problems," added de Wit.

Both Morean and de Wit agreed that early drinking should be delayed, but if it occurs, these youth should be counseled to avoid drinking to intoxication.

"The best way to prevent heavy drinking and the experience of alcohol-related problems is to prevent alcohol use," said Morean. "Therefore, our first recommendation would be to delay the onset of any alcohol use as long as possible. However, despite valiant prevention efforts, the average American adolescent has his or her first alcoholic drink between the ages of 14 and 15 years."

"Furthermore," said de Wit, "it is unlikely that education will discourage high school and college students from drinking at all. However, education may help to make them aware of the potential for developing future problems, and modulate their drinking accordingly."

"It is important to speak to children and adolescents openly about the dangers of heavy drinking and provide them with correct information, for example, 'how many drinks does an average male/female need to drink to exceed the legal level for intoxication?,'" said Morean. "It is also extremely important to remember that heavy drinking during adolescence and early adulthood is not confined to college campuses. Most adolescents begin drinking during high school, a significant portion of whom begin drinking heavily. To help address this, we suggest that new alcohol prevention and intervention efforts targeting high school students be developed with the goal of delaying onset of heavy drinking among those at increased risk due to an early onset of drinking."

Journal Reference:

  1. Meghan E. Morean, William R. Corbin, Kim Fromme. Age of First Use and Delay to First Intoxication in Relation to Trajectories of Heavy Drinking and Alcohol-Related Problems During Emerging Adulthood. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 2012; DOI: 10.1111/j.1530-0277.2012.01812.x

Deep Brain Stimulation to Treat Obesity?

Scientific advances in understanding the "addiction circuitry" of the brain may lead to effective treatment for obesity using deep brain stimulation (DBS), according to a review article in the August issue of Neurosurgery, official journal of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons.

Electrical brain stimulation targeting the "dysregulated reward circuitry" could make DBS — already an accepted treatment for Parkinson's disease — a new option for the difficult-to-treat problem of obesity. Dr. Alexander Taghva of Ohio State University and University of Southern California was lead author of the new review.

New Insights into 'Reward Circuitry'

Obesity is a major public health problem that is notoriously difficult to treat. Although various approaches can promote weight loss, patients typically gain weight soon after the end of treatment. Drug options have shown limited success, with several products removed from the market because of serious adverse effects. Bariatric surgery is effective in many cases of obesity but has a significant failure rate and is associated with side effects.

Drug treatments for obesity have targeted the homeostatic (self-regulating) mechanism regulating appetite and body weight. The homeostatic mechanism is thought to involve the "feeding center" in the hypothalamus, which produces hormones (such as leptin and insulin) that affect feeding behavior.

Initial experiments exploring DBS as a treatment for obesity have targeted the hypothalamus. However — as with drug options focusing on the homeostatic mechanisms — success has been limited.

Possible Role of DBS for Obesity

More recent studies have explored a different mechanism: specifically, the "reward circuitry," of the brain. Research has suggested that obesity is associated with a "relative imbalance" of the reward circuitry. Studies show that obese subjects — like those with addictive behaviors — are more impulsive and less able to delay gratification. The reward circuitry is intimately interconnected with the homeostatic mechanisms.

Together, these studies raise the possibility of new DBS approaches to the treatment of obesity. In DBS, a small electrode is surgically placed in a precise location in the brain. A mild electrical current is delivered to stimulate that area of the brain, with the goal of interrupting abnormal activity. Deep brain stimulation has become a standard and effective treatment for movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease.

Just as stimulation of the brain areas responsible for abnormal movement helps "turn off" tremors in patients with Parkinson's disease, stimulation of the areas involved in dysregulated reward circuitry might be able to "turn off" abnormal feeding behaviors in obese patients. The authors outline evidence implicating several different brain areas involved in the brain's reward circuitry — particularly the "frontostriatal circuitry" — which could be useful targets for DBS.

Previous reports in individual patients have suggested that DBS performed for other reasons — particularly severe obsessive-compulsive disorder — have unexpectedly had unpredicted beneficial effects on addictive behaviors like smoking and overeating. Dr. Taghva and colleagues hope their review will open the way to further exploration of DBS as part of new and effective strategies for the treatment of obesity, perhaps in combination with therapies targeting the homeostatic mechanism.

Journal Reference:

  1. Alexander Taghva, John D. Corrigan, Ali R. Rezai. Obesity and Brain Addiction Circuitry. Neurosurgery, 2012; 71 (2): 224 DOI: 10.1227/NEU.0b013e31825972ab

Internet addiction: Causes at the molecular level

 "It was shown that Internet addiction is not a figment of our imagination," says the lead author, Privatdozent Dr. Christian Montag from the Depart­ment for Differential and Biological Psychology at the University of Bonn. "Researchers and therapists are increasingly closing in on it." Over the past years, the Bonn researchers have interviewed a total of 843 people about their Internet habits. An analysis of the questionnaires shows that 132 men and women in this group exhibit problematic behavior in how they handle the online medium; all their thoughts revolve around the Internet during the day, and they feel their wellbeing is severe­ly impacted if they have to go without it.

Gene variation more frequent in Internet addicts

The researchers from the University of Bonn and the Central Institute of Mental Health in Mannheim compared the genetic makeup of the pro­blematic Internet users with that of healthy control individuals. This showed that the 132 subjects are more often carriers of a genetic variation that also plays a major role in nicotine addiction. "What we already know about the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor in the brain is that a mutation on the related gene promotes addictive behavior," explains Dr. Montag. Nicotine from tobacco fits — just like acetylcholine, which is produced by the body — like a key into this receptor. Both these neurotransmitters play a significant role in activating the brain's reward system. "It seems that this connection is not only essential for nicotine addiction, but also for Internet addiction," reports the Bonn psychologist.

Women more affected by this mutation

The actual mutation is on the CHRNA4 gene that changes the genetic make­up for the Alpha 4 subunit on the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor. "Within the group of subjects exhibiting problematic Internet behavior this variant occurs more frequently — in particular, in women," says Dr. Montag. This finding will have to be validated further because numerous surveys have found that men are more prone to Internet addiction than women. The psychologist assumes, "The sex-specific genetic finding may result from a specific subgroup of Internet dependency, such as the use of social networks or such."

Better addiction diagnosis through biological markers

Dr. Montag added that studies including more subjects are required to further analyze the connection between this mutation and Internet addiction. "But the current data already shows that there are clear indications for genetic causes of Internet addiction." He added that with the mutation, a biological marker had been found that would allow to characterize online addiction from a neuro-scientific angle. "If such connections are better understood, this will also result in important indications for better therapies," says Dr. Montag.

Journal Reference:

  1. Christian Montag, Peter Kirsch, Carina Sauer, Sebastian Markett, Martin Reuter. The Role of the CHRNA4 Gene in Internet Addiction. Journal of Addiction Medicine, 2012; 6 (3): 191 DOI: 10.1097/ADM.0b013e31825ba7e7

Imaging study sheds new light on alcohol-related birth defects

— A collaborative research effort by scientists at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Duke University, and University College of London in the UK, sheds new light on alcohol-related birth defects.

The project, led by Kathleen K. Sulik, PhD, a professor in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology and the Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies at UNC, could help enhance how doctors diagnose birth defects caused by alcohol exposure in the womb. The findings also illustrate how the precise timing of that exposure could determine the specific kinds of defects.

"We now know that maternal alcohol use is the leading known and preventable cause of birth defects and mental disability in the United States," Sulik said. "Alcohol's effects can cause a range of cognitive, developmental and behavioral problems that typically become evident during childhood, and last a lifetime."

Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is at the severe end of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD). First described in 1972, FAS is recognized by a specific pattern of facial features: small eyelid openings, a smooth ridge on the upper lip (absence of a central groove, or philtrum), and a thin upper lip border.

In its full-blown state, FAS affects roughly 1 in 750 live births in the U.S. And while clinicians typically look for those classical facial features in making a diagnosis, within the broader classification of FASD "adverse outcomes vary considerably and most individuals don't exhibit the facial characteristics that currently define FAS," said the study's lead author Robert J. Lipinski, PhD, a postdoctoral scientist in Sulik's lab. "This study could expand the base of diagnostic criteria used by clinicians who suspect problems caused by maternal alcohol use."

In their animal-based studies, the Sulik lab team has collaborated with co-author G. Allan Johnson, PhD and his group at Duke University's Center for In Vivo Microscopy. Johnson, professor of radiology and physics, has developed new imaging tools with spatial resolution up to a million times higher than clinical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). These include small bore tools suitable for imaging fetal mice that are only 15 mm long.

To quantify facial shape from MRI data, the study team turned to co-author Peter Hammond, a professor of computational biology at UCL's Institute of Child Health, in London. Hammond invented powerful new techniques for 3D shape analysis that have already proven successful in objectively defining facial shape changes in humans.

In the study, described in the August 22, 2012 issue of the online journal PLOS ONE, Lipinski and Sulik treated one group of mice with alcohol on their seventh day of pregnancy, a time corresponding to the third week of pregnancy in humans. A second group of mice was treated just 36 hours later, approximating the fourth week of human pregnancy. The amount of alcohol given was large, "high doses that most women wouldn't achieve unless they were alcoholic and had a tolerance for alcohol," Sulik said.

Near the end of pregnancy, the fetuses were then imaged at Duke University. These 3D data sets showed individual brain regions, as well as accurate and detailed facial surfaces, from which Hammond and research assistant and co-author Michael Suttie performed shape analyses.

The team found that the earlier alcohol exposure time elicited the classic FAS facial features, including characteristic abnormalities of the upper lip and eyes. What they observed in fetuses exposed just 36 hours later, however, was a surprise. These mice exhibited unique and in some cases opposing facial patterns, such as shortened upper lip, a present philtrum, and the brain, instead of appearing too narrow in the front, appeared wide.

"Overall, the results of our studies show that alcohol can cause more than one pattern of birth defects, and that the type and extent of brain abnormalities — which are the most devastating manifestation of prenatal alcohol exposure — in some cases may be predicted by specific facial features," Sulik said. "And, importantly, alcohol can cause tremendously devastating and permanent damage at a time in development when most women don't recognize that they're pregnant."

Co-authors include Shonagh O'Leary-Moore, Jacob J. Ament, Stephen J. Pecevich, Scott E. Parnell, Elizabeth A. Godin, Joshua L. Everson, Deborah B. Dehart, and Hunter T. Holloway of the UNC Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies; Francois Budin, Ipek Oguz, Martin A. Styner of the UNC department of psychiatry; and Yi Jiang of the Duke University Center for In Vivo Microscopy.

The project was supported by the National Institute of Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering and was conducted in conjunction with the Collaborative Initiative on Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (CIFASD).

Research reported in this publication was supported by the National Institute Of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism of the National Institutes of Health under Award Numbers AA011605 and AA017124. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institutes of Health.

Journal Reference:

  1. Robert J. Lipinski, Peter Hammond, Shonagh K. O’Leary-Moore, Jacob J. Ament, Stephen J. Pecevich, Yi Jiang, Francois Budin, Scott E. Parnell, Michael Suttie, Elizabeth A. Godin, Joshua L. Everson, Deborah B. Dehart, Ipek Oguz, Hunter T. Holloway, Martin A. Styner, G. Allan Johnson, Kathleen K. Sulik. Ethanol-Induced Face-Brain Dysmorphology Patterns Are Correlative and Exposure-Stage Dependent. PLoS ONE, 2012; 7 (8): e43067 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0043067

Alcoholics anonymous participation promotes long-term recovery, study finds

A new study published in a special issue of Substance Abuse finds that recovering alcoholics who help others in 12-step programs furthers their time sober, consideration for others, step-work, and long-term meeting attendance.

These novel findings are from a 10-year, prospective investigation led by Maria Pagano, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and principal investigator of the "Helping Others" study (http://helpingotherslivesober.org). Dr. Pagano and colleagues evaluated the decade long of treatment outcomes using data from a single site in Project MATCH, the largest multi-site randomized clinical trial on behavioral treatments of alcoholism sponsored by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. In a large sample with high representation of Hispanic problem drinkers, this study investigated the 10-year course and impact of programmatic activities in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) on long-term outcomes. Results showed that participation in Alcoholics Anonymous-related Helping (AAH) produced lowered alcohol use and increased interest in others at each subsequent follow-up assessment.

"Our study is the first to explore the 10-year course of engagement in programmatic 12-step activities and their simultaneous influence on long-term outcomes," says Dr. Pagano. "The AAH findings suggest the importance of getting active in service, which can be in a committed 2-month AA service position or as simple as sharing one's personal experience in recovery to another fellow sufferer."

This study also found that alcoholics engaged in AAH did more step-work and attended more meetings than those not helping others. In effect, AAH strengthens the commitment to the program that many newcomers have difficulty with in the beginning.

"Consequently, being interested in others keeps you more connected to your program and pulls you out of the vicious cycle of extreme self-preoccupation that is a posited root of addiction," says Dr. Pagano.

Dr. Pagano's continued research in this area is exploring whether or not similar patterns emerge among minors in recovery.