TAG: "Alcohol"

Grant renewed for project rewarding use of designated drivers


UC Irvine’s Health Education Center will expand anti-DUI effort to 30 California campuses.

Doug Everhart, UC Irvine

Doug Everhart, UC Irvine

UC Irvine’s Health Education Center has received a grant of $673,000 from the California Office of Traffic Safety – through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration – to promote responsible alcohol consumption and safe driving. It’s the fifth consecutive year the center has been awarded such a grant.

In partnership with RADD, “the entertainment industry’s voice for road safety,” UC Irvine has organized 19 universities into a California College DUI Awareness Project consortium over the last four years. The new funding will facilitate that work, permitting the addition of two new regions and 11 more campuses.

RADD encourages bars and restaurants to provide free nonalcoholic drinks, appetizers and other incentives to designated drivers carrying a RADD card. Participating businesses get free listings on regional websites and a RADD rewards card.

“This project continues to grow because of the powerful partnerships that are created,” said Doug Everhart, director of the Health Education Center and principal investigator on the grant project. “The participating establishments understand and value their responsibility to recognize and reward sober designated drivers, who serve a very important role in getting their friends home safely. This business/consumer relationship also contributes to a positive town-and-gown relationship between campuses and the communities in which students live and socialize.”

UC Irvine data shows that most students on campus already make good decisions when it comes to being safe after consuming alcohol, said Rosezetta Henderson, grants coordinator at the Health Education Center. “This program reinforces those positive decisions by giving students an approach they can immediately benefit from,” she said.

The project currently comprises 19 campuses in six regions: San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, the Inland Empire, Sacramento and San Francisco’s South Bay area. It will be expanded this grant year to include 11 new campuses in the Central Coast and Central Valley.

The California College DUI Awareness Project uses a variety of tactics to get its message across. At UC Irvine, the RADD Crew appears at campus events such as Shocktoberfest, Reggaefest and Wayzgoose and speaks to Greek leaders and athletic teams. Toyota donated a 2012 Scion xB wrapped with RADD graphics to help spread the word.

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Unsafe at any level


Very low blood alcohol content associated with causing car crashes.

Even “minimally buzzed” drivers are more often to blame for fatal car crashes than the sober drivers they collide with, reports a UC San Diego study of accidents in the United States.

Led by UC San Diego sociologist David Phillips and published in the British Medical Journal group’s Injury Prevention, the study examined 570,731 fatal collisions, from 1994 to 2011.

The researchers used the official U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) database for the study, because it is nationally comprehensive and because it reports on blood alcohol content (BAC) in increments of 0.01 percent. They focus particularly on “buzzed drivers,” with BAC of 0.01 to 0.07 percent, and, within this group, the “minimally buzzed” (or BAC 0.01 percent).

Phillips and his co-authors find that drivers with BAC 0.01 percent – well below the U.S. legal limit of 0.08 – are 46 percent more likely to be officially and solely blamed by accident investigators than are the sober drivers they collide with.

The authors also find no “threshold effect” – “no sudden transition from blameless to blamed” at the legal limit for drunk driving. Instead, blame increases steadily and smoothly from BAC 0.01to 0.24 percent.

Despite this evidence, “buzzed” drivers are often not punished more severely than their sober counterparts. In practice, Phillips said, police, judges and the public at large treat BAC 0.08 percent as “a sharp, definitive, meaningful boundary,” and do not impose severe penalties on those below the legal limit. That needs to change, Phillips said. “The law should reflect what official accident investigators are seeing.”

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The role of alcohol in injuries


UC Irvine offers interactive test to help patients rate their use of alcohol.

Alcohol chartThe next time you trip over a doorjamb and find yourself sitting in the emergency room nursing a sprained ankle, don’t be surprised if someone hands you a tablet computer and asks if you’d like to take a little quiz.

The interactive test, called CASI (short for Computerized Alcohol Screening and Intervention), helps patients rate their use of alcohol; it can also help them learn whether drinking is beginning to affect their health.

But what does the test have to do with you and your sore ankle?

Accidents and alcohol are so tightly intertwined that emergency room personnel suspect drinking is involved any time someone suffers a trauma, says Dr. Shahram Lotfipour, professor of emergency medicine and public health and director of the Center for Trauma and Injury Prevention Research at UC Irvine School of Medicine.

“We have the busiest trauma center in Orange County. And much of what we see is alcohol-related.”

The list includes falls, drowning, burns, domestic violence injuries, assaults, on-the-job injuries, sports injuries and, of course, traffic accidents. In America, a person is injured in an alcohol-related crash almost every 90 seconds, according to U.S. Highway Administration statistics.

“I know it’s a pessimistic view, but we come to expect trauma cases to be alcohol-related,” says Lotfipour, who has been involved in several long-term research studies of alcohol use.

UC Irvine Health is trying to break down the trauma-and-alcohol relationship by offering the CASI test and intervention to patients, in an attempt to prevent future heartbreaking emergency room visits.

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Can a glass of wine a day keep the doctor away?


Moderate consumption of alcohol can improve immune response to vaccination.

Can a glass of wine a day keep the doctor away? (Photo credit: Wikimedia)

Can a glass of wine a day keep the doctor away? (Photo credit: Wikimedia)

It’s the time of year when many of us celebrate the holidays with festive foods and drinks, including alcohol. No better time then to ask if it is true, as is widely held, that moderate consumption of alcohol is beneficial to health.

A research team led by an immunologist at UC Riverside now has data that could put the question to rest. The researchers found that moderate alcohol consumption could bolster our immune system, and potentially our ability to fight infections.

The finding, to be published Dec. 17 in the journal Vaccine, can help lead to a better understanding of how our immune system works. It also can pave the way for potentially new interventions to improve our ability to respond to vaccines and infections, benefiting vulnerable populations, such as the elderly for whom the flu vaccine, for example, has been found to be largely ineffective.

“It has been known for a long time that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with lower mortality,” said Ilhem Messaoudi, an associate professor of biomedical sciences in the UC Riverside School of Medicine and the lead author of the research paper. “Our study, conducted on non-human primates, shows for the first time that voluntary moderate alcohol consumption boosts immune responses to vaccination.”

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Prenatal exposure to alcohol disrupts brain circuitry


Research by UC Riverside neuroscientists demonstrates severe changes that alter behavior.

Prenatal exposure to alcohol severely disrupts major features of brain development that potentially lead to increased anxiety and poor motor function, conditions typical in humans with fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD), according to neuroscientists at the University of California, Riverside.

In a groundbreaking study, the UC Riverside team discovered that prenatal exposure to alcohol significantly altered the expression of genes and the development of a network of connections in the neocortex — the part of the brain responsible for high-level thought and cognition, vision, hearing, touch, balance, motor skills, language and emotion — in a mouse model of FASD. Prenatal exposure caused wrong areas of the brain to be connected with each other, the researchers found.

These findings contradict the recently popular belief that consuming alcohol during pregnancy does no harm.

“If you consume alcohol when you are pregnant you can disrupt the development of your baby’s brain,” said Kelly Huffman, assistant professor of psychology at UC Riverside and lead author of the study that appears in the Nov. 27 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, the official, peer-reviewed publication of the Society of Neuroscience. Study co-authors are UCR Ph.D. students Hani El Shawa and Charles Abbott.

“This research helps us understand how substances like alcohol impact brain development and change behavior,” Huffman explained. “It also shows how prenatal alcohol exposure generates dramatic change in the brain that leads to changes in behavior. Although this study uses a moderate- to high-dose model, others have shown that even small doses alter development of key receptors in the brain.”

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Gallo announces awards for $20M Army-funded research program


Grants to speed discovery, development of new meds to treat alcohol, substance abuse.

John De Luca

John De Luca

The UCSF-affiliated Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center has issued a second round of grants to accelerate the discovery and development of new medications to treat alcohol and substance abuse in the context of post-traumatic stress and combat injury.

The U.S. Army-funded research program, known as the Institute for Molecular Neuroscience (IMN), relies on the expertise of a team of national experts who are unaffiliated with grant applicants to conduct an independent peer-review process.

The second round of pilot research grants will support a broad range of projects to investigate potential new treatments for substance abuse, traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress. The total funding for this round of awards is $1.25 million. Together with the $3.7 million awarded in round one, the IMN has, to date, awarded approximately $5 million in proof-of-principle grants.

“The IMN program represents an important new strategy for combating substance abuse and related post-traumatic stress or other combat injuries,” said John A. De Luca, Ph.D., chairman of the board and president of the Gallo Center. “These medical conditions are national security health issues. The IMN seeks to address these problems through its multidisciplinary, competitive national research program.”

Grant recipients in this round of funding are:

Michael E. Charness
Boston VA Research Institute (Harvard)
$300,000

Lori A. Knackstedt
University of Florida
$306,207

Kenneth M. Lattall
Oregon Health and Science University
$370,881

Eric P. Zorilla
The Scripps Research Institute
$273,088

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‘Don’t drink’ coasters urge local pregnant women to avoid alcohol


San Diego bars, restaurants take part in Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders Awareness Day.

Before taking a sip of alcohol at nearly a dozen local bars and restaurants, San Diegans will be reminded of the dangers of mixing alcohol and pregnancy thanks to a beverage coaster campaign led by the new Southern California chapter of the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (SoCal NOFAS), in partnership with the UC San Diego School of Medicine.

Members of SoCal NOFAS, a non-profit housed at UC San Diego, will hand out “Pregnant? Don’t Drink” coasters to ten participating bars and restaurants in the San Diego region today (Sept. 9) in honor of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) Awareness Day.

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Scientists ID key brain circuits that control compulsive drinking in rats


Gallo Center research could have direct application for treating human drinking problems.

alcohol and brainA research team led by scientists from the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at UC San Francisco has identified circuitry in the brain that drives compulsive drinking in rats, and likely plays a similar role in humans.

The scientists found they could reduce compulsive drinking in rats by inhibiting key neural pathways that run between the prefrontal cortex, which is involved with higher functions such as critical thinking and risk assessment, and the nucleus accumbens, a critical area for reward and motivation.

The authors noted that there are already several FDA-approved medications that target activity in these pathways, thus potentially opening an accelerated track to new treatments for compulsive drinking.

The study describing their finding was published online on June 30 in Nature Neuroscience.

The study was conducted on rats that regularly drank 20 percent alcohol. The rats drank both unmixed alcohol and alcohol mixed with extremely bitter quinine, said senior investigator F. Woodward Hopf, Ph.D., an assistant adjunct professor of neurology at UCSF.

Hopf explained that this alcohol-quinine solution, which he described as “like a vodka tonic without the sugar,” is often used as a rodent model of compulsive drinking, or “drinking in the face of negative consequences.” In rats, he said, the negative consequence is the bitter taste, while in humans who drink compulsively, “the negative consequences are profound: people continue to drink despite the potential loss of jobs, marriages, freedom, even their lives.”

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Addiction relapse might be thwarted by turning off brain trigger


Finding may lead to treatment option for people who suffer from alcohol abuse disorders.

Researchers at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at UC San Francisco have been able to identify and deactivate a brain pathway linked to memories that cause alcohol cravings in rats, a finding that may one day lead to a treatment option for people who suffer from alcohol abuse disorders and other addictions.

In the study, researchers were able to prevent the addicted animals from seeking alcohol and drinking it, the equivalent of relapse.

“One of the main causes of relapse is craving, triggered by the memory by certain cues – like going into a bar, or the smell or taste of alcohol,” said lead author Segev Barak, Ph.D., at the time a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of co-senior author Dorit Ron, Ph.D., a Gallo Center investigator and UCSF professor of neurology.

“We learned that when rats were exposed to the smell or taste of alcohol, there was a small window of opportunity to target the area of the brain that reconsolidates the memory of the craving for alcohol and to weaken or even erase the memory, and thus the craving” he said.

The study, also supervised by co-senior author Patricia H. Janak, Ph.D., a Gallo Center investigator and UCSF professor of neurology, was published online today (June 23) in Nature Neuroscience.

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Women who drink alcohol before pregnancy less likely to take multivitamins


UC San Diego findings emphasize need to educate women about taking multivitamins.

Researchers from the UC San Diego Department of Pediatrics and Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego, a research affiliate of UC San Diego School of Medicine, have found a link between multivitamin use and alcohol consumption before pregnancy, uncovering a need for education about the importance of vitamin supplementation, particularly among women who drink alcohol during their childbearing years. The study was published online this month in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

Researchers examined data collected from the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention’s multiple-state Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) of more than 100,000 women between 2004 and 2008. The women answered a series of questions about alcohol use before their pregnancies as well as multivitamin supplement use.  The study found women who reported consuming alcohol regularly or binge drinking were significantly less likely to take a multivitamin supplement compared with those who did not report alcohol consumption.

“It’s likely a woman may consume alcohol before she even realizes she’s pregnant, therefore, these findings are significant,” explained Lauren Bartell Weiss, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research fellow at UC San Diego’s Center for the Promotion of Maternal Health and Infant Development and co-author of the study. “If a woman is drinking alcohol regularly and unintentionally becomes pregnant, not only does her unborn child have a greater risk of being affected by the alcohol, but other studies suggest that alcohol can also alter the metabolism of nutrients and interfere with the nutritional supply to the developing baby.”

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Potential mechanism for treating problem drinking


Gallo Center scientists identify new application for family of drugs.

Dorit Ron, UCSF

Dorit Ron, UCSF

A study by researchers at the Ernest Gallo Clinic and Research Center at UC San Franciscoidentified a potential new approach for reducing problem drinking: a new family of drugs with the ability to manipulate DNA structure without changing it.

The drugs, already approved for human use for other indications, reduced drinking and alcohol-seeking behavior in pre-clinical models — mice and rats trained to drink large quantities of alcohol.

The animals in the study, which was published today in the advance online edition of Translational Psychiatry, were trained to mimic so-called “problem drinkers,” not-yet-full-blown alcoholics, said senior author Dorit Ron, Ph.D., a Gallo Center investigator and a professor of neurology at UCSF.

“They consumed large quantities of alcohol and drank in binges, but were not yet physically dependent on alcohol,” she said. “In humans, these drugs could represent a promising new direction in preventing drinkers from going on to become fully addicted.”

The drugs, which inhibit enzymes called DNMT and HDAC, are currently being used to treat several types of cancer and show promise as medications for the treatment of mood disorders.

The study presents “a potential new mechanism to control excessive drinking,” said Ron.

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A cure for the common hangover?


UCLA-led team’s ‘pill’ mimics action of human liver in fighting alcohol intoxication.

In a discovery that could derail the popular “Hangover” movie franchise, a team of researchers led by UCLA engineers has identified a method for speeding up the body’s reaction to the consumption of alcohol.

In a paper published online today (Feb. 17) in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Nanotechnology, Yunfeng Lu, a professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at the UCLA Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science, and his colleagues describe successfully placing two complementary enzymes in a tiny capsule to speed up the elimination of alcohol from the body. The enzyme combination within the capsule essentially processes alcohol the way the liver does.

Lu, the principal investigator, said the enzyme combination could be ingested as a pill, chemically altering alcohol in the digestive system, even as the liver does its work.

“The pill acts in a way extremely similar to the way your liver does,” Lu said. “With further research, this discovery could be used as a preventative measure or antidote for alcohol intoxication.”

Naturally occurring enzymes within cells often work in tandem to transform molecules or eliminate toxins. Lu’s group assembled multiple enzymes to mimic the natural process. An enzyme known as an alcohol oxidase, for example, can promote the oxidization of alcohol but also produces hydrogen peroxide, which is toxic. Another type of enzyme, a catalase, prompts the decomposition of hydrogen peroxide into water and oxygen. Placing the two enzymes next to each other can effectively remove alcohol.

The researchers placed the two enzymes in a polymer capsule measuring just tens of nanometers in diameter. The wall of the polymer capsule is only one nanometer thick – about 100,000 times thinner than a strand of human hair. The capsule protects the enzymes and allows them to freely enter an alcohol molecule. In this way, the nanocapsule mimics an organelle, a structure found in cells that spurs chemical reactions.

The researchers used a mouse model to test how well the enzyme package worked as an antidote after alcohol was consumed. They found that blood alcohol levels in mice that received the enzyme package fell more quickly than in mice that did not. Blood alcohol levels of the antidote test group were 15.8 percent lower than the control group after 45 minutes, 26.1 percent lower after 90 minutes and 34.7 percent lower after three hours.

In a test of how well the enzyme delivery system worked as a prophylactic when consumed at the same time as alcohol, the researchers found that blood alcohol levels in the mice that received the enzymes were 10.1 percent lower than in control-group mice after 45 minutes, 31.8 percent lower after 90 minutes and 36.8 percent lower after three hours.

“Considering the vast library of enzymes that are currently or potentially available,” the authors write, “novel classes of enzyme nanocomplexes could be built for a broad range of applications.”

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