Friday, July 25, 2014

Part 2: Binge Drinking News ~ Are Colleges Doing Enough?

Logo of the United States National Institute o...
Logo of the United States National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, part of the National Institutes of Health. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Part 2: College, binge drinking and more

What are the consequences of college drinking?

Depending on your own life experience, you may already be aware of the consequences of college drinking, or at least some of the consequences. Maybe you experienced first hand a negative effect, or maybe you were drawn into an event as a parent of a college student. Fortunately, we don't have to guess at how college drinking effects our lives, the National Institute of Health's (NIH) National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) collects data on this very important topic.

Quoting from their website, the consequences of college drinking include:
  • Death: 1,825 college students between the ages of 18 and 24 die each year from alcohol-related unintentional injuries. 
  • Assault: More than 690,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are assaulted by another student who has been drinking. 
  • Sexual Abuse: More than 97,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 are victims of alcohol-related sexual assault or date rape. 
  • Injury: 599,000 students between the ages of 18 and 24 receive unintentional injuries while under the influence of alcohol. 
  • Academic Problems: About 25 percent of college students report academic consequences of their drinking including missing class, falling behind, doing poorly on exams or papers, and receiving lower grades overall. 
  • Health Problems/Suicide Attempts: More than 150,000 students develop an alcohol-related health problem and between 1.2 and 1.5 percent of students indicate that they tried to commit suicide within the past year due to drinking or drug use.

What are colleges doing to combat college drinking?

A group of researchers asked the same question. The results of their study were published on-line last week in the journal Alcoholism Clinical & Experimental Research: College Law Enforcement and Security Department Responses to Alcohol-Related Incidents: A National Study.

The researchers were from the Department of Behavioral and Community Health, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, Minneapolis, Minnesota and the University of Minnesota Medical School, Minneapolis, Minnesota. The principal investigator was Traci L. Toomey, a professor of public health at the University of Minnesota.

The researchers did a first of its kind nationwide study surveying directors of campus police/security at 343 college campuses. The survey asked specific questions as to the usual and customary practices carried out by campus police when serious, underage, and less serious alcohol incidents occurred both on and off campus.

According to USA Today, quoting Dr. Kenneth C. Winters, co-author of the study:
“Study results showed that it was rare for campus security or law enforcement officials to issue citations for students involved in an alcohol-related violation or incident. It was also not typical for these students to be referred to a campus health center to be evaluated for a possible alcohol problem. Rather, students were usually referred for discipline or sanctions to other university officials.”
Also, Dr. Traci L. Toomey told USA Today:
“There are probably few colleges that have a system in place that integrates strategies across departments. Campus security should be trained on what steps should be followed, including where to refer students following an incident.”  

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Part 1: Binge Drinking News ~ How Cool Are Your Firends?

Just play it cool, boy... Real cool!    Stephen Sondheim

Part 1: College, binge drinking and more

Cool students on college campuses...and more

"Cool" is an interesting word. As a society we've used this word in a number of ways. Here is a great definition: calmly audacious or impudent! Every generation finds a way to latch on to the word "cool." Like our opening quote today from Stephen Sondheim's closing line to the song "Cool" from the 1957 Tony Award winning Broadway musical and 1961 Academy Award winning movie West Side Story.

Last month we learned about a new study that discussed how "cool" kids seem to struggle with adulthood.  Today we want to discuss how do college students and young adults try to be cool. How do young adults judge who is cool?

Drinking to reach the top...

The results of a new study will be published in the October 2013 issue of Addictive Behaviors, Drinking to reach the top: Young adults' drinking patterns as a predictor of status within natural drinking groups.  This study was led by Dr. Tara Dumas of the Social and Epidemiological Research Department, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, London, Ontario, Canada. Dr. Dumas and her colleagues wanted to examine the associations the drinking patterns of young adults and their social status. According to The Daily Beast article of July 16, 2014, Dumas hypothesized:
that more frequent drinking—consuming a larger number of drinks during one's episode—and engaging in more heavy drinking occasions in the past year, would be associated with higher peer group status.

Study's parameters

  • The researchers worked with 357 young adults in Ontario, Canada
  • All participants were naturally headed for local bars in the Ontario area
  • Drinking behavior was tracked over a period of two months, May through July 2012
  • Researchers tracked both the number and frequency of the drinks consumed
  • Men and women in the study were analyzed separately

Study's findings

  • For men, more frequent heavy drinking was related to higher peer-nominated status. 
  • For women, more drinking in general was related to higher peer-nominated status. 
  • More consumption during heaviest drinking occasion also predicted higher status. 

Some closing thoughts...

Reading the results of a study like this can be disheartening, particularly for parents and other family members who are concerned about their children and binge drinking. Of course, the negative effects of binge drinking can be felt immediately - DUIs, drunk driving accidents causing the death or injury of one or more, and sexual assault. Then there are the long term effects: alcoholism, job loss, incarceration, family loss, probation, parole, and long term health issues like heart disease, cirrhosis, cancer and strokes.

Again, Dr. Dumas offered to The Daily Beast:
"Our research further suggests that young people might be gaining social status benefits via their heavy drinking or that higher social status might encourage riskier drinking practices among young people. Instead of inspiring young people to drink, we hope that our findings encourage prevention programming that addresses young people’s status-related concerns around drinking and teaches them how to be socially integrated while also adopting responsible drinking practices."
Tomorrow check out Part 2 of this series. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Cinema: A Machine That Generates Empathy

Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert in 1970, donated by...
Russ Meyer and Roger Ebert in 1970, donated by Roger Ebert. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
“I believe empathy is the most essential quality of civilization.”
Roger Ebert

Empathy vs. sympathy

Do you remember how old you were when you came to understand that there is a difference between empathy and sympathy? offers an illustrative explanation:
"Both empathy and sympathy are feelings concerning other people. Sympathy is literally 'feeling with' - compassion for or commiseration with another person. Empathy, by contrast, is literally 'feeling into' - the ability to project one's personality into another person and more fully understand that person. Sympathy derives from Latin and Greek words meaning 'having a fellow feeling'. The term empathy originated in psychology (translation of a German term, c. 1903) and has now come to mean the ability to imagine or project oneself into another person's position and experience all the sensations involved in that position. You feel empathy when you've "been there," and sympathy when you haven't. Examples: We felt sympathy for the team members who tried hard but were not appreciated. / We felt empathy for children with asthma because their parents won't remove pets from the household."
Today's post will be post number 501! Our blog went live on June 24, 2008, and over the course of these six years we have addressed the subject of empathy 11 times.

So why all this talk today about empathy

Life Itself opens nationwide this weekend...

You may remember that last year when award winning author, journalist and film critic Roger Ebert died we wrote about his life, his journey, and how he celebrated every aspect of his life including the road he traveled as a recovering alcoholic.  We also talked about his last book "Life Itself."

So this weekend why not check out the documentary "Life Itself" directed by Steve James? Not surprisingly it is receiving great reviews. For example:
  • Peter Travers from Rolling Stone says, "Don't miss it.'
  • Walter Addiego from the San Francisco Chronicle says: "It's fascinating stuff..."
  • Todd McCarthy from The Hollywood Report: "James has done a wonderful job of telling a colorful life story."
  • James Berardinelli from ReelViews says: "This is a uniquely powerful motion picture, the kind of open and honest portrayal I can't ever recall having seen about a celebrity."
  • Geoffrey O'Brien from The New York Times says: "'Life Itself' is a work of deftness and delicacy, by turns a film about illness and death, about writing, about cinema and, finally, and very movingly a film about love." 
  • Whitney Matheson from USA Today says:"Savor the bliss, learn from the pain."

Magnolia Pictures "Life Itself" - Official Trailer


If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

As you get ready for this summer weekend, think about taking a break and seeing life itself. As Mr. Ebert says so beautifully about cinema, "a machine that generates lets you understand hopes, aspirations, dreams, and fears..."

There is a good chance you will give this film "two thumbs up!"

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Will You Take The Shatterproof Challenge?

The Westin Convention Center - Pittsburgh
Could anything convince you to rappel down the side of a 27-story building?

If you are not familiar with the word rappel, then you might want to look up the definition before you answer today's question. The verb rappel means to descent by means of a rappel. As a noun the word rappel means:
(in mountaineering) the act or method of moving down a steep incline or past an overhang by means of a double rope secured above and placed around the body, usually under the left thigh and over the right shoulder, and paid out gradually in the descent.
So, with this definition in mind, would you agree to rappel down the side of 27-story building...for a good cause?

CBS Pittsburgh reports on The Shatterproof Challenge

On July 15, 2014, CBS Pittsburgh reported: Dozens Rappel Down Westin Hotel To Raise Addiction Awareness.

If you are having trouble viewing the video, you can see it here.

This event was a fundraiser sponsored by a relatively new organization called Shatterproof whose goal is to end the stigma of addiction. Shatterproof founder Gary Mendell told CBS Pittsburgh:
“Bring it out of the closet, bring it away from the shame and stigma. Get people talking about it. This is a disease, and I’m really excited because that’s what’s happening today. We are talking about it on the roof. We are talking about it at the base of the building.”  

Let's learn more about Shatterproof

Shatterproof - Stronger than addiction has a vision...
an America transformed … an America where parents possess critical resources and information early on to protect their children from the clutches of addiction, where leading academic research is applied in the real-world, where addiction is treated like a chronic disease – not a choice, and where families struggling with the disease of addiction no longer face discrimination and judgment, but instead are treated with compassion and given the resources they need to heal.

Shatterproof - Stronger than addiction has a mission...
Shatterproof is a new national organization committed to protecting our children from addiction to alcohol or other drugs and ending the stigma and suffering of those affected by this disease.

We hope you will take some time to learn more about Shatterproof (originally known as Brian's Wish)and its founder Gary Mendell. Mr. Mendell is like many parents and family members who have struggled to help their loved one find recovery from the disease of addiction. He, too, knows that the first step is to strip away the stigma of addiction and to start the conversation. Many times the conversation starts in a Family Program, when for the first time family members realize they are not alone and they don't have to travel this road by themselves.

If you think you might like to take The Shatterproof Challenge ...

Ok, maybe you won't be able to actually rappel from the side of a building...but you might be able to help sponsor an event. Learn more about The Shatterproof Challenge and see if there is an event in your area.

We started today's post discussing the meaning of the word rappel. In the World English Dictionary rappel formerly referred to a drumbeat to call soldiers to arms from the French word rappeler to call back, from the Latin appellāre to summon.

Why not find out more about Mr. Mendell's call to arms...he is challenging and inviting all of us to undertake this course of action...let's end the stigma of addiction.

Friday, July 11, 2014

New Study: Post Combat Opioid Use Greater Than General Public

Treating chronic pain

If you have had to live with chronic pain or have a loved one who is living with chronic pain, then you are familiar with the daily cycle of trying to find some kind of relief. Those who treat chronic pain patients often find that addiction to prescription pain medication is not unusual and requires treatment. Over the past few years we have provided up to date information concerning chronic pain, so today we are reporting on a new study.

JAMA Internal Medicine publishes new study

Just before the July 4th holiday a report on a new study regarding opioid pain medication use by returning combat veterans was released. This report was published online in the JAMA Internal Medicine: Chronic Pain and Opioid Use in US Soldiers After Combat Deployment. The study was conducted by researchers associated with the Center for Military Psychiatry and Neuroscience, Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Silver Spring, Maryland and the Commissioned Corps of the US Public Health Service in Rockville, Maryland. The lead author was Lt.Cmdr. Robin L. Tobin, PhD, MPH.

Study's parameters

  • Data was collected from nearly 2600 troops who were assigned to the same infantry brigade and who returned from Afghanistan in 2011
  • 45% of those surveyed indicated they were wounded in combat
  • Each participant was given a anonymous written questionnaire to complete
  • The questions dealt with feelings of chronic pain and use of prescription painkillers

Study's findings

  • About 44% of the participating soldiers said they were experiencing chronic pain even 90 days after returning home, as compared to the civilian rate of 26%
  • Nearly half of those in pain indicated they were still experiencing pain longer than a year, while 55.6% reported the pain as constant with half saying the pain was moderate to severe
  • About 4% of the civilian population use painkillers for pain, while 15% of the veterans took painkillers to treat pain
US News & World Report using HealthDay's report quoted Dr. Tobin: 
"War is really hard on the body. People come home with a lot of injuries, and as you can imagine they experience a lot of pain. There seems to be a large unmet need of management, treatment and assessment of chronic pain."

 Some final thoughts...

The timing of this study may well dovetail with the Opioid Safety Initiative (OSI) which was introduced by the Veterans Administration on February 25, 2014. 
The Opioid Safety Initiative (OSI) is a comprehensive effort to improve the quality of life for the hundreds of thousands of Veterans suffering from chronic pain. Launched in October 2013 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, OSI is already demonstrating success in lowering dependency on this class of drugs. At eight sites of care in Minnesota, OSI practices have decreased high-dose opioid use by more than 50 percent. OSI incorporates the team approach with the goal of reducing opioid use by alleviating a Veterans’ pain using non-prescription methods. There is an emphasis on patient education, close patient monitoring with frequent feedback and Complementary and Alternative Medicine practices like acupuncture.
We hope you will take some time and read the related articles.  As Dr. Tobin offered, the military finds itself in a struggle to balance pain management and the risk of addiction.