Thursday, October 28, 2010

Michigan's new 'Super-Drunk' Law goes into Effect on Sunday

Lansing State Journal
Those who drink excessively and get behind the wheel may be in a sobering reality beginning Sunday.

New laws go into effect that double the jail sentences and license suspensions for first-time offenders who are convicted of having higher blood-alcohol levels while driving and expand the use of substance abuse treatment programs.

State officials say the “super-drunk” legislation is designed to target those first-time offenders who apparently have a serious drinking problem.

“When you get super-drunk, it becomes exceptionally dangerous,” said state Sen. Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt, a sponsor of the legislation.

The new law essentially creates a new class of blood-alcohol content of 0.17 percent or higher for more serious first-time offenders; that’s slightly more than twice the minimum of 0.08 percent now required for a drunken-driving conviction.

Those convicted of the higher blood-alcohol level will get an automatic one-year driver’s license suspension -- twice the current penalty -- and would face 180 days in jail, which is roughly twice the current maximum.

They also face bigger fines and mandatory treatment for substance abuse.

Judge Harvey Hoffman of District 56A Court in Charlotte said substance abuse treatment Michigan for serious first-time offenders is critical to reducing the alcohol dependence and further offenses. Substance abuse treatment now is used more commonly for repeat offenders.

“The average person, if they a blow a 0.20, and you’re up and functioning enough to operate a motor vehicle, it shows you have an elevated tolerance to alcohol,” said Hoffman, who has dealt with drunken drivers for 14 years as a judge. “That’s pretty good proof you are dealing with someone who has a significant alcohol problem.”

Monday, October 25, 2010

Drug, Alcohol Abuse grows among Iraqi Forces

The Seattle Times

A growing number of Iraqi security-force members are becoming dependent on drugs or alcohol, which has led to concerns about a significant addiction problem among the country's armed services as the insurgency remains a potent force and American troops prepare to depart at the end of next year.

In some regions of Iraq, military and police officials say, as many as 50 percent of their colleagues, including high-ranking officers, use drugs or alcohol while on duty.

While there is no way to know the exact number of drug- and alcohol-dependent members among Iraq's 675,000-member security force, interviews with dozens of soldiers, police officers, political leaders, health officials, pharmacists and drug dealers indicate that drug and alcohol use among the police and the military appears to have grown significantly during the past year or so.

Those who admit to using drugs and alcohol say long hours working at checkpoints, constant fear and witnessing the grisly deaths of colleagues make drugs and alcohol less a choice than a necessity.

"Pills are cheaper than cigarettes and they make you more comfortable and relaxed," said Nazhan al-Jibouri, a police officer in Nineveh province in northern Iraq. "They help us forget that we are hungry, and they make it easier to deal with people. They encourage us during moments when we are facing death."

A spokesman for Iraq's Defense Ministry, Maj. Gen. Mohammed al-Askari, denied that the military had a drug problem. Health officials say it is part of a larger problem of drug abuse in Iraq, where addiction has spread amid three decades of war and economic hardship.

The problem has been exacerbated by the recent proliferation of powerful prescription medications — as well as of smuggled heroin, marijuana and hashish from Iran, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Police and Iraqi army officials in Diyala province, on the Iranian border, say they believe insurgents have moved into drug smuggling to finance their activities.

Illegal drugs in Iraq are readily available in cafes, markets and on the street via dealers.

Among the more popular pills are a potent form of Valium made in Iran and nicknamed "the bloody," because of its red package; a pill called "Abu Hajib" or Father of the Eyebrow — because of its parallel squiggly lines — that packs a heroinlike punch; a pink pill nicknamed the "Lebanani" that produces feelings of bliss; amphetamines; muscle relaxants; and a variety of hallucinogens.

When those drugs are not available, security-force members say they guzzle several bottles of cough syrup at a time or drink spirits.

The United States has spent more than $22 billion training and equipping Iraqi security forces since 2004.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Study: Students who study Abroad may hit the Brewskis Harder

LA Times

With the new school year underway, some college students are spending the year abroad. In addition to hitting the books and taking in the sights, they may also be drinking a lot more, a new study suggests.

University of Washington researchers surveyed 177 study abroad students about their drinking habits before they departed for their new host country, during their stay (an average three to five months), and on their return.

Overall, drinking more than doubled while abroad, but returned to pre-travel levels when the students returned. However, the heaviest drinkers drank more when they got back.

Where the students studied had an effect on how much they drank. Those who were in Europe or Australia and New Zealand drank the most, and those in Latin America drank significantly more when they returned compared with pre-trip levels.

Students under 21 drank less than their older peers before traveling, but once abroad they increased their drinking more--by about 170%. They also drank more when they returned compared with before their trip abroad, and those numbers had no association with turning 21. It should be noted that in some countries the legal drinking age is under 21. Those who intended to drink more while abroad fulfilled those goals.

The researchers mentioned that the study population may be more inclined to drink and want to drink more while abroad. The study also didn't get into details about specific drinking habits, such as risky or binge drinking. But the scientists also noted that there may be serious consequences of excessive drinking in a foreign country, such as supporting negative views of American students, mucking up travel plans and getting caught in a legal morass.

"The study abroad experience presents both unique opportunities and unique risks for students," said study co-author Mary Larimer, director of the Center for the Study of Health & Risk Behaviors, in a news release. "Working with these students pre-departure is a terrific opportunity to help reduce their risks for drinking consequences while abroad, and may also help prevent difficulties when they return home."

The study was published recently in the journal Psychology of Addictive Behaviors.

Monday, October 18, 2010

More Americans Drinking More Alcohol

Bloomberg / BusinessWeek

Among women, whites more likely than Hispanics, blacks to down 5 or more drinks a day, study finds

Alcohol consumption is on the rise in the United States due to a number of factors, including social, economic and ethnic influences and pressures, a new study has found.

Researchers analyzed national alcohol consumption patterns among people who took part in the 1991-1992 National Longitudinal Alcohol Epidemiologic Survey and the 2001-2002 National Epidemiologic Study on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Each survey included about 43,000 people.

Drinkers were defined as people who had consumed at least 12 drinks that contained at least 0.6 ounces of any kind of alcohol within the past year. The number of whites, Hispanics and blacks who reported drinking increased between 1992 and 2002.

Among women, whites were more likely than Hispanics or blacks to consume five or more drinks a day or drink to intoxication, said the UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers.

The study also found an increase in drinking five or more drinks per day among heavier drinkers, which suggests a potential polarization of drinking practices.

Males younger than 60 who did not have a college degree were likely to consume more drinks per month, and being unmarried or unemployed were risk factors for males getting intoxicated more than once a month, according to the report published online and in the October print issue of the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

The findings suggest "that a variety of public-health policies such as restrictions on alcohol advertising, regulating high-alcohol-content beverages, increasing taxes on alcohol, as well as treatment and brief interventions may be needed to reduce alcohol-related problems," lead author Dr. Raul Caetano, dean of the UT Southwestern School of Health Professions, said in a medical center news release.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Smarter Pricing for Alcohol

Victoria Times Colonist

Alcohol abuse carries a high cost, affecting everything from relationships to health to crime. It is the most destructive drug available in B.C.

With that in mind, the provincial government should ensure that more potent drinks carry a stiffer price.

That move has been recommended by the B.C. Coalition for Action on Alcohol Reform, which says the government needs to stop allowing the alcohol industry to market high-powered cheap drinks to young people and alcoholics.

Housing and Social Development Minister Rich Coleman, who is responsible for the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch, has expressed a reluctance to raise alcohol tax rates, because B.C. already has the highest rates in the country.

Those taxes could be, however, reworked to reflect the alcohol content in the bottles without increasing the overall tax hit. The government already takes in about $890 million from liquor sales; a revision to penalize the more potent drinks would not increase the total if the rates on lighter drinks were cut.

There are many inconsistencies in the pricing structure. A six-pack of eight-per-cent beer is $7.99, while a six-pack of low-strength beer is $11. Hard lemonade brands with a high alcohol content cost less than ones with less alcohol. Low prices are also a concern; a bottle of Vincor's Vex Hard Pink Lemonade, with seven per cent alcohol, costs just $1.59, less than some soft drinks.

The government should be discouraging young people from drinking to excess, yet it is pricing high-alcohol drinks in a way that encourages abuse. B.C.'s minimum retail prices are set without regard for the percentage of alcohol in each drink.

Provincial health officer Perry Kendall urged the government two years ago to introduce a pricing system that reflected the alcohol content. No action has been taken here -- although Saskatchewan has introduced a similar system in an attempt to reduce the availability of cheap drinks to the more vulnerable members of society.

Since Saskatchewan's system was introduced in April, the sales of cheap, high-alcohol products -- those considered to be high risk -- has dropped by 12.6 per cent.

In the 1980s and 1990s, B.C. sold low-alcohol beers at a low price, but they were not as popular as regular beers. Still, it would be worth taking another look at how alcohol is priced. It only makes sense for the prices to match the costs that come with alcohol.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

MTV Exploits Snooki's Alcohol Abuse

LA Times

MTV's got a situation on "Jersey Shore" -- and I'm not talking about Mike Sorrentino's abs.

Snooki, also known as Nicole Polizzi, has a drinking problem. Instead of helping her, the network is exploiting her.

Last Thursday's episode should have featured a very sloshed Snooki being rushed to a local hospital for alcohol poisoning.

Instead, all we saw was a totaled 22-year-old tickling her roommate's feet while the couple smushed (please don't make me explain).

Way to go, MTV. Let's cut the teachable moment out of the show and party on.

According to, Snooki's near-death experience happened in May, three months before she was arrested in Seaside Heights, N.J., on a charge of drunk and disorderly conduct. In that incident, the teeny tanned tart with the sky-high hair and lowbrow lifestyle was drinking heavily the night before and passed out face down on the beach.

Good times.

After a breakfast of champions -- a couple of tequila shots and a Long Island iced tea -- she was busted around noon.

At her court hearing earlier this month, the judge fined her $500 and told her she was rude, profane, obnoxious and self-indulgent. Snooki later told the press she was cutting back on drinking.

That scene made it onto YouTube. I wonder if MTV will leave it on the cutting-room floor?

Clearly, consequences aren't a plot device in the series, otherwise we'd see a lot more trips to the pharmacist (the hot tub alone is ground zero for STDs.)

The allure of "Jersey Shore" is its debauchery. It's a weekly dose of wild behavior featuring a foul-mouthed cast of characters who, when not wasted or busy bedding everybody on the Eastern seaboard, are pulling in tens of thousands of dollars each episode, making the rounds on shows like "Dancing with the Stars" and ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

Why would any of them change their behavior?

And why would MTV make them?

The no-longer-music-video channel's ratings were in the toilet before "Shore." Now, thanks to sex, swearing and swinging fists, it's on top again.

But success comes at a price.

Snooki is seen as a selfish laughingstock instead of someone struggling. And MTV is complicit in her dangerous behavior by not showing the repercussions.

But the real losers are the 5.5 million viewers who tune in for a reality show that fails to air the most important thing: the truth.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Is He an Alcoholic?

Daily Mirror

HE says it's under control. YOU know it's not. But a new book reveals how a little love can help him beat the bottle

Your partner staggers home worse for wear after a night out with colleagues several times a week ... but, then, socialising with co-workers and clients is vital to most people’s careers, isn’t it?

He always manages to upset friends, family and you when he’s tipsy ... and you hate the way he never seems to know when to stop when there’s alcohol around. But he’s not got a drink problem, has he?

If you’ve found yourself asking questions like this — and perhaps taken refuge in these same evasive, self-deceiving replies — you’re not alone.

The knock-on effect of the economic ­crisis has been a dramatic increase in drug and alcohol addiction. In fact, according to a recent NHS report, one in three men and one in six women can be classified as ‘hazardous’ drinkers.

Recent statistics suggest that in the UK, one in 13 people could be diagnosed as alcoholic with the knock-on effect that 3.7 million people are affected by parental alcoholism and one million by their ­partner’s alcoholism.

In a new book, Bottled Up, counsellor Lou Lewis (who lived with an alcoholic husband for 20 years, until his death from cancer in 2007) and her partner and co-author Dr John McMahon (himself a recovering alcoholic who gave up drinking in 1984 after a serious health scare) explain how you can pinpoint when a partner, friend or family member’s drinking is becoming a serious problem . . . and how you can tackle it.

Lewis and McMahon say there’s a very simple test to see if you need help. If you’re reading this, hoping the person you’re concerned about doesn’t catch you; if you’ve ever typed ‘Is my partner/friend an alcoholic’ into a search engine; if you can’t trust the person you care about to turn up to anything on time and sober, it’s likely alcohol is starting to take a hold.

For convenience, we’ll stick with calling the person you might be concerned about ‘he’ — but ‘he’ could be anyone. Women are catching men up in the alcohol dependency stakes.

You may be worried that you’re over-reacting. As ‘he’ no doubt keeps pointing out, there are times when he can drink and not get drunk. But you’re always on tenterhooks waiting for the next time he’s had one too many.

According to standard textbooks, someone can be categorised as an alcohol abuser if, in the past 12 months, one or more of the following has occurred:

    * His recurrent alcohol use has resulted in failure to fulfil major obligations at work, school or home.
    * The person has been drunk in physically hazardous situations, such as driving.
    * There’s been alcohol-related trouble with the law.
    * He’s continued his alcohol use despite recurrent social or personal problems (for example, physical fights).

His problem with alcohol is likely to be spiralling into alcohol dependence if three or more of the following criteria have been met in the past 12 months:

    * There’s a need for increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication.
    * The person drinking experiences ­withdrawal symptoms.
    * Alcohol is often taken in larger amounts or over a longer period than was intended.
    * There are unsuccessful efforts to cut down or control alcohol use.
    * A great deal of time is spent in obtaining alcohol, using alcohol or recovering from its effects.
    * Important social, occupational or recreational activities are given up or reduced because of alcohol use.
    * Alcohol use is continued despite knowledge of having a persistent or recurrent physical or psychological problem that is likely to have been caused or exacerbated by the alcohol (for example, drinking despite having a stomach ulcer that has been made worse by alcohol).

So if the person you care about does fit these criteria, what can you do?

Well, remember the last conversation you had about the issue. It probably started because he was drunk again and you had suggested that he might have a problem.

He immediately became hurt and defensive, and denied any problem. He stormed off to nurse his wounded pride and you were left frustrated.

Lewis and McMahon devised their ­Bottled Up approach as a result of years of experience on both sides of alcohol abuse. It suggests that a gentle, positive attitude is always going to work better than bullying or browbeating.

You may feel like shouting, crying, pleading, pouring the booze down the sink — even threatening to walk out. But if you want your circumstances to change for the better (and Lewis and McMahon insist they can), it is time to learn some new behaviours and go against all your instincts.