Recovery Checkups in Primary Care Settings Linked to Increased Substance Use Treatment and Reduced Alcohol and Cannabis Use in Patients with Complex Needs

Highly vulnerable patients with alcohol use disorder (AUD) or substance use disorder (SUD) who received regular assessments after their initial intervention had substantially better outcomes a year later than those who did not receive the same follow-up, according to a new study. Fewer than one in ten people with SUD receive any form of treatment in a given year; among those who do, relapse and treatment reentry are common. A Screening, Brief Intervention, and Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) protocol is intended to facilitate treatment referrals, especially among patients with more severe SUDs, but research has shown it to be relatively ineffective in that regard. Adding a Recovery Management Checkup (RMC) intervention can improve treatment rates; RMC conceptualizes AUD and SUD as chronic conditions requiring longer-term monitoring via regular check-ins, early re-intervention in cases of relapse, and treatment retention strategies. For the study in Alcohol: Clinical & Experimental Resear

SMART Recovery Meetings for Alcohol Recovery Appeal to People with More Social and Economic Stability and Lower Spiritual Leanings, Compared to Alcoholics Anonymous

Certain characteristics of people seeking remission from alcohol use disorder (AUD) are linked to their choice of recovery meeting, a new study suggests. Informal peer recovery groups—mutual-help organizations—play a crucial role for many individuals with AUD or other drug disorders. Such groups are proliferating and differ substantially in approach.

U.S. States Maintain Outdated Laws That Create Barriers to Screening and Treatment for Alcohol Use Disorder

Eighteen U.S. states have laws that allow insurance companies to deny health care payments to treat people who were intoxicated when they sustained an injury, despite evidence showing that these laws prevent people from receiving treatment for alcohol use disorder and shift costs from insurance companies to the health care system, the government, individuals and families.

People with Severe Alcohol Use Disorder Have Impaired Ability to Learn From Others’ Painful Experiences, Raising Their Risk for Ongoing Dangerous Drinking, Study Suggests

People with alcohol use disorder (AUD) are less able to learn from others’ negative experiences, potentially rendering them more vulnerable to maintaining their dangerous drinking or relapsing, according to the first study of its type. The study explored social cognition, processes that enable us to understand and interact with others, and specifically social learning, our ability to learn by observing others’ experiences.

Brain Imaging May Predict Motivation for Behavior Change in Alcohol Use Disorder

Brain imaging of neuron activity in certain areas of the brain may predict whether an individual is likely to successfully respond to interventions to reduce their drinking. In a study published in Alcohol: Clinical and Experimental Research, individuals whose baseline imaging showed decreased activity in areas of the brain associated with reward processing and impulsivity and increased activity in regions responsible for complex cognitive processes and emotional regulation were more likely to reduce their drinking following an intervention.

Racial discrimination contributes to increases in alcohol craving to cope with racial stress

Alcohol craving is associated with relapse following alcohol use disorder (AUD) treatment. A new study is the first to examine how distinct experiences of interpersonal racial discrimination contribute to elevated alcohol craving. Findings will be shared at the 46th annual scientific meeting of the Research Society on Alcohol (RSA) in Bellevue, Washington.

Older consumers of alcohol have a greater vulnerability to accelerated brain aging

Alcohol use disorder (AUD) is a common neuropsychiatric disorder marked by neuropsychological deficits and neurocircuitry brain damage that can lead to serious negative consequences for family, work, and personal well-being. Researchers will share their published findings on the adverse effects of AUD on the brain and its interaction with aging and postural instability at the 46th annual scientific meeting of the Research Society on Alcohol (RSA) in Bellevue, Washington.

Do People Who Drink Heavily Have a Higher Tolerance for Alcohol? It Depends, Study Finds

People who have a pattern of heavy drinking showed less impairment than light drinkers after drinking similar amounts of alcohol — yet this difference depends largely on how much time has elapsed after drinking and may only be evident at moderate intoxication. A study published in Alcohol: Clinical and Experimental Research found that people who exceed drinking an amount of alcohol that is typical for them showed substantial impairment. And, when heavy drinkers and lighter drinkers were similarly impaired, the heavy drinkers perceived themselves to be less impaired, which may lead to risky decisions.

Among Young People, Being Around Peers May Elicit Greater Drinking Cravings than the Presence of Alcohol

The presence of peers is a key prompt for alcohol cravings among young people, according to a new study in Alcohol: Clinical & Experimental Research. When certain settings, people, or items—a bar, a friend, a glass—are paired with alcohol, they can become conditioned cues, eliciting drinking cravings. These learned reactions are associated with alcohol use disorder (AUD), treatment outcomes, and relapse. Adolescents and emerging adults are particularly susceptible to peer influence. In real-world settings, studies have found that the presence of peers predicts young people’s intensifying drinking cravings at the moment. In laboratory studies, however, peer influence is largely absent, potentially limiting the usefulness of their findings. Better understanding peers as alcohol cues could inform more effective AUD prevention and treatment programs. For the current study, researchers from Brown University, RI, evaluated alcohol cravings among youth in the human laboratory, using drinking-

IU researchers receive $8.6M NIH grant renewal to study alcohol use, binge drinking

A multi-disciplinary team of Indiana University researchers is focusing their efforts on a growing public health concern: binge and “high-intensity” drinking—extreme drinking behaviors that are increasingly prevalent among college-age adults.

A vicious cycle: How alcohol’s impact on the brain makes us more likely to drink

Heavy alcohol use creates a vicious cycle: It changes signaling pathways in the brain, which in turn affects cognitive functions like decision-making and impulse control — and makes the individual more likely to drink. The mechanism behind this may involve the brain’s immune system, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Soldiers in Recovery from Alcohol Use Disorder Who Experience Cardiovascular Withdrawal Symptoms May Benefit from Medication Targeting Brain Stress Response

Prazosin, a medication FDA-approved for hypertension and used off-label for alcohol use disorder, may help prevent drinking relapse in people with cardiovascular or behavioral symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, according to a new study involving active-duty soldiers.

Study Suggests Alcohol Consumption Linked to Acceleration of Alzheimer’s Disease

In a new preclinical study, scientists at Wake Forest University School of Medicine showed that even modest amounts of alcohol can accelerate brain atrophy, which is the loss of brain cells, and increase the number of amyloid plaques, which are the accumulation of toxic proteins in Alzheimer’s disease.

Close Relationships with Parents Promote Healthier Brain Development in High-Risk Teens, Buffering Against Alcohol Use Disorder

For teens at elevated risk of developing alcohol use disorder (AUD), close relationships with parents can help mitigate their genetic and environmental vulnerability, a new study suggests. The offspring of people with AUD are four times more likely than others to develop the disorder. Increasing evidence suggests that this heritable risk may be either amplified or mitigated by the quality of parenting.

Why We Want to Drink, What That Has to Do with Genes, and Why it Matters for Our Alcohol Risk

Motives for drinking — to party, to conform, to cope, or to feel good — are consistent through young adulthood, and genes play a role in how those motives influence alcohol use, a new study of college students suggests. Understanding the mechanisms linking genetic variants to differences in drinking behaviors could present opportunities for predicting individuals’ vulnerability to Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) and intervening to prevent it. Genetic factors are responsible for about 50% of individual risk of AUD. Much of how that heritability functions is unexplained, however. The relationship between genes and drinking behavior is complex, involving thousands of genetic variants that each have small effects. Critical factors known as endophenotypes, or intermediary phenotypes, affect how an individual’s genetic predisposition manifests as a behavioral trait. For the new study in Alcoholism: Clinical & Environmental Research, investigators sought to determine whether drinking motives are o

‘Front-loading’ Alcohol, an Important Focus for Future Research to Understand Drinking Motivations and Alcohol Use Disorder

Front-loading alcohol, or drinking faster at the outset of a drinking session, may be associated with harmful patterns which can lead to alcohol use disorders and should be studied, according to the authors of an analysis published in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research. The analysis suggests increasing evidence that front-loading drinking behavior is driven by reward effects more than by other factors, such as metabolic tolerance or negative reinforcement.

Low-income charter school graduates had lower rates of problematic substance use as young adults, UCLA research suggests

An 8-year study of nearly 1300 low-income adolescents in Los Angeles found that students who attended high performing charter high schools were much less likely to engage in risky substance use by the time they reached age 21. Males who attended the high-performing schools also had better physical health and lower obesity rates as young adults while females had substantially worse outcomes in those two areas.

Mood Influences Alcohol Craving Differently in Men and Women, Pointing the Way to Alcohol Use Disorder Treatments Tailored by Sex

Drinkers’ mood shifts and exposure to alcohol-related cues — beer cans, bars, and drinking buddies — contribute to alcohol cravings in opposite ways for men and women, a new study suggests. The findings have implications for how men and women develop dangerous drinking habits and ways that this might be prevented or treated. Various theories link alcohol use to positive and negative emotions: drinking to either enhance good mood or cope with stress, potentially becoming a self-reinforcing cycle. Studies have yielded mixed findings, however, suggesting that mood interacts with subconscious cognitive processes to prompt alcohol-seeking.

Drinking to Manage Physical Pain Results in Perceived Relief, Increasing Vulnerability to Dangerous Alcohol Use

People who self-medicate pain with alcohol may be vulnerable to hazardous drinking, with their experience of pain relief a potentially powerful driver of alcohol consumption, a new study suggests. Both pain and dangerous alcohol use are major public health issues. Each affects millions of US adults and costs hundreds of billions of dollars annually in health care and lost productivity. Recent studies have demonstrated a strong correlation between pain and alcohol use; people with chronic pain are more likely than others to report heavy drinking, and those with alcohol use disorder (AUD) are more likely to report chronic pain. Alcohol has known analgesic effects. Evidence of shared neural mechanisms underlying chronic pain and substance misuse suggest alcohol’s pain-relieving capacity might be influenced by individuals’ experience of chronic pain. Better understanding the relationship between chronic pain and alcohol use could inform improved prevention and treatment approaches. For the

Perfectionism May be a Risk Factor for Severe Alcohol Use Disorder, Novel Study Shows

Perfectionist traits — higher self-criticism, and unrealistic standards leading to isolation — are associated with severe alcohol use disorder (AUD), according to the first study directly comparing patients with AUD to a healthy control group. Perfectionist people strive for unrealistic performance standards and are prone to self-criticism.

Trials of Alcohol Use Disorder Treatments Routinely Exclude Sex, Gender, Race, and Ethnicity from Consideration in Outcomes

The manifestation of alcohol use disorder (AUD) and its social, health, and psychological implications depend in part on patient demographics. Yet researchers routinely exclude those demographics from analyses of non-medicinal AUD treatment trials, a review of studies has found. Consequently, little is known about how sex, gender, race, and ethnicity influence the effectiveness of those treatments, or which treatments are indicated — or not — for specific patients and communities. This is despite the National Institutes of Health Revitalization Act in 1993 requiring that NIH-funded studies include diversity of sex/gender and race/ethnicity in their participant samples and analysis. Problematic alcohol use, which has high prevalence and low treatment rates, is a leading contributor to preventable death and disease. Non-pharmacological treatments include cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), motivational interviewing (MI), contingency management, twelve-step programs, and more. Inequalitie

Study Highlights Underuse of Medications for Alcohol Use Disorder in Acute Care Settings

New research has revealed a significant gap in prescribing of effective medications for alcohol use disorder (AUD). The study, reported in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, showed that just one in twenty patients with an alcohol-related diagnosis were prescribed an approved AUD drug (naltrexone, disulfiram, or acamprosate). The findings reinforce and build on previous evidence of under-prescribing, despite these treatments being proven to reduce heavy drinking and relapse. In the inpatient acute care setting, provision of AUD medication has been shown to be both feasible and associated with a reduction in re-admissions and emergency department (ED) visits. However, few prior studies had reported on prescribing habits in this setting. The current study examined prescribing in the acute inpatient care setting compared to other care settings within the University of Colorado Healthcare System.

Online Tools for Alcohol Recovery Could Narrow Treatment Gaps — But Uptake is Slow

Online resources for supporting recovery from Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD) are promising but underused, a new study suggests. The expansion of digital recovery supports, such as video meetings, discussion forums, and social networking sites, could potentially help address a substantial unmet need for services. In 2020, fewer than one in ten Americans with current or recent substance use disorder received any form of treatment. Women are less likely to access treatment than men, research shows. Online services may make recovery support more accessible, eliminating certain barriers associated with traditional treatment (e.g., transportation and cost) and reducing others (e.g., stigma). Research is sparse, however, and the factors influencing the use and effects of digital services are not well understood. For the study in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, researchers explored how people in recovery from AUD use online supports and whether that use is linked to gender or outcome

Facebook Users’ Language Predicts Who’s at Risk for Dangerous Drinking

The language used in Facebook posts can identify people at risk of hazardous drinking and alcohol use disorders (AUDs), according to a new study. Social media platforms are a “low-cost treasure trove” of data, researchers claim, expanding the options for studying, screening, and helping people at risk. Social media content in recent years has been used to explore various public health phenomena. For example, language and “likes” have predicted depression, hospital visits, low birthweight, obesity, and life expectancy. Social media language has also been linked to patterns of alcohol consumption and related problems. For the study in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, investigators explored how convincingly the language of Facebook could be used to identify risky drinking. They compared the accuracy of multiple predictive tools, including a new technique for processing language that has rarely been applied to health research.

A ‘factory reset’ for the brain cures anxiety, drinking behavior

Gene editing may be a potential treatment for anxiety and alcohol use disorder in adults who were exposed to binge drinking in their adolescence, according to the results of an animal study published in the journal Science Advances. The researchers used a gene-editing tool called CRISPR-dCas9 in their experiments to manipulate the histone acetylation and methylation processes at the Arc gene in models of adult rats.

Brain Activity Helps Explain Response to Alcohol and How People Recognize Emotions Before Becoming Intoxicated

People who need to drink relatively high amounts of alcohol before feeling its effects, a genetically influenced risk factor for future heavy drinking and alcohol problems, may have differences in brain connectivity that impair their ability to interpret facial expressions and recognize their own intoxication, a new study suggests. The paper, in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, is believed to be the first to demonstrate differences in brain connectivity between people with low and high responses to alcohol. Varying levels of responses to alcohol — for example, how many drinks a person consumes before feeling intoxicated — are known to be related to neurobiological processing. Low responders, who drink more alcohol before feeling affected by it, are at greater risk of alcohol use disorder (AUD) than high responders, who feel the effects of fewer drinks. Scientists using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) are exploring the possibility that low responders are less a

Mechanisms of addiction: Psychology professor receives NIH grant for brain research

A five-year, $2.59 million grant from the National Institutes of Health will allow a psychology professor at Binghamton University, State University of New York to study the mechanisms of addiction.

Recovery From Alcohol Use Disorder: Long-term Abstinence Accompanied by Brain Changes and Emotional Improvements

from alcohol use disorder (AUD) have been clarified in a new study in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. AUD recovery was already known to be multidimensional, with behavioral changes – ranging from stopping heavy drinking to complete abstinence – accompanied by partial reversal of alcohol-induced brain damage. While the relationship between early abstinence (the “withdrawal phase”), negative mood, and sex-specific effects of alcohol on the brain’s “reward system” have been well-established, a growing body of evidence is revealing that AUD individuals in long-term abstinence (greater than five years) report higher levels of subjective happiness and emotional well-being, as well as a significantly lower risk of relapse. Yet, the way these long-term behavioral and emotional improvements relate to underlying brain changes, and potentially differ between men and women, remains unknown. To better understand and characterize these aspects of the recovery process, the study’s res

First of its kind study using multi-omics approach identifies large list of candidate genes associated with alcohol use disorder

New York, NY (Aug 20, 2021) – Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have published the first study of its kind in the field of addiction genetics using a multi-omics approach to provide a large list…

Traumatized People with Alcohol Use Disorder Likely Need a Range of Interventions to Address Risky Drinking

People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD) who are successfully treated for trauma likely need additional interventions addressing persistent drinking patterns, according to a new study.

Linking brain network “profiles” to treatment outcomes among individuals with co-occurring alcohol use and posttraumatic stress disorders

Alcohol use disorders (AUDs) frequently co-occur with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and this dual diagnosis often results in poorer treatment outcomes than for either disorder alone. An innovative study uses pre-treatment functional neuroimaging to predict treatment responses among individuals with both AUDs and PTSD. These results and others will be shared at the 44th annual scientific meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA), which will be held virtually this year from the 19th – 23rd of June 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Leveraging technology to track recovery and relapse in individuals with alcohol use disorders

Alcohol researchers have long known that excessive drinking can cause detrimental changes in cardiovascular functioning. Recent advances in technologies can facilitate data collection that identifies altered cardiovascular functioning even before a diagnosis of cardiovascular disease. These results and others will be shared at the 44th annual scientific meeting of the Research Society on Alcoholism (RSA), which will be held virtually this year from the 19th – 23rd of June 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

UIC research identifies potential pathways to treating alcohol use disorder, depression

A discovery from researchers at the University of Illinois Chicago may lead to new treatments for individuals who suffer from alcohol use disorder and depression. The study, “Transcriptomics identifies STAT3 as a key regulator of hippocampal gene expression and anhedonia during withdrawal from chronic alcohol exposure,” is published in the journal Translational Psychiatry by researchers at UIC’s Center for Alcohol Research in Epigenetics.

Novel Interventions May be Needed to Tackle Poor Social Cognition in People With Alcohol Use Disorder

Alcohol dependence is associated with impairments in social cognition – for example, the ability to identify the emotional state of others – that persist despite abstinence from alcohol during inpatient treatment, according to new study findings. Cognitive deficits are common in alcohol use disorder (AUD), and often involve difficulties with working memory, flexible thinking, and self-control; however, it has become clear that social cognition, including the ability to recognize facial emotion, can also be affected. Poor social cognition contributes to interpersonal difficulties and conflicts. It may also have an important clinical impact, in that poorer recognition of facial emotion has been linked to poorer outcomes of treatment for alcohol dependence and a greater risk of relapse. However, research on social cognition is lacking, and it was not known if social cognitive deficits persist or might naturally improve with abstinence from alcohol. The study at the Medical University of I

Patients with Depression, Anxiety, and Bulimia at Heightened Risk of Unhealthy Drinking and Associated Health Issues

People experiencing depression, anxiety disorder, or bulimia are at heightened risk of unhealthy drinking, according to a new study involving more than two million patients. Unhealthy drinking is known to frequently co-occur with behavioral health conditions, potentially impeding disease management and leading to more serious problems such as alcohol use disorder (AUD) and chronic medical issues. Although one in four US adults drink beyond recommended limits, little is known about the relationship between particular psychiatric diagnoses and varying levels of alcohol consumption. The study in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research aimed to change that.

Re-Train Your Brain: Online intervention tackles co-occurring alcohol misuse and social anxiety in young adults

Clinical testing of an online cognitive training intervention for co-occurring alcohol misuse and social anxiety will soon be underway, following successful evaluation of a demo program in young adults. In a study reported in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, researchers assessed the demo’s acceptability and ease-of-use among service providers and target users in Sydney, Australia, with the feedback used to develop and refine the full program.

Multiple Paths to Recovery Among Patients With Co-Occurring Alcohol Use and Mental Health Disorders

A study has revealed diverse routes to recovery among people with co-occurring substance use and mental health disorders admitted for psychiatric inpatient care, while highlighting that some patients need additional support. Problem drinkers who also have a psychiatric condition — such as major depressive disorder (MDD) — often struggle to sustain long-term recovery following treatment. Mutual health groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) can provide an ongoing source of recovery support for alcohol misuse, and involvement with AA is also linked to improvement in depression. However, it was not known how depression and involvement influence drinking during and after inpatient psychiatric treatment, and how they predict recovery. The new study, reported in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, investigated long-term trajectories of alcohol use, depression, and AA involvement over time among patients with co-occurring diagnoses.

Women and Racial Minorities are Marginalized in Trials of Medications for Alcohol Use Disorder

Women and racial minorities are seriously underrepresented in trials of medicines for alcohol use disorder (AUD) despite evidence that these treatments affect demographic groups differently. This is according to a review in Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, which may be the first to evaluate sex and racial representation in studies relating to the three pharmacological treatments approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for AUD. Previous research indicates that sex and race/ethnicity likely influence the prevalence of AUD, its risk of health consequences, and the effectiveness of treatments.