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Getting less sleep means more risky behavior, including alcohol use.

This paper provides further evidence on the importance of sleep for a number of health and behavior indicators. Researchers compared U.S. high school students who slept 8 hours a night with students who slept 6 hours a night. They found that sleeping less was associated with a variety of risky behaviors, from drinking alcohol to getting in a fight or attempting suicide. They also found that 70 percent of their sample got less than the recommended 8 hours of sleep on school nights.

This study, “Dose-Dependent Associations Between Sleep Duration and Unsafe Behaviors Among US High School Students,” was published in JAMA Pediatrics. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute supported this research effort.

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Researchers shed light on Alcopops, both in the United States and internationally.

Researchers in India sought to understand “Alcopops,” a term used to describe different types of flavored alcoholic beverages. Since their introduction in the 1990s, Alcopops have been a problem for the underage drinking prevention community. Their sweet taste, appealing colors, and youth-aimed marketing makes them attractive for those beginning to drink, especially for teenage girls. In this paper, researchers summarize available information about Alcopops, including evidence and regulations from the European Union and Australia.

This study, “Alcopops: a global perspective on the new category of alcoholic beverage,” was published in Drugs and Alcohol Today.

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Young adults in rural areas and drinking and driving.

Drinking and driving is a significant problem in rural areas, such as Montana, but there is little empirical research about why young adults engage in such risky behavior. Researchers examined possible reasons through a theoretical framework and by conducting focus groups with young adults in rural Montana. They found several upstream social and cultural factors that can help us understand the problem and guide future research and prevention efforts.

This study, “Context and culture: Reasons young adults drink and drive in rural America,” was published in Accident Analysis & Prevention. The National Institute of General Medical Sciences at the National Institutes of Health supported this work.

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Studies examining alcohol use in group settings can use placebo beverages.

Researchers examined the effects of placebo beverages in group settings for possible disruptive effects caused by other participants. They found that participants in group settings reported consuming an alcoholic beverage and feeling intoxicated, just like when consuming a placebo beverage alone. Their result adds to the methodological toolkit for researchers when isolating the effects of alcohol in social contexts.

This study, “Using Placebo Beverages in Group Alcohol Studies,” was published in Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research. It was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

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Adolescents’ experiences with alcohol use and expectations about peer use affect drinking onset.

Initiation of alcohol use among adolescents has many potential factors. Researchers analyzed data from a longitudinal survey of adolescent substance use and health behaviors. They found interacting effects, within individuals, of early initiation, alcohol outcome experiences, and perceived social norms. More positive experiences and the norms of close friends predicted early initiation in a survival analysis. Their results have implications for alcohol screening and prevention initiatives.

This study, “Developmental relations between alcohol expectancies and social norms in predicting alcohol onset,” was published in Developmental Psychology. The full paper is under embargo and will be available in early 2019.

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Value of even brief substance abuse interviews highlighted.

Researchers conducted a randomized, controlled trial to determine the benefits of a 15-minute motivational interviewing session on risk factors for alcohol and marijuana use in a primary care setting for at-risk adolescents (ages 12–18). They found significant effects on several risk factors or consequences of use, including less perceived peer use of alcohol and marijuana and negative alcohol consequences experienced compared to participants who underwent the usual care. This study highlights the value of even a brief intervention in primary care settings on substance use among adolescents. 

This study, “Brief motivational interviewing intervention to reduce alcohol and marijuana use for at-risk adolescents in primary care,” was published recently in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, and was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and utilized its screening tools. 

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Most effective community-based interventions reviewed.

Included as a chapter in the Adolescent Substance Abuse issue of the book series, Issues in Children’s and Families’ Lives, researchers conducted a literature review on effective and evidence-based prevention initiatives aimed at adolescent substance use. They drew from two sources, the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism’s CollegeAIM Alcohol Interventions Matrix and Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs, and Health, which combine to give a comprehensive view on prevention initiatives and environmental strategies that have positive results. 

The chapter, “Evidence-based practices: Community-based interventions to reduce alcohol use and misuse,” draws heavily from ICCPUD sources and is relevant for the prevention community. 

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Strong links found between family history and alcohol problems.

Researchers examined potential factors affecting the relationship between how much a person enjoys non-substance rewards and their increased risk for substance misuse. They compared how a sample of college students responded to rewards and how they drank based on their family history of drinking behavior. They found strong links between family history and alcohol problems but not drinking behavior, and that women’s, but not men’s, drinking behavior was affected by how they responded to non-substance rewards. They also found that a negative family history with alcohol risk combined with less enjoyment of substance-free rewards, together created greater alcohol problems. 

The study, “Alcohol family history moderates the association between evening substance-free reinforcement and alcohol problems,” is published in Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology and was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

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Giving a brief intervention in English versus Spanish.

In this study, researchers tried to determine whether the language in which a brief intervention is delivered affects drinking behavior among Mexican-origin young adults. They used data from an emergency department to show that while the interventions were effective, there were no significant differences in drinking outcomes regarding whether it was given in English or Spanish. This paper shows that language may not be a crucial factor for achieving cultural congruence and should not be a barrier for anyone providing these services. 

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Clinical trial shows promising results for alcohol use disorder with mixed results for smoking.

Researchers used data from a recent clinical trial of the nicotinic antagonist mecamylamine, used to treat alcohol use disorder, to examine its effects on smoking and the association between reductions in alcohol use and smoking. They found that participants smoked less over the trial but that there were no significant differences when compared to the control group. They also found that those who reduced their smoking more, also reduced their drinking more.

This paper, “Tobacco use during a clinical trial of mecamylamine for alcohol dependence: Medication effects on smoking and associations with reductions in drinking,” appeared in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. It was supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

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Laboratory and life experience with wearable alcohol biosensors.

Wearable alcohol biosensors are a developing, important technology in the alcohol treatment field. A team of researchers from Yale examined two newer devices in the field and the laboratory. They found them to be comfortable and acceptable, and with potential. They also highlighted limitations such as high variance in readings, lack of real-time data and recommendations, and poor battery life. Researchers also lay out key questions that will need to be resolved as the technology progresses.

To learn more, read “Wrist-worn alcohol biosensors: Strengths, limitations, and future directions” in the Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment. This study was funded, in part, by grants from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

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Influence of Paternal Alcohol Use on Adolescent Educational Attainment

Researchers examined the role paternal alcohol problems and separation, and early alcohol, tobacco, and marijuana use play in offspring educational attainment among European American and African American families. The study screened families with children ages 13-19 years to determine high-risk or low-risk status for paternal heavy drinking and analyzed data from 340 African American and 288 European American offspring who were not enrolled in school. In European Americans, neither paternal drinking status nor offspring substance use was associated with educational outcomes. However, paternal separation elevated the likelihood of not completing high school. For African Americans, paternal separation did not significantly reduce the likelihood for high school completion, but early marijuana use and higher levels of paternal alcohol problems did.

The study “The Influence of Paternal Separation, Paternal History of Alcohol Use Disorder Risk, and Early Substance Use on Offspring Educational Attainment by Young Adulthood,” is published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism supported this research effort.

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Substance Use and Childhood Adversity Among Young Black Men

Scientists investigated the effects of alcohol and marijuana use and the exposure to adverse childhood experiences on depressive symptoms among young Black men. Data from 505 rural Black men age 19-22 showed that substance use significantly predicted an increase in depressive symptoms only among participants who were exposed to adverse childhood experiences.

The study “The influence of substance use on depressive symptoms among young adult black men: The sensitizing effect of early adversity” is published in The American Journal on Addictions. The National Institute on Drug Abuse supported this research effort.

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Web-based Alcohol Intervention to Reduce Sexual Risk in College Women

Researchers examined the effect of a brief, web-based alcohol intervention on reducing alcohol use and sexual risk behaviors in college women. Data from 160 participants revealed that the alcohol intervention was associated with higher levels of condom use assertiveness at a three-month follow-up. More alcohol use was associated with less condom use assertiveness for those with more significant sexual assault histories.

The study “Reducing sexual risk behaviors: secondary analyses from a randomized controlled trial of a brief web-based alcohol intervention for underage, heavy episodic drinking college women,” is published in Addiction Research and Theory. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Institute of Mental Health supported this research effort.

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Roles of Drinking Level and Pattern on Late-Life Drinking Problems

A longitudinal study examined the individual contributions of an episodic heavy drinking pattern versus a high average level of drinking as predictors of drinking problems. Researchers assessed alcohol consumption and indexed drinking problems of 1,107 adults aged 55-65 across 20 years. Findings showed that a high average level of drinking and an episodic heavy pattern of drinking each independently increased the number of drinking problems by more than 50%.

The study “Late-Life Drinking Problems: The Predictive Roles of Drinking Level vs. Drinking Pattern,” is published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism supported this research effort.

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Stress Effects on Alcohol-Motivated Behaviors

The current study examined the effects of psychosocial stress on alcohol cravings and alcohol-motivated behaviors in people with alcohol use disorder. 30 heavy, non-treatment-seeking drinkers completed a comprehensive assessment of recent drinking, mood and health followed by a stress test and a procedure in which subjects worked for money or alcohol. Findings showed that the stress test increased alcohol cravings and rate of response time. Alcohol cravings were associated with a higher amount of drinks earned during the stress session. 

The study “A paradigm for examining stress effects on alcohol-motivated behaviors in participants with alcohol use disorder,” is published in Addiction Biology. The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences supported this research effort.

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