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1.  Living Alone and Alcohol-Related Mortality: A Population-Based Cohort Study from Finland 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(9):e1001094.
Kimmo Herttua and colleagues showed that living alone is associated with a substantially increased risk of alcohol-related mortality, irrespective of gender, socioeconomic status, or cause of death, and that this effect was exacerbated after a price reduction in alcohol in 2004.
Social isolation and living alone are increasingly common in industrialised countries. However, few studies have investigated the potential public health implications of this trend. We estimated the relative risk of death from alcohol-related causes among individuals living alone and determined whether this risk changed after a large reduction in alcohol prices.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a population-based natural experimental study of a change in the price of alcohol that occurred because of new laws enacted in Finland in January and March of 2004, utilising national registers. The data are based on an 11% sample of the Finnish population aged 15–79 y supplemented with an oversample of deaths. The oversample covered 80% of all deaths during the periods January 1, 2000–December 31, 2003 (the four years immediately before the price reduction of alcohol), and January 1, 2004–December 31, 2007 (the four years immediately after the price reduction). Alcohol-related mortality was defined using both underlying and contributory causes of death. During the 8-y follow-up about 18,200 persons died due to alcohol-related causes. Among married or cohabiting people the increase in alcohol-related mortality was small or non-existing between the periods 2000–2003 and 2004–2007, whereas for those living alone, this increase was substantial, especially in men and women aged 50–69 y. For liver disease in men, the most common fatal alcohol-related disease, the age-adjusted risk ratio associated with living alone was 3.7 (95% confidence interval 3.3, 4.1) before and 4.9 (95% CI 4.4, 5.4) after the price reduction (p<0.001 for difference in risk ratios). In women, the corresponding risk ratios were 1.7 (95% CI 1.4, 2.1) and 2.4 (95% CI 2.0, 2.9), respectively (p ≤ 0.01). Living alone was also associated with other mortality from alcohol-related diseases (range of risk ratios 2.3 to 8.0) as well as deaths from accidents and violence with alcohol as a contributing cause (risk ratios between 2.1 and 4.7), both before and after the price reduction.
Living alone is associated with a substantially increased risk of alcohol-related mortality, irrespective of gender, socioeconomic status, or the specific cause of death. The greater availability of alcohol in Finland after legislation-instituted price reductions in the first three months of 2004 increased in particular the relative excess in fatal liver disease among individuals living alone.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Throughout most of human history, people have lived in tight-knit communities where there was likely to be someone to turn to for help, advice, or company. But the modern way of life in industrialized countries is greatly reducing the quantity and quality of social relationships. Instead of living in extended families, many people now live miles away from their relatives, often living and working alone. Others commute long distances to work, which leaves little time for socializing with friends or relatives. And many delay or forgo getting married and having children. Consequently, loneliness and social isolation are getting more common. In the UK, according to a recent survey by the Mental Health Foundation, 10% of people often feel lonely, a third have a close friend or relative who they think is very lonely, and half think people are getting lonelier in general. Similarly, over the past two decades, there has been a three-fold increase in the number of Americans who say they have no close confidants.
Why Was This Study Done?
Some experts think that loneliness is bad for human health. They point to studies that show that people with fewer social relationships die earlier on average than people with more social relationships. But does loneliness increase the risk of dying from specific causes? It is important to investigate the relationship between loneliness and cause-specific mortality (death) because, if for example, loneliness increases the risk of dying from alcohol-related causes (heavy drinking causes liver and heart damage, increases the risk of some cancers, contributes to depression, and increases the risk of death by violence or accident), doctors could advise their patients who live alone about safe drinking. But, although loneliness is recognized as both a contributor to and a consequence of alcohol abuse, there have been no large, population-based studies on the association between living alone and alcohol-related mortality. In this population-based study, the researchers estimate the association between living alone (an indicator of a lack of social relationships) and death from alcohol-related causes in Finland for four years before and four years after an alcohol price reduction in 2004 that increased alcohol consumption.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers obtained information on about 80% of all people who died in Finland between 2000 and 2007 from Statistics Finland, which collects official Finnish statistics. During this period, about 18,200 people (two-thirds of whom lived alone) died from underlying alcohol-related causes (for example, liver disease and alcoholic poisoning) or contributory alcohol-related causes (for example, accidents, violence, and cardiovascular disease, with alcohol as a contributing cause). Among married and cohabiting people, the rate of alcohol-related mortality was similar in 2000–2003 and 2004–2007 but for people living alone (particularly those aged 50–69 years) the 2004 alcohol price reduction substantially increased the alcohol-related mortality rate. For liver disease in men, the risk ratio associated with living alone was 3.7 before and 4.9 after the price reduction. That is, between 2000 and 2003, men living alone were 3.7 times more likely to die of liver disease than married or cohabiting men; between 2004 and 2007, they were 4.9 times more likely to die of liver disease. In women, the corresponding risk ratios for liver disease were 1.7 and 2.4, respectively. Living alone was also associated with an increased risk of dying from other alcohol-related diseases and accidents and violence both before and after the price reduction.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, in Finland, living alone is associated with an increased risk of alcohol-related mortality. Because of the study design, it is impossible to say whether living alone is a cause or a consequence of alcohol abuse, but the greater increase in alcohol-related deaths (particularly fatal liver disease) among people living alone compared to married and cohabiting people after the alcohol price reduction suggests that people living alone are more vulnerable to the adverse effects of increased alcohol availability. Further research in other countries is now needed to identify whether living alone is a cause or effect of alcohol abuse and to extend these findings to cultures where the pattern of alcohol consumption is different. However, the findings of this natural experiment suggest that living alone should be regarded as a potential risk marker for death from alcohol-related causes.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The Mental Health America Live Your Life Well webpage includes information about how social relationships improve mental and physical health
The Mental Health Foundation (a UK charity) presents the report The Lonely Society?
The US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has information about alcohol and its effects on health
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a website on alcohol and public health that includes information on the health risks of excessive drinking
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides detailed information about drinking and alcohol, including information on the risks of drinking too much, and personal stories about alcohol problems, including stories from people living alone (My drinks diary shock and I used to drink all day)
MedlinePlus provides links to many other resources on alcohol
PMCID: PMC3176753  PMID: 21949642
2.  Effects of consuming alcohol mixed with energy drinks versus consuming alcohol only on overall alcohol consumption and negative alcohol-related consequences 
The aim of this study was to examine differences in alcohol consumption and its consequences when consumed alone and when mixed with energy drinks.
A survey was conducted among Dutch students at Utrecht University and the College of Utrecht. We collected data on alcohol consumption and alcohol-related consequences of alcohol consumed alone and/or alcohol mixed with energy drinks (AMED). The data were analyzed using a retrospective within-subject design, comparing occasions when subjects consumed AMED with those when they consumed alcohol only in the past 30 days.
A representative sample of 6002 students completed the survey, including 1239 who consumed AMED. Compared with consuming alcohol only, when consuming AMED, students consumed significantly fewer alcoholic drinks on an average drinking day (6.0 versus 5.4, respectively), and reported significantly fewer drinking days in the previous month (9.2 versus 1.4), significantly fewer days being drunk (1.9 versus 0.5), and significantly fewer occasions of consuming more than four (female)/five (male) alcoholic drinks (4.7 versus 0.9). The maximum number of mixed alcoholic drinks (4.5) in the previous month was significantly lower when compared with occasions when they consumed alcohol only (10.7). Accordingly, the mean duration of a drinking session was significantly shorter when mixing alcoholic drinks (4.0 versus 6.0 hours). Finally, when consuming AMED, significantly fewer alcohol-related consequences were reported (2.6) for the previous year, including driving a car while intoxicated, taking foolish risks, or being injured or hurt, as compared with alcohol-related consequences when consuming alcohol only (4.9).
Mixing alcohol with energy drinks decreases overall alcohol consumption, and decreases the likelihood of experiencing negative alcohol-related consequences.
PMCID: PMC3508567  PMID: 23204859
alcohol; energy drinks; AMED; alcohol consumption; consequences
3.  A Group Motivational Interviewing Intervention Reduces Drinking and Alcohol-Related Negative Consequences in Adjudicated College Women 
Addictive Behaviors  2007;32(11):2549-2562.
College students who violate campus alcohol policies (adjudicated students) are at high risk for experiencing negative alcohol-related consequences and for undermining campus life. Further, college women may be especially at risk due to differential intoxication effects and sexual consequences experienced mainly by female students. Research on interventions for adjudicated students, especially adjudicated females, has been limited. One hundred and fifteen college women who received a sanction for violating campus alcohol policies participated in the study. The two hour group intervention focused on female-specific reasons for drinking and included decisional balance, goal setting and other exercises. Participants completed follow-up surveys for 12 weeks following the intervention and answered questions regarding alcohol consumption and alcohol-related negative consequences. Findings support the use of an MI-based intervention to reduce both alcohol consumption and consequences among adjudicated females. Specifically, alcohol use was reduced by 29.9% and negative consequences were reduced by 35.87% from pre-intervention to 3-month follow up. Further, the intervention appeared to successfully initiate change in the heaviest drinkers, as women who drank at risky levels reduced alcohol consumption to a greater extent than women who drank at moderate levels.
PMCID: PMC3391164  PMID: 17628347
adjudicated college students; motivational interviewing; female; college drinking
Drug and alcohol dependence  2012;131(0):71-77.
Use of prescription stimulants used to treat Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) for reasons other than prescribed, known as non-medical use, is a growing problem among undergraduates. Previous studies show that non-medical prescription stimulant (NMPS) users consume more alcohol than individuals who do not use NMPS. However, research on simultaneous use of NMPS and alcohol is limited. The objectives of this study were to: (1) determine the prevalence of simultaneous use of alcohol and NMPS; (2) examine predictors and consequences of simultaneous NMPS and alcohol use among undergraduates.
In fall 2009, 4,090 students from eight North Carolina universities completed a web-based survey.
Past year prevalence of NMPS use among this sample was 10.6% and simultaneous use of NMPS with alcohol was 4.9%. Among NMPS users, 46.4% used NMPS simultaneously with alcohol within the past year. Multivariable analysis revealed that simultaneous NMPS and alcohol use was associated with low grade point averages, use of other substances, and increased alcohol-related consequences. Simultaneous NMPS and alcohol users reported experiencing significantly more negative consequences than either past year drinkers who did not use prescription stimulants and concurrent NMPS and alcohol users (use over the past year but not at the same time).
Simultaneous use of NMPS and alcohol is high among NMPS users in our sample of undergraduate students. Simultaneous users are at increased risk of experiencing negative consequences. Thus, prevention and intervention efforts should include a focus on simultaneous NMPS and alcohol use.
PMCID: PMC3644523  PMID: 23274057
polydrug; alcohol; prescription stimulants; nonmedical use; college students
5.  Alcohol Sales and Risk of Serious Assault 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(5):e104.
Alcohol is a contributing cause of unintentional injuries, such as motor vehicle crashes. Prior research on the association between alcohol use and violent injury was limited to survey-based data, and the inclusion of cases from a single trauma centre, without adequate controls. Beyond these limitations was the inability of prior researchers to comprehensively capture most alcohol sales. In Ontario, most alcohol is sold through retail outlets run by the provincial government, and hospitals are financed under a provincial health care system. We assessed the risk of being hospitalized due to assault in association with retail alcohol sales across Ontario.
Methods and Findings
We performed a population-based case-crossover analysis of all persons aged 13 years and older hospitalized for assault in Ontario from 1 April 2002 to 1 December 2004. On the day prior to each assault case's hospitalization, the volume of alcohol sold at the store in closest proximity to the victim's home was compared to the volume of alcohol sold at the same store 7 d earlier. Conditional logistic regression analysis was used to determine the associated relative risk (RR) of assault per 1,000 l higher daily sales of alcohol. Of the 3,212 persons admitted to hospital for assault, nearly 25% were between the ages of 13 and 20 y, and 83% were male. A total of 1,150 assaults (36%) involved the use of a sharp or blunt weapon, and 1,532 (48%) arose during an unarmed brawl or fight. For every 1,000 l more of alcohol sold per store per day, the relative risk of being hospitalized for assault was 1.13 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.02–1.26). The risk was accentuated for males (1.18, 95% CI 1.05–1.33), youth aged 13 to 20 y (1.21, 95% CI 0.99–1.46), and those in urban areas (1.19, 95% CI 1.06–1.35).
The risk of being a victim of serious assault increases with alcohol sales, especially among young urban men. Akin to reducing the risk of driving while impaired, consideration should be given to novel methods of preventing alcohol-related violence.
In a population-based case-crossover analysis, Joel Ray and colleagues find that the risk of being a victim of serious assault increases with retail alcohol sales, especially among young urban men.
Editors' Summary
Alcohol has been produced and consumed around the world since prehistoric times. In the Western world it is now the most commonly consumed psychoactive drug (a substance that changes mood, behavior, and thought processes). The World Health Organization reports that there are 76.3 million persons with alcohol use disorders worldwide. Alcohol consumption is an important factor in unintentional injuries, such as motor vehicle crashes, and in violent criminal behavior. In the United Kingdom, for example, a higher proportion of heavy drinkers than light drinkers cause violent criminal offenses. Other figures suggest that people (in particular, young men) have an increased risk of committing a criminally violent offense within 24 h of drinking alcohol. There is also some evidence that suggests that the victims as well as the perpetrators of assaults have often been drinking recently, possibly because alcohol impairs the victim's ability to judge potentially explosive situations.
Why Was This Study Done?
The researchers wanted to know more about the relationship between alcohol and intentional violence. The recognition of a clear link between driving when impaired by alcohol and motor vehicle crashes has led many countries to introduce public awareness programs that stigmatize drunk driving. If a clear link between alcohol consumption by the people involved in violent crime could also be established, similar programs might reduce alcohol-related assaults. The researchers tested the hypothesis that the risk of being hospitalized due to a violent assault increases when there are increased alcohol sales in the immediate vicinity of the victim's place of residence.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers did their study in Ontario, Canada for three reasons. First, Ontario is Canada's largest province. Second, the province keeps detailed computerized medical records, including records of people hospitalized from being violently assaulted. Third, most alcohol is sold in government-run shops, and the district has the infrastructure to allow daily alcohol sales to be tracked. The researchers identified more than 3,000 people over the age of 13 y who were hospitalized in the province because of a serious assault during a 32-mo period. They compared the volume of alcohol sold at the liquor store nearest to the victim's home the day before the assault with the volume sold at the same store a week earlier (this type of study is called a “case-crossover” study). For every extra 1,000 l of alcohol sold per store per day (a doubling of alcohol sales), the overall risk of being hospitalized for assault increased by 13%. The risk was highest in three subgroups of people: men (18% increased risk), youths aged 13 to 20 y (21% increased risk), and those living in urban areas (19% increased risk). At peak times of alcohol sales, the risk of assault was 41% higher than at times when alcohol sales were lowest.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that the risk of being seriously assaulted increases with the amount of alcohol sold locally the day before the assault and show that the individuals most at risk are young men living in urban areas. Because the study considers only serious assaults and alcohol sold in shops (i.e., not including alcohol sold in bars), it probably underestimates the association between alcohol and assault. It also does not indicate whether the victim or perpetrator of the assault (or both) had been drinking, and its findings may not apply to countries with different drinking habits. Nevertheless, these findings support the idea that the consumption of alcohol contributes to the occurrence of medical injuries from intentional violence. Increasing the price of alcohol or making alcohol harder to obtain might help to reduce the occurrence of alcohol-related assaults. The researchers suggest that a particularly effective approach may be to stigmatize alcohol-related brawling, analogous to the way that driving under the influence of alcohol has been made socially unacceptable.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Bennetts and Seabrook
The US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism provides information on all aspects of alcohol abuse, including an article on alcohol use and violence among young adults
Alcohol-related assault is examined in the British Crime Survey
Alcohol Concern, the UK national agency on alcohol misuse, provides fact sheets on the health impacts of alcohol, young people's drinking, and alcohol and crime
The Canadian Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto provides information about alcohol addiction (in English and French)
PMCID: PMC2375945  PMID: 18479181
6.  Identifying subtypes of dual alcohol and marijuana users: A methodological approach using cluster analysis 
Addictive behaviors  2011;37(1):119-123.
Alcohol is the most common psychoactive substance used with marijuana. However, little is known about the potential impact of different levels of use of both alcohol and marijuana and their influence on risky behaviors, injuries and psychosocial functioning. A systematic approach to identifying patterns of alcohol and marijuana use associated with increased risks has not yet been identified in the literature.
We report on the secondary analysis of data collected from a RCT conducted in a busy urban emergency department. Cluster analysis was performed on the patterns of past 30-day alcohol and marijuana use in two random subsamples N1 = 210 and N2 = 217. Four distinct subtypes of those who use both alcohol and marijuana were identified: (1) Daily Marijuana and Weekly Alcohol users; (2) Weekly Alcohol and Weekly Marijuana users; (3) Daily Alcohol and Daily Marijuana users; and (4) Daily Alcohol, Weekly Marijuana users. The four subtypes were replicated in both subsamples and examination of the external validity using ANOVA to determine cluster differences on psychosocial and behavioral variables confirmed the theoretical relevance of different patterns of alcohol and marijuana use. There were significantly different psychosocial negative consequences and related risky behaviors among subtypes.
We found that Daily Alcohol and Daily Marijuana users are at the highest risk to experience more negative consequences and engage in a broader spectrum of risky behaviors related to both substances, than the other three types of alcohol and marijuana users.
PMCID: PMC3230128  PMID: 21955871
Alcohol; Marijuana; Cluster analysis
7.  Use of Drinking Protective Behavioral Strategies in Association to Sex-Related Alcohol Negative Consequences: The Mediating Role of Alcohol Consumption 
Alcohol use has been implicated as a risk factor for sexual negative consequences, such as unprotected sexual intercourse. The present research was conducted to examine the relationship between drinking protective behavioral strategies and consensual sex-related alcohol negative consequences, and whether this relationship varied by gender. Additionally, typical number of drinks during sexual behavior was evaluated as a potential mediator of this association. Heavy drinking, sexually active college students (N = 297, 50.2% female) completed self-report measures of drinking protective behavioral strategies, alcohol consumption, and sex-related alcohol negative consequences. Findings indicated that women who used drinking protective behavioral strategies more frequently were less likely to experience sex-related alcohol negative consequences whereas this relationship was not significant for men. For women, this relationship was mediated by the typical number of drinks consumed during sexual behavior. The current research demonstrates that use of drinking protective behavioral strategies is related to a reduction in women's sex-related risks when drinking. Findings are discussed in terms of alcohol myopia theory. Implications for interventions aimed to reduce higher risk sexual behavior among college students are discussed.
PMCID: PMC2891544  PMID: 20565149
alcohol; alcohol-related problems; protective behavioral strategies; sexual behavior; sexual risk taking
8.  The Effectiveness of Community Action in Reducing Risky Alcohol Consumption and Harm: A Cluster Randomised Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2014;11(3):e1001617.
In a cluster randomized controlled trial, Anthony Shakeshaft and colleagues measure the effectiveness of a multi-component community-based intervention for reducing alcohol-related harm.
The World Health Organization, governments, and communities agree that community action is likely to reduce risky alcohol consumption and harm. Despite this agreement, there is little rigorous evidence that community action is effective: of the six randomised trials of community action published to date, all were US-based and focused on young people (rather than the whole community), and their outcomes were limited to self-report or alcohol purchase attempts. The objective of this study was to conduct the first non-US randomised controlled trial (RCT) of community action to quantify the effectiveness of this approach in reducing risky alcohol consumption and harms measured using both self-report and routinely collected data.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a cluster RCT comprising 20 communities in Australia that had populations of 5,000–20,000, were at least 100 km from an urban centre (population ≥ 100,000), and were not involved in another community alcohol project. Communities were pair-matched, and one member of each pair was randomly allocated to the experimental group. Thirteen interventions were implemented in the experimental communities from 2005 to 2009: community engagement; general practitioner training in alcohol screening and brief intervention (SBI); feedback to key stakeholders; media campaign; workplace policies/practices training; school-based intervention; general practitioner feedback on their prescribing of alcohol medications; community pharmacy-based SBI; web-based SBI; Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Services support for SBI; Good Sports program for sports clubs; identifying and targeting high-risk weekends; and hospital emergency department–based SBI. Primary outcomes based on routinely collected data were alcohol-related crime, traffic crashes, and hospital inpatient admissions. Routinely collected data for the entire study period (2001–2009) were obtained in 2010. Secondary outcomes based on pre- and post-intervention surveys (n = 2,977 and 2,255, respectively) were the following: long-term risky drinking, short-term high-risk drinking, short-term risky drinking, weekly consumption, hazardous/harmful alcohol use, and experience of alcohol harm. At the 5% level of statistical significance, there was insufficient evidence to conclude that the interventions were effective in the experimental, relative to control, communities for alcohol-related crime, traffic crashes, and hospital inpatient admissions, and for rates of risky alcohol consumption and hazardous/harmful alcohol use. Although respondents in the experimental communities reported statistically significantly lower average weekly consumption (1.90 fewer standard drinks per week, 95% CI = −3.37 to −0.43, p = 0.01) and less alcohol-related verbal abuse (odds ratio = 0.58, 95% CI = 0.35 to 0.96, p = 0.04) post-intervention, the low survey response rates (40% and 24% for the pre- and post-intervention surveys, respectively) require conservative interpretation. The main limitations of this study are as follows: (1) that the study may have been under-powered to detect differences in routinely collected data outcomes as statistically significant, and (2) the low survey response rates.
This RCT provides little evidence that community action significantly reduces risky alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harms, other than potential reductions in self-reported average weekly consumption and experience of alcohol-related verbal abuse. Complementary legislative action may be required to more effectively reduce alcohol harms.
Trial registration
Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry ACTRN12607000123448
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
People have consumed alcoholic beverages throughout history, but alcohol use is now an increasing global public health problem. According to the World Health Organization's 2010 Global Burden of Disease Study, alcohol use is the fifth leading risk factor (after high blood pressure and smoking) for disease and is responsible for 3.9% of the global disease burden. Alcohol use contributes to heart disease, liver disease, depression, some cancers, and many other health conditions. Alcohol also affects the well-being and health of people around those who drink, through alcohol-related crimes and road traffic crashes. The impact of alcohol use on disease and injury depends on the amount of alcohol consumed and the pattern of drinking. Most guidelines define long-term risky drinking as more than four drinks per day on average for men or more than two drinks per day for women (a “drink” is, roughly speaking, a can of beer or a small glass of wine), and short-term risky drinking (also called binge drinking) as seven or more drinks on a single occasion for men or five or more drinks on a single occasion for women. However, recent changes to the Australian guidelines acknowledge that a lower level of alcohol consumption is considered risky (with lifetime risky drinking defined as more than two drinks a day and binge drinking defined as more than four drinks on one occasion).
Why Was This Study Done?
In 2010, the World Health Assembly endorsed a global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol. This strategy emphasizes the importance of community action–a process in which a community defines its own needs and determines the actions that are required to meet these needs. Although community action is highly acceptable to community members, few studies have looked at the effectiveness of community action in reducing risky alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harm. Here, the researchers undertake a cluster randomized controlled trial (the Alcohol Action in Rural Communities [AARC] project) to quantify the effectiveness of community action in reducing risky alcohol consumption and harms in rural communities in Australia. A cluster randomized trial compares outcomes in clusters of people (here, communities) who receive alternative interventions assigned through the play of chance.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers pair-matched 20 rural Australian communities according to the proportion of their population that was Aboriginal (rates of alcohol-related harm are disproportionately higher among Aboriginal individuals than among non-Aboriginal individuals in Australia; they are also higher among young people and males, but the proportions of these two groups across communities was comparable). They randomly assigned one member of each pair to the experimental group and implemented 13 interventions in these communities by negotiating with key individuals in each community to define and implement each intervention. Examples of interventions included general practitioner training in screening for alcohol use disorders and in implementing a brief intervention, and a school-based interactive session designed to reduce alcohol harm among young people. The researchers quantified the effectiveness of the interventions using routinely collected data on alcohol-related crime and road traffic crashes, and on hospital inpatient admissions for alcohol dependence or abuse (which were expected to increase in the experimental group if the intervention was effective because of more people seeking or being referred for treatment). They also examined drinking habits and experiences of alcohol-related harm, such as verbal abuse, among community members using pre- and post-intervention surveys. After implementation of the interventions, the rates of alcohol-related crime, road traffic crashes, and hospital admissions, and of risky and hazardous/harmful alcohol consumption (measured using a validated tool called the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test) were not statistically significantly different in the experimental and control communities (a difference in outcomes that is not statistically significantly different can occur by chance). However, the reported average weekly consumption of alcohol was 20% lower in the experimental communities after the intervention than in the control communities (equivalent to 1.9 fewer standard drinks per week per respondent) and there was less alcohol-related verbal abuse post-intervention in the experimental communities than in the control communities.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings provide little evidence that community action reduced risky alcohol consumption and alcohol-related harms in rural Australian communities. Although there was some evidence of significant reductions in self-reported weekly alcohol consumption and in experiences of alcohol-related verbal abuse, these findings must be interpreted cautiously because they are based on surveys with very low response rates. A larger or differently designed study might provide statistically significant evidence for the effectiveness of community action in reducing risky alcohol consumption. However, given their findings, the researchers suggest that legislative approaches that are beyond the control of individual communities, such as alcohol taxation and restrictions on alcohol availability, may be required to effectively reduce alcohol harms. In other words, community action alone may not be the most effective way to reduce alcohol-related harm.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The World Health Organization provides detailed information about alcohol; its fact sheet on alcohol includes information about the global strategy to reduce the harmful use of alcohol; the Global Information System on Alcohol and Health provides further information about alcohol, including information on control policies around the world
The US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has information about alcohol and its effects on health
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a website on alcohol and public health that includes information on the health risks of excessive drinking
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides detailed information about drinking and alcohol, including information on the risks of drinking too much, tools for calculating alcohol consumption, and personal stories about alcohol use problems
MedlinePlus provides links to many other resources on alcohol
More information about the Alcohol Action in Rural Communities project is available
PMCID: PMC3949675  PMID: 24618831
9.  Current drinking and health-risk behaviors among male high school students in central Thailand 
BMC Public Health  2011;11:233.
Alcohol drinking is frequently related to behavioral problems, which lead to a number of negative consequences. This study was to evaluate the characteristics of male high school students who drink, the drinking patterns among them, and the associations between current drinking and other health risk behaviors which focused on personal safety, violence-related behaviors, suicide and sexual behaviors.
A cross-sectional study was conducted to explore current alcohol drinking and health-risk behaviors among male high school students in central Thailand. Five thousand one hundred and eighty four male students were classified into 2 groups according to drinking in the previous 30 days (yes = 631, no = 4,553). Data were collected by self-administered, anonymous questionnaire which consisted of 3 parts: socio-demographic factors, health-risk behaviors and alcohol drinking behavior during the past year from December 2007 to February 2008.
The results showed that the percent of current drinking was 12.17. Most of them were 15-17 years (50.21%). Socio-demographic factors such as age, educational level, residence, cohabitants, grade point average (GPA), having a part time job and having family members with alcohol/drug problems were significantly associated with alcohol drinking (p < 0.05). Multiple logistic regression analysis, after adjusting for socio-demographic factors, revealed that health-risk behavioral factors were associated with current alcohol consumption: often drove after drinking alcohol (OR = 3.10, 95% CI = 1.88-5.12), often carried a weapon (OR = 3.51, 95% CI = 2.27-5.42), often got into a physical fight without injury (OR = 3.06, 95% CI = 1.99-4.70), dating violence (OR = 2.58, 95% CI = 1.79-3.71), seriously thought about suicide (OR = 2.07, 95% CI = 1.38-3.11), made a suicide plan (OR = 2.10, 95% CI = 1.43-3.08), ever had sexual intercourse (OR = 5.62, 95% CI = 4.33-7.29), alcohol or drug use before last sexual intercourse (OR = 2.55, 95% CI = 1.44-4.53), and got someone pregnant (OR = 3.99, 95% CI = 1.73-9.25).
An increased risk of health-risk behaviors, including driving vehicles after drinking, violence-related behaviors, sad feelings and attempted suicide, and sexual behaviors was higher among drinking students that led to significant health problems. Effective intervention strategies (such as a campaign mentioning the adverse health effects and social consequences to the risk groups, and encouraging parental and community efforts to prevent drinking) among adolescents should be implemented to prevent underage drinking and adverse consequences.
PMCID: PMC3090349  PMID: 21492419
10.  Predictors and Outcomes of Variability in Subjective Alcohol Intoxication among College Students: An Event-Level Analysis across Four Years 
Individual differences in subjective alcohol intoxication, as measured by laboratory-based alcohol challenge, have been identified as a phenotypic risk factor for alcohol use disorders. Further, recent evidence indicates that subjective alcohol response is also associated with event-level physiological consequences among college students, including blackouts and hangovers.
The current investigation tested predictors of and outcomes associated with subjective intoxication in the natural drinking environment. In a preliminary laboratory alcohol-challenge study (N = 53), we developed a brief measure of subjective alcohol intoxication for use in event level research. Participating students in the principal study (N = 1,867; 63% female; 54% Caucasian) completed 30 days of Web-based self-monitoring in each of the four college years.
In the principal study, Generalized Estimating Equation analyses revealed that both lighter drinking and a family history of alcohol problems predicted greater subjective intoxication after accounting for estimated blood alcohol concentration (eBAC). Moreover, greater subjective intoxication during a given drinking episode was associated with negative alcohol-related consequences, illicit drug use, and unsafe sex, and at higher eBACs, was associated with aggression, sex, and property crime. Students who on average experienced greater subjective intoxication were also more likely to experience negative consequences and engage in illicit drug use, sex, unsafe sex, and aggression.
These findings suggest that both within-person variability and between-person individual differences in subjective intoxication may be risk factors for adverse drinking outcomes at the event level. Intervention efforts aimed at reducing problems associated with collegiate drinking may benefit from consideration both of who experiences greater subjective intoxication and of the situations in which they are more likely to do so.
PMCID: PMC3121906  PMID: 21143245
Subjective Intoxication; Subjective Response; Alcohol Abuse; College Students; Event-Level
11.  Changes in Protective Behavioral Strategies and Alcohol Use among College Students* 
Drug and alcohol dependence  2011;118(2-3):504-507.
Protective behavioral strategies (PBS) are specific cognitive-behavioral strategies designed to reduce alcohol consumption and resulting negative consequences. A host of studies have examined the cross-sectional relationship between such strategies and alcohol use in the high-risk population of United States college students, but prospective studies on the construct are lacking. The primary purposes of this study were to determine if PBS use prospectively predicted subsequent alcohol use/alcohol-related problems and if changes in PBS use were associated with less alcohol use and fewer problems.
Data were examined from 521 heavy drinking college students (60% male, 84% White, mean age = 18.9 years). Participants completed questionnaires assessing alcohol use, alcohol-related problems, and PBS use at baseline, 6-month, and 12-month follow-ups.
Analysis of residualized change scores indicated that increases in some PBS across time were associated with less alcohol use and fewer alcohol-related problems at follow-up. Findings regarding the prospective relationship between PBS use and subsequent alcohol use/problems were equivocal.
Results from the study suggest that PBS may have value in alcohol-related interventions among college students. Clinicians who help clients increase their use of PBS may help those clients increase the probability of drinking less and experiencing fewer alcohol-related problems in the future.
PMCID: PMC3176975  PMID: 21612879
Alcohol; College Student; Protective Behavioral Strategies
12.  College Students' Evaluations of Alcohol Consequences as Positive and Negative 
Addictive behaviors  2011;36(12):1148-1153.
Alcohol expectancy, motivation, and consequences measures assume a known valence of `positive' and `negative' outcomes. However, different individuals may rate the same consequences of alcohol use as good or bad. The current study examines the extent to which: (a) college students rate researcher-defined positive consequences as good and researcher-defined negative consequences as bad, and (b) these evaluations predict alcohol use and problems after controlling for previous use. In longitudinal self-reports via web-surveys across the first three semesters of college, students (N=600; 54% women) reported their alcohol use and problems, experienced consequences, and evaluations of those consequences. Contrary to the generally-accepted valence of positive consequences, Fun/Social consequences were viewed as neutral or negative by 22% (having more fun) to 73% (relieving boredom) of participants. Over half of participants evaluated each of the Relaxation, Sex, and Image consequences items as neutral or negative. Consistent with the generally-accepted valence of negative consequences, Physical/Behavioral consequences were viewed by the majority as negative, although 11% (getting in trouble with police/authorities) to 34% (doing/saying something embarrassing) of students rated these consequences as neutral or positive. Independent of levels of previous drinking, more positive evaluations of Fun/Social consequences prospectively predicted frequency, quantity, and maximum drinks. Less negative evaluations of Physical/Behavioral consequences predicted more alcohol problems. There is variation in the evaluations of consequences among college students, and understanding characteristics of those who view consequences as positive or negative may have implications for future alcohol-related behaviors and problems.
PMCID: PMC3179775  PMID: 21855224
13.  Can you say no? Examining the relationship between drinking refusal self-efficacy and protective behavioral strategy use on alcohol outcomes 
Addictive behaviors  2013;38(4):1898-1904.
Preliminary research has demonstrated reductions in alcohol-related harm associated with increased use of protective behavioral strategies (PBS) and higher levels of drinking refusal self-efficacy (DRSE). To extend research that has evaluated these protective factors independently of one another, the present study examined the interactive effects of PBS use and DRSE in predicting alcohol outcomes. Participants were 1084 college students (63% female) who completed online surveys. Two hierarchical linear regression models revealed that both DRSE and PBS use predicted alcohol use and consequences. Additionally, DRSE moderated the relationship between PBS use and both typical weekly drinking and negative alcohol-related consequences, such that participants who reported lower levels of PBS use and DRSE in the social pressure or emotional regulation dimensions were at greatest risk for heavy drinking and consequences respectively. Interestingly, for those who reported higher levels of social and emotional DRSE, levels of PBS use had no impact on alcohol use or alcohol consequences respectively. These findings demonstrate that DRSE and PBS use differentially reduce risk, suggesting the utility of collegiate, alcohol harm reduction interventions that aim to both increase PBS use and bolster self-efficacy for greater harm reduction.
PMCID: PMC3582319  PMID: 23380495
College Student Drinking; Protective Behavioral Strategies; Drinking Refusal Self-Efficacy; Alcohol Consequences
14.  Alcohol Consumption at Midlife and Successful Ageing in Women: A Prospective Cohort Analysis in the Nurses' Health Study 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(9):e1001090.
Using the Nurses' Health Study, Qi Sun and colleagues examine whether moderate alcohol intake is associated with overall health and well-being among women who survive to older age.
Observational studies have documented inverse associations between moderate alcohol consumption and risk of premature death. It is largely unknown whether moderate alcohol intake is also associated with overall health and well-being among populations who have survived to older age. In this study, we prospectively examined alcohol use assessed at midlife in relation to successful ageing in a cohort of US women.
Methods and Findings
Alcohol consumption at midlife was assessed using a validated food frequency questionnaire. Subsequently, successful ageing was defined in 13,894 Nurses' Health Study participants who survived to age 70 or older, and whose health status was continuously updated. “Successful ageing” was considered as being free of 11 major chronic diseases and having no major cognitive impairment, physical impairment, or mental health limitations. Analyses were restricted to the 98.1% of participants who were not heavier drinkers (>45 g/d) at midlife. Of all eligible study participants, 1,491 (10.7%) achieved successful ageing. After multivariable adjustment of potential confounders, light-to-moderate alcohol consumption at midlife was associated with modestly increased odds of successful ageing. The odds ratios (95% confidence interval) were 1.0 (referent) for nondrinkers, 1.11 (0.96–1.29) for ≤5.0 g/d, 1.19 (1.01–1.40) for 5.1–15.0 g/d, 1.28 (1.03–1.58) for 15.1–30.0 g/d, and 1.24 (0.87–1.76) for 30.1–45.0 g/d. Meanwhile, independent of total alcohol intake, participants who drank alcohol at regular patterns throughout the week, rather than on a single occasion, had somewhat better odds of successful ageing; for example, the odds ratios (95% confidence interval) were 1.29 (1.01–1.64) and 1.47 (1.14–1.90) for those drinking 3–4 days and 5–7 days per week in comparison with nondrinkers, respectively, whereas the odds ratio was 1.10 (0.94–1.30) for those drinking only 1–2 days per week.
These data suggest that regular, moderate consumption of alcohol at midlife may be related to a modest increase in overall health status among women who survive to older ages.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
People have always drunk alcoholic beverages but throughout history there have been arguments about the risks and benefits of beer, wine, and spirits. It is clear that excessive alcohol use—heavy drinking (an average of more than two drinks per day for men or more than one drink per day for women; in the US, a “drink” is defined as 15 g of alcohol or, roughly speaking, a can of beer or a small glass of wine) or binge drinking (five or more drinks on a single occasion for men; 4 or more drinks at one time for women)—is harmful. It causes liver damage and increases the risk of developing some types of cancer. It contributes to depression and violence and interferes with relationships. And it is often implicated in fatal traffic accidents. However, in contrast to these and other harms associated with excessive alcohol use, moderate alcohol consumption seems to reduce the risk of specific diseases such as heart disease, stroke, and cognitive decline (deterioration in learning, reasoning, and perception).
Why Was This Study Done?
Although people who drink moderate amounts of alcohol have a reduced risk of premature death compared to abstainers or heavy drinkers, it is not known whether moderate alcohol consumption is associated with overall health among ageing populations. In many countries, elderly people are an increasingly large part of the population, so it is important to know how moderate alcohol consumption affects their well-being. In this study, the researchers examine the effect of alcohol consumption at midlife on successful ageing among the participants of the Nurses' Health Study. The researchers study the effect of midlife alcohol consumption because the chronic conditions that affect elderly people develop slowly and it is likely that factors in earlier life determine health in later life. Successful ageing is defined as being free of major chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease, and having no major cognitive impairment, physical impairment, or mental health problems. The Nurses' Health Study enrolled 121,700 female registered nurses in 1976 to investigate the long-term effects of oral contraceptive use but has provided insights into many aspects of health and disease.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers assessed the alcohol consumption of the study participants at midlife (average age 58 years) from food frequency questionnaires completed in 1980 and 1984. Successful ageing for 13,984 participants who survived past 70 years was assessed by analyzing biennial health status questionnaires and cognitive function test results. One tenth of the women achieved successful ageing. After allowing for other factors that might affect their health such as smoking, women who drank light or moderate amounts of alcohol had a modestly increased chance of successful ageing compared to nondrinkers. For example, compared to nondrinkers, women who drank 5–15 g of alcohol per day (between one-third and one drink per day) had about a 20% higher chance of successful ageing. Independent of total alcohol intake, women who drank alcohol regularly had a better chance of successful ageing than occasional drinkers. Thus, compared to nondrinkers, women who drank five to seven days a week had nearly a 50% greater chance of successful ageing whereas women who drank only one or two days a week had a similar likelihood of successful ageing.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that regular, moderate consumption of alcohol at midlife may be related to a modest increase in overall health among women who survive to older ages. Because this is an observational study, it is possible that the women who drank moderately share other unknown characteristics that are actually responsible for their increased chance of successful ageing. Moreover, because all the study participants were women and most had European ancestry, these findings cannot be applied to men or to other ethnic groups. Nevertheless, these findings provide support for the 2010 US Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines, which state that consumption of up to one alcoholic drink per day for women and up to two alcoholic drinks per day for men may provide health benefits. Importantly, they also suggest that drinking alcohol regularly in moderation rather than occasional heavy drinking may be associated with a greater likelihood of successful ageing.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at
The US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has detailed information about alcohol and its effects on health, including a fact sheet on women and alcohol and a booklet entitled Alcohol, a woman's health issue
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a website on alcohol and public health
The UK National Health Service Choices website provides detailed information about drinking and alcohol, including how to calculate consumption
The Nutrition Source, a website maintained by the Department of Nutrition at Harvard School of Public Health, has an article entitled Alcohol: balancing risks and benefits
MedlinePlus provides links to many other resources on alcohol and on seniors' health
Details of the Nurses' Health Study are available
The 2010 US Department of Agriculture dietary guidelines are available
PMCID: PMC3167795  PMID: 21909248
15.  Use of Protective Behavioral Strategies and Reduced Alcohol Risk: Examining the Moderating Effects of Mental Health, Gender and Race 
Recent research indicates that protective behavioral strategies (PBS)—previously established as effective self-regulating tools for reducing alcohol risk among college students—may be especially useful for students with poor mental health, who are shown to be at heightened risk for alcohol-related harm. The current study examined the moderating influence of mental health (depression and anxiety severity), gender, and race (White, Asian) in the relationship between PBS use and alcohol-related negative consequences. Participants were 1,782 undergraduate students from two West Coast universities who reported past month incidence of heavy episodic drinking. Students reported on their drinking, experience of alcohol-related consequences, use of PBS, and depression and anxiety symptomatology. Overall, results demonstrated that among participants experiencing depression or anxiety, greater PBS utilization was associated with significantly lower levels of alcohol-related consequences, even after controlling for drinking and other predictors. However, findings also revealed important distinctions in the potential effectiveness of PBS by depression/anxiety severity and racial-gender subgroup, such that Asian men with poor mental health appeared to garner unique and substantial benefit (i.e., lesser consequences) from increased PBS use. Further, PBS were found to offer substantial protective benefit for White females, irrespective of mental health. This study points to the potential for targeted PBS-specific skills training and interventions to minimize alcohol-related risks faced by the growing subpopulation of college students experiencing psychological distress, and further highlights important race-gender differentials.
PMCID: PMC3983969  PMID: 24079648
alcohol; college students; protective behavioral strategies; anxiety; depression; gender; race
16.  Comparative Analysis of Alcohol Control Policies in 30 Countries 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(4):e151.
Alcohol consumption causes an estimated 4% of the global disease burden, prompting goverments to impose regulations to mitigate the adverse effects of alcohol. To assist public health leaders and policymakers, the authors developed a composite indicator—the Alcohol Policy Index—to gauge the strength of a country's alcohol control policies.
Methods and Findings
The Index generates a score based on policies from five regulatory domains—physical availability of alcohol, drinking context, alcohol prices, alcohol advertising, and operation of motor vehicles. The Index was applied to the 30 countries that compose the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and regression analysis was used to examine the relationship between policy score and per capita alcohol consumption. Countries attained a median score of 42.4 of a possible 100 points, ranging from 14.5 (Luxembourg) to 67.3 (Norway). The analysis revealed a strong negative correlation between score and consumption (r = −0.57; p = 0.001): a 10-point increase in the score was associated with a one-liter decrease in absolute alcohol consumption per person per year (95% confidence interval, 0.4–1.5 l). A sensitivity analysis demonstrated the robustness of the Index by showing that countries' scores and ranks remained relatively stable in response to variations in methodological assumptions.
The strength of alcohol control policies, as estimated by the Alcohol Policy Index, varied widely among 30 countries located in Europe, Asia, North America, and Australia. The study revealed a clear inverse relationship between policy strength and alcohol consumption. The Index provides a straightforward tool for facilitating international comparisons. In addition, it can help policymakers review and strengthen existing regulations aimed at minimizing alcohol-related harm and estimate the likely impact of policy changes.
Using an index that gauges the strength of national alcohol policies, a clear inverse relationship was found between policy strength and alcohol consumption.
Editors' Summary
Alcohol drinking is now recognized as one of the most important risks to human health. Previous research studies (see the research article by Rodgers et al., linked below) have predicted that around 4% of the burden of disease worldwide comes about as a result of drinking alcohol, which can be a factor in a wide range of health problems. These include chronic diseases such as cirrhosis of the liver and certain cancers, as well as poor health resulting from trauma, violence, and accidental injuries. For these reasons, most governments try to control the consumption of alcohol through laws, although very few countries ban alcohol entirely.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although bodies such as the World Health Assembly have recommended that its member countries develop national control policies to prevent excessive alcohol use, there is a huge variation between national policies. It is also very unclear whether there is any link between the strictness of legislation regarding alcohol control in any given country and how much people in that country actually drink.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers carrying out this study had two broad goals. First, they wanted to develop an index (or scoring system) that would allow them and others to rate the strength of any given country's alcohol control policy. Second, they wanted to see whether there is any link between the strength of control policies on this index and the amount of alcohol that is drunk by people on average in each country. In order to develop the alcohol control index, the researchers chose five main areas relating to alcohol control. These five areas related to the availability of alcohol, the “drinking context,” pricing, advertising, and vehicles. Within each policy area, specific policy topics relating to prevention of alcohol consumption and harm were identified. Then, each of 30 countries within the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) were rated on this index using recent data from public reports and databases. The researchers also collected data on alcohol consumption within each country from the World Health Organization and used this to estimate the average amount drunk per person in a year. When the researchers plotted scores on their index against the average amount drunk per person per year, they saw a negative correlation. That is, the stronger the alcohol control policy in any given country, the less people seemed to drink. This worked out at around roughly a 10-point increase on the index equating to a one-liter drop in alcohol consumption per person per year. However, some countries did not seem to fit these predictions very well.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The finding that there is a link between the strength of alcohol control policies and amount of alcohol drinking does not necessarily mean that greater government control causes lower drinking rates. The relationship might just mean that some other variable (e.g., some cultural factor) plays a role in determining the amount that people drink as well as affecting national policies for alcohol control. However, the index developed here is a useful method for researchers and policy makers to measure changes in alcohol controls and therefore understand more clearly the factors that affect drinking rates. This study looked only at the connection between control measures and extent of alcohol consumption, and did not examine alcohol-related harm. Future research might focus on the links between controls and the harms caused by alcohol.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
A Perspective in PLoS Medicine by Alison Ritter accompanies this article: “Comparing alcohol policies between countries: Science or silliness?”
Facts and figures on alcohol are available from the World Health Organization, including information about the burden of disease worldwide as a result of alcohol
Information from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is available about alcohol and public health
A 2004 PLoS Medicine research article includes discussion of the health burdens of alcohol: Rodgers A, Ezzati M, Vander Hoorn S, Lopez AD, Lin RB, et al. (2004) Distribution of major health risks: Findings from the global burden of disease study. PLoS Medicine 1(1): e27. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0010027
Current information about research on alcohol and alcoholism is available from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism
PMCID: PMC1876414  PMID: 17455992
17.  Alcohol Misuse and Multiple Sexual Partners 
We examine the association between self-reported alcohol misuse and alcohol use within 2 hours of having sex and the number of sexual partners among a sample of African-American and Latino emergency department (ED) patients.
Cross-sectional data were collected prospectively from a randomized sample of all ED patients during a 5-week period. In face-to-face interviews, subjects were asked to report their alcohol use and number of sexual partners in the past 12 months. Data were analyzed using multiple variable negative binomial regression models, and effect modification was assessed through inclusion of interaction terms.
The 395 study participants reported an average of 1.4 (standard error = 0.11) sexual partners in the past 12 months, 23% reported misusing alcohol, and 28% reported consuming alcohol before sex. There was no statistically significant association between alcohol misuse and the number of sexual partners; however, alcohol before sex was associated with a larger number of sexual partners in the past year. Moreover, among those who misused alcohol, participants who reported alcohol before sex were 3 times more likely to report a higher number of sexual partners (risk ratio = 3.2; confidence interval [CI] =1.9–5.6). The association between alcohol use before sex and number of sexual partners is dependent upon whether a person has attributes of harmful drinking over the past 12 months. Overall, alcohol use before sex increases the number of sexual partners, but the magnitude of this effect is significantly increased among alcohol misusers.
Alcohol misusers and those who reported having more than 1 sexual partner were more likely to cluster in the same group, ie, those who used alcohol before sex. Efforts to reduce the burden of sexually transmitted diseases, including human immunodeficiency virus, and other consequences of risky sexual behavior in the ED population should be cognizant of the interplay of alcohol and risky sexual behaviors. EDs should strive to institute a system for regular screening, brief intervention, and referral of at-risk patients to reduce negative consequences of alcohol misuse, including those of risky sexual behaviors.
PMCID: PMC3415802  PMID: 22900104
18.  Alcohol Intake and Blood Pressure: A Systematic Review Implementing a Mendelian Randomization Approach 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(3):e52.
Alcohol has been reported to be a common and modifiable risk factor for hypertension. However, observational studies are subject to confounding by other behavioural and sociodemographic factors, while clinical trials are difficult to implement and have limited follow-up time. Mendelian randomization can provide robust evidence on the nature of this association by use of a common polymorphism in aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2) as a surrogate for measuring alcohol consumption. ALDH2 encodes a major enzyme involved in alcohol metabolism. Individuals homozygous for the null variant (*2*2) experience adverse symptoms when drinking alcohol and consequently drink considerably less alcohol than wild-type homozygotes (*1*1) or heterozygotes. We hypothesise that this polymorphism may influence the risk of hypertension by affecting alcohol drinking behaviour.
Methods and Findings
We carried out fixed effect meta-analyses of the ALDH2 genotype with blood pressure (five studies, n = 7,658) and hypertension (three studies, n = 4,219) using studies identified via systematic review. In males, we obtained an overall odds ratio of 2.42 (95% confidence interval [CI] 1.66–3.55, p = 4.8 × 10−6) for hypertension comparing *1*1 with *2*2 homozygotes and an odds ratio of 1.72 (95% CI 1.17–2.52, p = 0.006) comparing heterozygotes (surrogate for moderate drinkers) with *2*2 homozygotes. Systolic blood pressure was 7.44 mmHg (95% CI 5.39–9.49, p = 1.1 × 10−12) greater among *1*1 than among *2*2 homozygotes, and 4.24 mmHg (95% CI 2.18–6.31, p = 0.00005) greater among heterozygotes than among *2*2 homozygotes.
These findings support the hypothesis that alcohol intake has a marked effect on blood pressure and the risk of hypertension.
Using a mendelian randomization approach Sarah Lewis and colleagues find strong support for the hypothesis that alcohol intake has a marked effect on blood pressure and the risk of hypertension.
Editors' Summary
High blood pressure (hypertension) is a common medical condition that affects nearly a third of US and UK adults. Hypertension has no symptoms but can lead to heart attacks or strokes. It is diagnosed by measuring blood pressure—the force that blood moving around the body exerts on the inside of large blood vessels. Blood pressure is highest when the heart is pumping out blood (systolic pressure) and lowest when it is filling up with blood (diastolic pressure). Normal blood pressure is defined as a systolic pressure of less than 130 millimeters of mercury (mmHg) and a diastolic pressure of less than 85 mmHg (a blood pressure of 130/85). A reading of more than 140/90 indicates hypertension. Many factors affect blood pressure, but overweight people and individuals who eat too much salty or fatty foods are at high risk of developing hypertension. Mild hypertension can often be corrected by lifestyle changes, but many people also take antihypertensive drugs to reduce their blood pressure.
Why Was This Study Done?
Another modifiable lifestyle factor thought to affect blood pressure is alcohol intake. Observational studies that ask people about their drinking habits and measure their blood pressure suggest that alcohol intake correlates with blood pressure, but they cannot prove a causal link because of “confounding”—other risk factors associated with alcohol drinking, such as diet, might also affect the study participant's blood pressures. A trial that randomly assigns people to different alcohol intakes could provide this proof of causality, but such a trial is impractical. In this study, therefore, the researchers have used “Mendelian randomization” to investigate whether alcohol intake affects blood pressure. An inactive variant of aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 (ALDH2; the enzyme that removes alcohol from the body) has been identified. People who inherit the variant form of this gene from both parents have an ALDH2 *2*2 genotype (genetic makeup) and become flushed and nauseated after drinking. Consequently, they drink less than people with a *1*2 genotype and much less than those with a *1*1 genotype. Because inheritance of these genetic variants does not affect lifestyle factors other than alcohol intake, an association between ALDH2 genotypes and blood pressure would indicate that alcohol intake has an effect on blood pressure without any confounding.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified ten published studies (mainly done in Japan where the ALDH2 gene variant is common) on associations between ALDH2 genotype and blood pressure or hypertension using a detailed search protocol (a “systematic review”). A meta-analysis (a statistical method for combining the results of independent studies) of the studies that had investigated the association between ALDH2 genotype and hypertension showed that men with the *1*1 genotype (highest alcohol intake) and those with the *1*2 genotype (intermediate alcohol intake) were 2.42 and 1.72 times more likely, respectively, to have hypertension than those with the *2*2 genotype (lowest alcohol intake). There was no association between ALDH2 genotype and hypertension among the women in these studies because they drank very little. Systolic and diastolic blood pressures showed a similar relationship to ALDH2 genotype in a second meta-analysis of relevant studies. Finally, the researchers estimated that for men the lifetime effect of drinking 1 g of alcohol a day (one unit of alcohol contains 8 g of alcohol in the UK and 14 g in the US; recommended daily limits in these countries are 3–4 and 1–2 units, respectively) would be an increase in systolic blood pressure of 0.24 mmHg.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings support the suggestion that alcohol has a marked effect on blood pressure and hypertension. Consequently, some cases of hypertension could be prevented by encouraging people to reduce their daily alcohol intake. Although the Mendelian randomization approach avoids most of the confounding intrinsic to observational studies, it is possible that a gene near ALDH2 that has no effect on alcohol intake affects blood pressure, since genes are often inherited in blocks. Alternatively, ALDH2 could affect blood pressure independent of alcohol intake. The possibility that ALDH2 could effect blood pressure independently of alcohol is intake made unlikely by the fact that no effect of genotype on blood pressure is seen among women who drink very little. Additional large-scale studies are needed to address these possibilities, to confirm the current finding in more people, and to improve the estimates of the effect that alcohol intake has on blood pressure.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
The MedlinePlus encyclopedia has a page on hypertension (in English and Spanish)
The American Heart Association provides information for patients and health professionals about hypertension
The UK Blood Pressure Association provides information for patients and health professionals on all aspects of hypertension, including information about alcohol affects blood pressure
The Explore@Bristol science center (a UK charity) provides an alcohol unit calculator and information on the effects of alcohol
The International Center for Alcohol Policies provides drinking guidelines for countries around the world
PMCID: PMC2265305  PMID: 18318597
19.  Emergency Department Brief Motivational Interventions for Alcohol With Motor Vehicle Crash Patients 
Annals of emergency medicine  2005;45(6):620-625.
Study objective
This study compares the effect of a brief motivational intervention for alcohol plus a booster given to emergency department (ED) patients with subcritical injuries from a motor vehicle crash with the effect of brief motivational intervention for alcohol plus a booster in patients treated for non-motor vehicle crash-related injuries.
A randomized controlled trial (n=539) was conducted at an urban Level I trauma center of brief intervention (1 ED session of brief intervention), brief motivational intervention for alcohol plus a booster (1 ED session plus booster session), or standard care for injured ED patients with an alcohol use problem who were being discharged home. At 12 months, alcohol-related negative consequences and injuries were measured. We performed a secondary analysis comparing motor vehicle crash-injured patients and non-motor vehicle crash-injured patients in the study sample.
Subcritically injured ED patients with harmful or hazardous alcohol use who received brief motivational intervention for alcohol plus a booster had fewer alcohol-related negative consequences and alcohol-related injuries than those receiving brief intervention or standard care at 12-month follow-up (previously reported). A secondary analysis of this result showed that motor vehicle crash patients (n=133) given brief motivational intervention for alcohol plus a booster (n=34) had fewer alcohol-related injuries than those receiving standard care (n=46; P=.001). Moreover, there were no significant differences in alcohol-related injuries among the non-motor vehicle crash-injured patients who received brief intervention or standard care.
Brief motivational intervention for alcohol plus a booster is a useful intervention for subcritically injured ED patients with harmful or hazardous alcohol use. Its effects may be moderated by the cause of injury. [Ann Emerg Med. 2005;45:620-625.]
PMCID: PMC2754120  PMID: 15940095
20.  Injuries, negative consequences, and risk behaviors among both injured and uninjured emergency department patients who report using alcohol and marijuana 
Brief intervention (BI) to reduce hazardous drinking and negative consequences such as injury has been effective when given in the emergency department (ED). The effectiveness and effect of BI has varied between injured and uninjured ED patients. This study compares injured and uninjured ED patients who admit to alcohol and marijuana use to determine their need and their readiness for BI.
Patients and Methods:
Participants volunteered to enter a randomized controlled trial of BI to reduce hazardous alcohol and marijuana use. Adult ED patients who had had alcohol in the last month and smoked marijuana in the last year were recruited. Those patients who were admitted to hospital, were under police custody, or were seeking treatment for substance use or psychiatric disorder were excluded. Research assistants interviewed participants using a validated questionnaire. Data were analyzed using SAS (version 9.1). Binominal tests of proportions, t-test analyses, and transformations were conducted as appropriate.
Injured (n = 249) and uninjured (n = 266) study participants reported very high, statistically equivalent (P > 0.05), rates of binge drinking (4–5 days/month), marijuana use (13 days/month), driving under the influence of marijuana or alcohol (>49% in the last 3 months), injury (>83% in the last year), and other negative consequences (>64% in the last 3 months) prior to their ED visit. These behaviors and the consequences demonstrate a need for change. Both injured and uninjured subjects were ready to change (>56%) and confident they could change (>91%) alcohol and marijuana use.
ED patients who admit to alcohol and marijuana use also use other hazardous substances and participate in high-risk behaviors. In both injured and uninjured patients who admit using alcohol and marijuana, the ED visit is an opportunity to deliver BI to reduce alcohol and marijuana use and associated risk behaviors and the subsequent injury and negative consequences. Given their risk behaviors and experience of negative consequences, members of both injured and uninjured groups have an equal need for BI. Fortunately, in both groups, a high number of members express motivation to change.
PMCID: PMC2700582  PMID: 19561952
Alcohol; brief intervention; injury prevention; marijuana
21.  Characterizing High School Students Who Play Drinking Games Using Latent Class Analysis 
Addictive behaviors  2013;38(10):2532-2540.
Heavy alcohol use and its associated negative consequences continue to be an important health issue among adolescents. Of particular concern are risky drinking practices such as playing drinking games. Although retrospective accounts indicate that drinking game participation is common among high school students, it has yet to be assessed in current high school students. Utilizing data from high school students who reported current drinking game participation (n = 178), we used latent class analysis to investigate the negative consequences resulting from gaming and examined underlying demographic and alcohol-related behavioral characteristics of students as a function of the resultant classes. Three classes of “gamers” emerged: (1) a “lower-risk” group who had a lower probability of endorsing negative consequences compared to the other groups, (2) a “higher-risk” group who reported that they experienced hangovers and difficulties limiting their drinking, got physically sick, and became rude, obnoxious, or insulting, and (3) a “sexual regret” group who reported that they experienced poor recall and unplanned sexual activity that they later regretted. Although the frequency of participating in drinking games did not differ between these three groups, results indicated that the “lower-risk” group consumed fewer drinks in a typical gaming session compared to the other two groups. The present findings suggest that drinking games are common among high school students, but that mere participation and frequency of play is not necessarily the best indicator of risk. Instead, examination of other constructs such as game-related alcohol consumption, consequences, or psychosocial variables such as impulsivity may be more useful.
PMCID: PMC3725189  PMID: 23778317
Drinking Games; Alcohol Use; Latent Class Analysis; Adolescents
22.  Early Subjective Response and Acquired Tolerance as Predictors of Alcohol Use and Related Problems in a Clinical Sample 
Previous studies have demonstrated that a low subjective response to alcohol is a risk factor for Alcohol Use Disorders (AUDs), and a recent study suggests that acquired tolerance can be differentiated from initial subjective response and is also significantly associated with drinking problems. Because the prior study of subjective response and tolerance focused on a sample of moderate drinkers, the goal of the current study was to examine relations between early subjective response, acquired tolerance, alcohol use, and alcohol-related problems in a sample of young adults with clinically significant alcohol problems.
The current study examined associations between early subjective response and acquired tolerance and both drinking behavior and alcohol-related problems within a sample of 113 heavy drinking young adults (66.1% male) volunteering for a clinical trial of naltrexone in combination with brief motivational counseling.
Consistent with the one prior study examining simultaneous effects of early SR and tolerance, both early subjective response and acquired tolerance were positively associated with typical drinking behavior, though tolerance was a much stronger predictor within this clinical sample. In contrast to the prior study, early subjective response was inversely associated with risk for alcohol-related problems, and tolerance was not a significant predictor of problems.
The results suggested that, controlling for weekly drinking, a low early subjective response protected against acute negative consequences within a sample of heavy drinkers who had acquired significant tolerance to alcohol effects. It is possible that this protective effect may eventually shift to a risk factor by allowing individuals with a low subjective response to persist in a pattern of hazardous drinking.
PMCID: PMC3586307  PMID: 23347236
23.  Does Drinking Location Matter? Profiles of Risky Single-Occasion Drinking by Location and Alcohol-Related Harm among Young Men 
In adolescents and young adults, acute consequences like injuries account for a substantial proportion of alcohol-related harm, especially in risky single-occasion (RSO) drinkers. The primary aim of the study was to characterize different drinking profiles in RSO drinkers according to drinking locations and their relationship to negative, alcohol-related consequences. The sample consisted of 2746 young men from the Cohort Study on Substance Use Risk Factors who had reported drinking six or more drinks on a single-occasion at least monthly over the preceding 12 months. Principal component analysis on the frequency and amount of drinking at 11 different locations was conducted, and 2 distinguishable components emerged: a non-party-dimension (loading high on theater/cinema, sport clubs, other clubs/societies, restaurants, and sport events) and a party-dimension (loading high on someone else’s home, pubs/bars, discos/nightclubs, outdoor public places, special events, and home). Differential impacts of drinking location profiles were observed on severe negative alcohol-related consequences (SAC). Relative to those classified as low or intermediate in both dimensions, no significant difference experiencing SAC was found among those who were classified as high in the non-party-dimension only. However, those who were classified as high in the party-dimension alone or in both dimensions were more likely to experience SAC. These differential effects remained after adjusting for alcohol consumption (volume and risky single-occasion drinking), personality traits, and peer-influence [adjusted OR = 0.83 (0.68–1.02), 1.57 (1.27–1.96), and 1.72 (1.23–2.41), respectively], indicating independent effects of drinking location on SAC. The inclusion of sociodemographic factors did not alter this association. The fact that this cluster of party-dimension locations seems to predispose young men to experiencing SAC has important implications for alcohol control policies.
PMCID: PMC4050430  PMID: 24959529
drinking locations; drinking profiles; risky single-occasion drinking; negative alcohol-related consequences
Journal of drug education  2010;40(3):265-280.
Alcoholic beverage consumption among high school students has shifted from beer to liquor. The current longitudinal study examined the effects of beverage-specific alcohol use on drinking behaviors among urban youth. Data included 731 adolescents who participated in Project Northland Chicago and reported consuming alcohol in 7th grade. Logistic regression tested the effects of beverage-specific use on consequences (e.g., alcohol use in the past month, week, heavy drinking, and ever drunkenness). Compared to wine users, adolescents who reported drinking hard liquor during their last drinking occasion had increased odds of alcohol use during the past month (OR = 1.44; 95% CI = 1.01–2.05), past week (OR = 3.37; 95% CI = 1.39–8.18), and ever drunkenness (OR = 1.56; 95% CI = 1.07–2.29). Use of hard liquor was associated with increased risk of alcohol-related consequences. Early selection of certain alcoholic beverages (e.g., hard liquor) may result in negative health outcomes and problematic alcohol use over time.
PMCID: PMC3721330  PMID: 21313986
25.  Event-specific risk and ecological factors associated with prepartying among heavier drinking college students 
Addictive behaviors  2012;38(3):1620-1628.
Using event-specific data, the present study sought to identify relevant risk factors and risky drinking patterns associated with prepartying. Analyses focused on drinking outcomes as a function of drinking game playing and the social context on occasions where prepartying did and did not occur. This research utilized a representative two-site sample of prepartiers who also reported a heavy episodic drinking event in the past month (n = 988). Results revealed that during a preparty event, participants drank significantly more, reached higher blood alcohol levels (BALs), and experienced significantly more negative consequences compared to the last occasion that they drank but did not preparty. Students who played drinking games when they prepartied had higher BALs and experienced more negative consequences than those who did not play drinking games. Whether females prepartied in a single-sex or coed setting had little effect on their BALs. For males, however, their BALs were greater when they prepartied in a coed setting compared to a single sex setting. Moreover, participants reported more negative consequences when they prepartied in a coed setting than in a single-sex setting. Finally, regression analyses demonstrated that participants’ BAL, frequency of prepartying, and the interaction between BAL and frequency of prepartying all uniquely contributed to the prediction of event-specific alcohol-related negative consequences. As BAL increased, the number of negative consequences increased more sharply for those who prepartied infrequently, compared to those who prepartied frequently. Analyses were examined as a function of gender which revealed important gender effects and interactions. Interventions can be designed to intervene with high-risk prepartiers by using BAL education emphasizing the impact of time-limited prepartying drinking.
PMCID: PMC3582320  PMID: 23254208
Alcohol; college students; preparty; event-specific; blood alcohol levels; risk factors

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