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BOSTON UNIVERSITY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE--Heavy alcohol consumption (three drinks or more/day for women and four drinks or more/day for men) is linked to alterations in immune function among people with HIV.

Researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) looked at biological markers of innate immune function, a kind of immune response that acts quickly and non-specifically to new infections and pathogens. They investigated biological markers of three specific immune processes: systemic inflammation, monocyte activation and altered coagulation. Higher levels of biological markers for these processes have previously been associated with higher risk of death. In the current study, the researchers assessed self-reported alcohol use over time (three times over two years) and also measured alcohol use using a blood-based marker of alcohol consumption called PEth (phosphatidylethanol) that detects alcohol consumption up to about 21 days after drinking. Additionally they measured other behaviors and health conditions that could obscure the true relationship between alcohol consumption and these biomarkers.

"We found that people who reported drinking more alcohol or had high PEth had higher levels of these biomarkers of immune function. The fact that heavy alcohol consumption was linked to elevated levels of these biomarkers, which are linked to mortality, suggests that alcohol may be contributing to mortality risk through immune dysfunction among people with HIV," said corresponding author Kaku So-Armah, PhD, assistant professor of medicine at BUSM.

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Own your drunken decisions

If someone has done something wrong while under the influence of alcohol, we tend to give them a “get out of jail free card”, rather than hold them accountable for their actions. We also extend these excuses to ourselves…It turns out that while we might believe that alcohol changes our personalities, it doesn’t. You’re still the same person after a drink – your existing sense of morality left intact. So, while alcohol might affect how we interpret and understand the emotions of other people, we can’t blame our immoral behaviours on alcohol.

Drunken you has the same moral compass. And so, you are responsible for your moral and immoral actions, whether you’ve had a few drinks or not.

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About 70 percent of those who engage in simultaneous alcohol and marijuana use reported simultaneous use at least weekly

A new study from Penn State found that compared to people who only drank alcohol, those who used alcohol and marijuana simultaneously were more likely to drink heavier and more often. They were also more likely to experience alcohol-related problems -- like impulsive actions they later regretted.

"The results suggest that individuals who simultaneously use alcohol and marijuana are at a disproportionately higher risk for heavy, frequent, and problematic substance use," said Ashley Linden-Carmichael, assistant research professor at the Edna Bennett Pierce Prevention Research Center at Penn State.

The researchers said the findings -- recently published in the journal Substance Use and Misuse-- also suggest that prevention and intervention programs should take into account not just alcohol, but also if people are using additional substances, as well.

According to the researchers, marijuana use is at an all-time high among young adults in the U.S., possibly leading to people using marijuana and alcohol simultaneously.

"The problem with simultaneous use is that it can affect people cognitively and perceptually, and also have an impact on motor impairment," Linden-Carmichael said. "There is a burgeoning area of research that is examining why people are using marijuana and alcohol together and what those effects are."

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Australia's plan for tackling alcohol abuse and harm has been compromised because of meddling from the alcohol industry, health experts have warned.

Key points:

  • A leaked copy of the National Alcohol Strategy describes alcohol as "an intrinsic part of Australian culture"
  • State and territory ministers say they cannot endorse the new draft
  • Alcohol accounts for up to 15 per cent of emergency admissions at hospitals

The impasse is presenting an obstacle for Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt, as he seeks to finalise the long-awaited blueprint.

"I'm not sure why we need to see it watered down," Western Australian Health Minister Roger Cook said. "Minister Hunt now needs to re-examine his conscience."

ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said industry inclusion in strategy governance "presents a commercial conflict of interest" She added that changes from the Commonwealth had "significantly reduced the quality of the document".

This first draft also focused on "challenging perceptions of risk among Australians about safe drinking levels, including in relation to health impacts". But the revised draft instead focuses more on educating Australians or measures to prevent "excessive alcohol consumption" and "excessive drinking". Professor Miller says it ignores the harm caused by regular alcohol consumption. "That our governments and bureaucrats aren't pushing that message clearly in a National Alcohol Strategy is frightening," he said

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Quitting alcohol may improve health-related quality of life for women, especially their mental well-being, according to a study from Hong Kong published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal).

Dr. Ni. "Our findings suggest caution in recommendations that moderate drinking could improve health-related quality of life. Instead, quitting drinking may be associated with a more favourable change in mental well-being, approaching the level of lifetime abstainers."

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