Welcome to SHAAP’s (Scottish Health Action on Alcohol Problems) weekly media monitoring service.

30 June 2016


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This briefing aims to provide a ‘snap shot’ of latest news on alcohol and health policy. The inclusion of an article in the briefing should not imply that SHAAP approves or condones the content.

SHAAP provides a coordinated, coherent and authoritative medical and clinical voice on the need to reduce the impact of alcohol related harm on the health and wellbeing of the people in Scotland. SHAAP was set up by the Scottish Medical Royal Colleges, through their Scottish Intercollegiate Group (SIGA) and is governed by an Executive Committee made up of members of the Royal Colleges.

Euro 2016: Football alcohol adverts seen 'once a minute'

People who watched Wales' Euro 2016 game against England on television saw alcohol marketing almost once every minute during play, a study has found.

It found pitch-side alcohol sponsor adverts were seen 78 times per game on average during broadcasts of the two countries' five Group B games.

So during the Wales and England game, they were seen once every 72 seconds.

Charity Alcohol Concern, which published the study, called for advertising rules to be tightened.

The research looked at advertising during both TV and internet broadcasts.

Alcohol Concern Cymru Director Andrew Misell said: "The volume of alcohol marketing around football is already enormous, and this research shows that alcohol companies are prepared to go to great lengths to get their brands in front of consumers, even when the law says otherwise."

He raised concerns that young children would see so many alcohol adverts while watching the games.

"We know from our previous research that children as young as 10 are more familiar with major alcohol brands than some popular cakes and snacks, and that many children associate specific beer brands with leading football teams," he said.

"Alcohol marketing drives consumption, particularly in the under-18s.

"Given the sport's massive appeal to children, it's high time to tighten up the rules and kick alcohol advertising and sponsorship out of football."

Dr Chrissie Pickin, executive director of health and wellbeing at Public Health Wales, said: "This report makes uncomfortable reading as it's clear that a huge number of children are being subjected to alcohol branding while innocently supporting their countries playing football.

"Sport should be about promoting healthy lifestyles and inspiring participation, not promoting alcohol consumption."

Source: BBC News, 27th June

Understanding Risk Factors Involved in Initiation of Adolescent Alcohol Use

Underage drinking is a major public health and social problem in the U.S. The ability to identify at-risk children before they initiate heavy alcohol use has immense clinical and public health implications. A new study has found that demographic factors, cognitive functioning, and brain features during the early-adolescence ages of 12 to 14 years can predict which youth eventually initiate alcohol use during later adolescence around the age of 18.

"We were able to predict, with 74 percent accuracy, which 12- to 14-year-old youth eventually went on to engage in alcohol use by late adolescence," said Lindsay Squeglia, assistant professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the Medical University of South Carolina.

"Neural features appear to be important predictors," she said. "While we are not at the point where we can scan every child's brain and know if they will/will not begin using alcohol, this is an important step in understanding brain features that contribute to alcohol use during adolescence. We are publishing the script we used for the analyses so other groups can replicate findings, in hopes that a final, validated model can be used clinically to predict adolescent alcohol use." Squeglia will present this research at the 39th Annual Research Society on Alcoholism in New Orleans June 25-29, 2016.

The researchers gathered data on 137 healthy alcohol- and drug-naïve adolescents through the Youth at Risk study, including extensive clinical interviews, neuropsychological testing, and structural and functional magnetic resonance imaging, followed by annual check-ups. By age 18, 70 youth (51%) had initiated heavy alcohol use and 67 had remained non-users.

"Demographic factors that predict adolescent drinking include being male, coming from a higher socioeconomic status -- which means coming from families with more money and education, dating by age 14, and positive expectations of how alcohol is going to make you feel and behave, particularly in social situations," said Squeglia.

"Furthermore, poorer performance on tests of executive functioning -- for example, on tasks of planning, problem solving, and reasoning -- as well as differences in the structure and function of the brain during executive functioning tasks at ages 12 to 14, are also predictive of which youth initiate alcohol use by age 18," she added.

"Teachers, parents, and clinicians can easily be looking for the demographic risk factors we identified as being highly predictive of alcohol use, like gender, dating behaviors, socioeconomic background, and youth's expectations of how alcohol will affect them," emphasized Squeglia. "With replication of our findings, we will hopefully be able to even better identify at-risk youth, as well as potential targets of preventive efforts such as bolstering executive functioning."

Source: Science Daily, 26th June

'Drinking half a glass of wine could lead to cancer'

Drinking as little as half a glass of wine a day can make cancer risks soar, according to North East alcohol campaigners.

Balance, the North East Alcohol Office, have launched a campaign to raise awareness of the links between drinking and cancer — which they say too few people have heard of.

Drinking alcohol increases the risk of suffering from seven different types of cancer, including bowel, breast and throat cancers.

Despite this, campaigners say that very few people in the region are aware that there is any link between drinking and the deadly disease.

They are urging people to keep their drinking within the new recommended limit, issued in January this year: 14 units a week for both men and women.

Balance quotes a study showing that a woman who drinks an average of one unit of alcohol a day increases her risk of being hit by breast cancer by 7-12% — and the risk continues to rise as consumption increases.

One unit is the equivalent of around half a pint of beer, half a standard glass of wine or a single vodka. So drinking a little over three glasses of wine at the weekend, even if you stayed dry throughout the week, would be enough to increase your cancer risk.

Meanwhile Cancer Research UK has shown that as many as a third of mouth and throat cancers, and one in five cancers of the oesophagus, are caused by alcohol consumption.

Harmful nitrosamine chemicals in acholic drinks pass over the mouth, throat and top of the larynx as drinkers swallow, often leading to serious health problems in these vital areas of the body.

Another reason for the link is that the body converts alcohol into the toxic chemical acetaldehyde - one of the reasons for hangovers. It can damage DNA and stop cells from repairing themselves which can cause cancer. Drinking also worsens the carcinogenic effects of smoking, by making it easier for mouth tissues to absorb the damaging chemicals in cigarettes.

But researchers at Sheffield University found that only around one in 10 people mentioned cancer when asked which health conditions they thought could result from drinking too much.

By contrast, the increased cancer risk that results from activities like smoking is well known.

Sue Taylor, partnerships manager for Balance, said people in the North East deserved the opportunity to make fully informed choices about alcohol.

She said: “So many people remain unaware of the links between alcohol and cancer, as well as the health risks associated with alcohol in general.

“This is particularly worrying when we’re seeing such sharp increases in alcohol-related hospital admissions. The fact is, these diseases so often creep up on us, with many people believing they’re drinking in moderation, when actually they’re drinking more than they think.

“We know from evaluation of our previous campaign work that awareness of the links between alcohol and cancer is growing amongst the North East public, but still much remains to be done to raise awareness levels.

“Only by making people aware of the risks, can they make informed choices about how much they drink.”

The campaign, which will include a TV advert — which can be viewed above — has been backed by national and local health leaders and doctors.

Alison Cox, Cancer Research UK’s director of prevention, said: “The campaign comes at a crucial time when public awareness of the links between alcohol and cancer is still worryingly low.

“We believe it’s vital to equip people with all the information they need to make informed choices about the levels they drink and this campaign supports just that.”

Prudhoe GP Dr John Green said: “Alcohol is a poison, it’s in the same cancer causing group as tobacco smoke and asbestos, and is linked to more than 60 medical conditions, as well as accidents and injuries.

“I see patients every day affected by cancer. There are many different reasons why people get cancer, but drinking is one of the things we have control over and can do something about.”

Councillor Jane Streather, cabinet member for public health and housing, added: “Alcohol is a damaging influence in many people’s lives, and the scale of its impact on the health and wellbeing of many of Newcastle residents is alarming.

“This is visible in many ways but the link between alcohol and cancer, which Balance has worked hard to publicise, deserves to be stressed. Not enough people realise its importance as a risk factor.”

Source: Chronicle Live, 27th June


Adults banned from alcohol awareness classes at Edinburgh schools

In a classroom at Portobello High School in Edinburgh, a group of teenagers troop happily into a classroom.

Nothing unusual there, except there are no adults present, and the topic is alcohol.

This is the AlcoLOLs project, in which specially-trained senior pupils lead discussions with younger students about Scotland's notorious drinking culture.

It aims to give young people a space where they can talk openly about their own experiences and views, without the bravado or pressure often associated with alcohol.

Sixth-year pupil Hope Eden is one of the AlcoLOLs team.

She said "It reassures young people that not everyone is the same when it comes to alcohol.

"Yes, some people drink, but lots of people don't drink."

Fellow AlcoLOL, Rory Martin, said the message is more effective when it comes from other teenagers.

"With adults it can be a bit preachy, and they don't know what it's like to be a teenager now. With us, we have a bit of seniority, but we're closer in years."

AlcoLOLs was the idea of Emma Wood and colleagues at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh.

Ms Wood said: "Before AlcoLOLs, what we found was that in the playground people would be talking about drunkenness as if it was really funny, and a good way to behave, and the people that disagreed kept quiet.

"Through AlcoLOLs children hear a much more diverse range of views and they learn that what they thought was true - that everyone drank and that was great - possibly isn't. "

There appear to be benefits in the wider community, according to Verity Ferry, who is the school link police officer for Portobello High School.

She said: "I've definitely seen a real difference in the amount of young people that are drinking, predominantly at the weekend.

"We don't have the same sort of alcohol-related anti-social behaviour like we used to.

"Young people are still out enjoying themselves but they're finding being with their peer groups and extra curricular activities is enough to give them the enjoyment they used to seek through alcohol."

Third year pupil Claire Skelly, who has been attending the AlcoLOLs sessions, said: "It's made me realise that if I don't want to drink alcohol and other people do, I don't have to feel pressured into it, because there are lots of other people who'll be feeling the same way."

Six schools in Edinburgh have now taken part in the AlcoLOLs project.

The teams are now involved in producing a handbook and information so more schools can follow their example.

Source: BBC News, 23rd June

A NEW study has shown that three quarters of people in the criminal justice system have a problem with alcohol.

Research carried out by Teesside University found that those in the system are almost ten times more likely to be dependent on alcohol compared with the general population.

Professor Dorothy Newbury-Birch, of the Alcohol and Public Health Research in Teesside University’s Health and Social Care Institute carried out a review to determine levels of alcohol dependency in the various stages of the criminal justice system in the UK.

Figures showed that around three quarters of those people have a problem with alcohol – compared to around a quarter in the general population. This applies to those who have been arrested in police custody, those in the probation setting and those in the prison system.

Professor Newbury-Birch, who has recently been nominated for the Stockholm Criminology Prize for her work around alcohol, said: “This study was the first of its kind to synthesise what we know about risky drinking in the criminal justice system in the UK. It shows that alcohol dependency and risky drinking are prevalent throughout all stages of the criminal justice system.”

The research found that up to 88 per cent of adults in the police custody setting, 69 per cent in the probation setting and 86 per cent in the prison system are risky drinkers.

She added: “This work is so important to the field, it gives us the information we need to develop appropriate interventions in the criminal justice setting for those with alcohol problems.”

The professor and her team of researchers are also involved in a collaborative research project with Dr Aisha Holloway from the University of Edinburgh, examining a new approach to help male remand prisoners tackle drinking problems.

She said: “In order to get appropriate interventions in place around alcohol we need to be working with practitioners and individuals involved in the criminal justice system – I am lucky to be involved with a group of dedicated researchers, practitioners and policy makers to take this work forward.”

Source: The Northern Echo, 30th June


Alcohol intoxication perturbs immune system of aged individuals

The immune system in the elderly is dysfunctional and infections are more prevalent, more severe, and harder to defeat. Drinking alcohol has a variety of damaging effects on the immune system and organs - like the gut, liver and lung - which can be worsened by pre-existing conditions as well as consumption of prescription and over-the-counter medications that aged individuals often take. This presentation addresses how alcohol affects the elderly more dramatically, and also suppresses their ability to battle infections, like pneumonia, much more severely than it does younger individuals.

"Our laboratory has been studying inflammatory and immune responses in the aged for well over a decade," said Brenda J. Curtis, Ph.D., a research assistant professor at the University of Colorado Denver. "We know that even healthy elderly individuals have an elevated basal inflammatory state, known as 'inflamm-aging.' Advanced age alone is a risk factor for a poor prognosis after injury or infection. Adding alcohol to the fragile immune milieu of the aged reduces their ability to fight infections."

"Our research suggests that alcohol intoxication perturbs the immune system of the aged both throughout the body and in local regions, like the lung," added Elizabeth J. Kovacs, Ph.D., director of Burn Research
and professor in the department of surgery at the
University of Colorado Denver / Anschutz Medical Campus. "We have shown that alcohol exposure makes macrophages less effective at clearing pathogens and releasing molecules important for recruiting other immune cells to the site of infection, and that this is worsened in the elderly."

Curtis and Kovacs will present their research at the 39th Annual Research Society on Alcoholism in New Orleans June 25-29, 2016.

Innate immune cells control the immediate response to an infection, including neutrophils and macrophages, Curtis explained. These cells work together to find and eradicate infectious organisms. However, drinking alcohol can impair innate immune function, thereby rendering the individual more susceptible to infections.

"This is due in part to direct effects of ethanol on innate immune cells," said Curtis. "Even short-term exposure of macrophages to alcohol reduces their ability to migrate to a site of infection as well as their ability to destroy the pathogen."

"In addition, the effects of alcohol on the elderly are more potent than they are in younger individuals in part because of the pro-inflammatory state of the aged," noted Kovacs. "Aged individuals also have decreased lung function and cough strength, which further escalates the risk for developing pneumonia."

Source: News Medical, 28th June

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