February 26, 2012


Acetaldehyde. Google it. It's what is probably what is behind most of the pain in your hangover; it's a by-product of alcohol metabolism that is more toxic than alcohol itself, acetaldehyde is created when the alcohol in the liver is broken down by an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase. 

When one drinks moderately, the acetaldehyde usually gets converted to acetate (an innocuous substance) with the aid of  acetaldehyde dehydrogenase, and  glutathione. However, when drinking excessively, the liver often runs out of glutathione, and a massive pile-up of toxic acetadehyde occurs in the body.

Or, you happen to be one of the many unfortunate people (an estimated 67% of Asians and Native Americans who carry one or two mutations of the aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2) gene which causes them to experience much higher levels of that evil acetaldehyde almost as soon as they start drinking. (NCBI study: Hangover symptoms in Asian Americans with variations in the aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH2) gene. )  

Here's a simplified chart of what it looks like for moderate drinkers:

However, when we drink excessively, or happen to be cursed with a mutated ALDH2 gene, this is what happens:
So, what works against acetaldehyde? Cysteine

REMEDY #1 Here is one formulae I used centering around N-acetyl-L-cysteine (NAC) - a derivative of cysteine- both before and after drinking. Better living with amino acids.
  1. 600 - 1,200 mg of N-acetylcysteine (NAC) (about $20 for a 250 x 600 mg bottle: Take two (2 )capsules every 3-4 hours as needed)
  2. 250 mg of Alpha Lipoic Acid - helps off-set any potential side-effects of NAC as well as improve the effacy of it; it is also itself an anti-oxidant. (about $10 for a 120 x 250 mg bottle: Take one (1 )capsule every 3-4 hours as needed )
  3. 500mg or 1,000 mg of Vitamin C; you can get these anywhere. I don't have any attachment to a particular brand, but I did like the NOW Foods brand for the harder to find NAC and AlphaLipoic Acid tabs. (about $14 for 250 x 1,000 mg tablets: I wouldn't take more than 2 grams in a single day and certainly no more than 1 gram on an extended basis) 

REMEDY #2 What if you're hungover right now and don't have time to get these things? 
Look in your fridge and hopefully you'll have a excellent source of cysteine available - eggs, or more specifically, egg yolks

Here is a very simple but effective remedy. Takes only a few minutes to watch.
The addition of the orange juice adds water and sugars plus makes the eggs yolks go down a lot easier unless you like doing the Rocky thing.

May 5, 2011

Naltrexone: can a pill cure alcoholism?

Also see: SOBER MD: Naltrexone aka "The Sinclair Method"

From the Times

January 12, 2009
Naltrexone: can a pill cure alcoholism?
Naltrexone is cheap, effective and requires no costly rehab. So why do so few doctors endorse it?
Penny Wark

Mrs M, as she asks me to call her, isn't sure exactly when she last drank herself into a comatose state, but she knows it was about five years ago. At that time she got through a bottle or two each day - and not just wine, she explains. “It was the only way I knew to resolve a problem.”

When I spoke to her last week she had not had a drink for four days, though she expected to have a couple of glasses of wine with a meal on Friday night and the same on Saturday. “Oh yes, I still enjoy good wine. I savour wine. But there's no craving.”

For anyone who has encountered alcoholism, whether personally or through friends and family, Mrs M's win-win trouncing of her condition may sound too good to be true. We all know that the only way alcoholics can lead normal lives - as Mrs M does now - is to abstain, and that abstention must be absolute because alcoholics have a distressing habit of resuming their worst excesses after just one drink. Once an alcoholic, always an alcoholic and all that. So how has she done it?

The answer lies in the use of a drug called naltrexone, which Mrs M takes before she drinks. Naltrexone interrupts the pathways in the brain that enable alcohol to release pleasure-giving endorphins. As Matt, another naltrexone user and recovering heavy drinker, puts it: “With naltrexone, it's weird. You drink and you feel the effect of the alcohol but it doesn't have the magic.”

If, each time you engage in a behaviour that releases endorphins, you strengthen that behaviour, it follows that if you engage in the behaviour and don't get the endorphin release, you weaken the urge to use it. Thus, unburdened by a craving for alcohol, a former heavy drinker can use alcohol with control.

That is the theory and this treatment for alcoholism is called the Sinclair Method, after David Sinclair, the scientist who discovered it and who claims a 78 per cent success rate over three to four months. The measure of success is controlled drinking within normal safety limits, or abstinence.

In Finland, where Sinclair works at the National Public Health Institute, his method has become part of the mainstream treatment for alcoholism, used by 100,000 people since 1995, he estimates. In the US it is used by 2 per cent of doctors who treat alcoholism. In the UK, however, naltrexone is licensed for the treatment of heroin addiction but not alcoholism (though it is available on private prescription) and Mrs M, who lives in Scotland, is fortunate to have an enlightened doctor who has sought permission to use it to treat alcohol problems for about 50 carefully selected patients over the past ten years.

Two months ago a book championing the Sinclair Method was published in the US. Called The Cure for Alcoholism, it has sold a few thousand copies but received no media coverage. In it the author, Roy Eskapa, a psychologist who has worked with Sinclair since the 1990s, hails him as a genius who deserves a Nobel prize for finding a cure for the world's biggest killing disease. According to the World Health Organisation, alcohol addiction kills 1.8 million people a year, and in the UK the British Medical Association estimates that one adult in 25 is alcohol-dependent. Sinclair's work could change the way in which society perceives addiction, making it a treatable condition rather than incurable, Eskapa maintains.

His claims are big - preposterous, some would say. But perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this story, which began some 40 years ago, is that while Sinclair can name 76 clinical trials that prove the efficacy and safety of his method, most alcohol addiction professionals don't know about it, or reject it. “I cannot help remarking that anyone who claims to have found a ‘cure for alcoholism' cannot be taken seriously,” says one of the UK Government's eminent advisers on alcoholism.

To understand why the Sinclair Method is often ignored, we need first to look at how Sinclair made his discovery. In 1964, as an undergraduate at the University of Cincinnati, he was involved in research on alcohol and rats. Given rats that had been denied alcohol for two weeks, he decided to test a theory and gave them a choice of an alcohol solution or water. Even though it was daytime, a rat woke up and “started drinking the alcohol solution almost out of my hands”, says Sinclair. The other rats joined in. After more studies, Sinclair began to see that the more the rats were deprived of alcohol, the more they craved it.

“Nobody had seen motivation for alcohol in a rat before,” he says. “This changed the understanding of what causes alcoholic drinking. At that time almost everybody in the field accepted that there wasn't enough pleasure from drinking alcohol to make an alcoholic drink. The pleasure didn't match the unpleasantness, so they theorised that the craving was caused by withdrawal symptoms, by physiological dependence, and all alcoholics were drinking to avoid withdrawal. So the main treatment was to get rid of the physiological dependence - you sent them to rehab with the idea that they would come out and have no reason to drink. If dependence was the cause, it should have been a cure, but it isn't.

“So we starting rethinking what causes alcoholism. It is learnt. A person isn't born an alcoholic but every time they drink there is a release of endorphins. For genetic reasons some people have very powerful receptors for endorphins, get a lot of reinforcement from the alcohol and have a high risk of developing alcoholism. The neural structure that is causing this behaviour, and the craving, gets stronger each time they drink, and with some people it becomes so strong that they can't control it. The only solution is somehow to weaken the behaviour that is so powerful.”

Sinclair moved to Finland in 1972 and, after many more studies, he decided that the best drug to extinguish alcoholic craving was naltrexone. It is not addictive, it has been proved to be safe in 50mg doses, it does not require detoxification because it reduces craving slowly, and it is cheap - about £170 for three months' supply.

Balancing the numerous trials that prove that it leads to controlled drinking, loss of craving and sometimes voluntary abstinence for alcoholics and heavy drinkers, there are also 36 trials that indicate that naltrexone does not work if you are abstinent when you start using it. The Sinclair Method is specific: naltrexone plus alcohol equals cure. For it to work, you have to continue to drink. You take naltrexone only on the days you drink and, as your craving for alcohol reduces, you will drink less. If eventually you choose not to drink, you will not take naltrexone.

The need to continue to drink initially is the main reason why the Sinclair Method has been rejected by so many alcohol addiction professionals. Most are wedded to the idea promulgated by Alcoholics Anonymous's 12-step programme that treatment must involve abstinence. Naltrexone was endorsed for use in alcoholism by the World Health Organisation in 1994 and by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1995. In 2006 the American Medical Association recommended it for treating alcoholism in generalised medical settings. Yet many doctors appear to be uncomfortable advising patients that they must take a drug and also drink - so, when they prescribe it, they insist on abstinence.

Two of the US users of naltrexone to whom I spoke had been unable to get it on prescription. One lied to a psychiatrist, saying that he was abstinent and wanted to use the drug to help with cravings (it doesn't work when used in this way), the other bought it without prescription on the internet. Both reported a steady decline in their craving for alcohol after two months.

Sinclair and Eskapa also believe that the commercial interests of the drug industry - naltrexone is a generic drug - and the £4 billion-a-year rehabilitation business make the Sinclair Method an unpoular choice: there is little money to be made from giving an outpatient a prescription for naltrexone. As one doctor said to Sinclair when he gave a presentation about it at a detox clinic in Virginia: “Yes, but how do we make a living?”

Could the Sinclair Method kill off the alcohol rehab industry? I ask Sinclair. “It could,” he replies, “though some people will still need detox if their liver is too shot to take naltrexone.” Calls to the Priory Group in the UK elicited only the response that doctors there don't know enough about the Sinclair Method to comment. Which raises the question: why not? At Winthrop Hall in Kent, David Bremner, the medical director, said that he uses a combination of cognitive behavioural therapy, family therapy and the 12-step programme “because we use what works” and because the outcomes for controlled drinking compare poorly with abstinence, which he recommends.

Sinclair would dispute that: one clinical trial shows a 50 per cent success rate for the Sinclair Method after three years; three-year figures for the 12-step programme are more commonly about 5 per cent. “We would certainly use the Sinclair Method if it was going to enhance a client's chance of recovery,” says Bremner. “Where Sinclair is to be commended is that he's not trying to make money out of it.”

In Edinburgh Dr Jonathan Chick, consultant psychiatrist at the NHS Lothian Alcohol Problems Service, continues to see Mrs M every six weeks. He prefers to use naltrexone in conjunction with counselling, in spite of clinical trials that suggest that this is unecessary.

“Naltrexone does indeed reduce some of the brain-stimulation effects of alcohol,” says Chick. “I don't think it's right to claim that this is a universal solution for all people who have problems with excessive drinking but it does help some. We prescribe it to people who continue to drink in the hope that it will reduce the frequency of the sessions where they drink to excess and put themselves at risk. If they take naltrexone before they drink, they can have some satisfaction from the taste and some mental effect from the alcohol but report that they don't want to carry on and ‘lose control' of the amount they drink. Unfortunately, quite a lot of our patients don't take it as prescribed.”

Chick agrees that naltrexone may not serve the commercial interests of the pharmaceutical industry. “The other reason the Sinclair Method hasn't been taken up is a very correct reservation about sanctioning continued drinking by people with severe alcohol problems. For many, complete abstinence is by far the best method and needs to be applied quickly. Those who espouse that can do very well. If I was asked by a patient who had been abstinent for a year if I would give him naltrexone so he could resume drinking, I would advise against it.”

Mrs M, who is 55, doesn't see naltrexone as a cure-all either, and can't imagine taking it without the support of her family and Dr Chick. “It's helped to stop me picking arguments, I've got my personality back and my marriage wouldn't have survived without it,” she says. “You can use it as you wish, as long as someone explains everything fully. It's not a magic wand but I can't understand why it's not widely available. It needs to be widely discussed.”

The Cure for Alcoholism by Roy Eskapa, BenBella Books, $10.17

SMH: Quit drinking to cut cancer risk


Quit drinking to cut cancer risk

Julie Robotham
May 2, 2011

Photo: Jessica Shapiro
New evidence reveals the extent of alcohol's contribution to cancer.

CANCER COUNCIL AUSTRALIA has revised dramatically upwards its estimate of alcohol's contribution to new cancer cases and issued its strongest warning yet that people worried by the link should avoid drinking altogether.

New evidence implicating alcohol in the development of bowel and breast cancer meant drinking probably caused about 5.6 per cent of cancers in Australia, or nearly 6500 of the 115,000 cases expected this year, a review by the council found. This was nearly double the 3.1 per cent figure it nominated in its last assessment, in 2008.

The council's chief executive, Ian Olver, said the updated calculations revealed breast and bowel cancer accounted for nearly two-thirds of all alcohol-related cancers, overtaking those of the mouth, throat and oesophagus.

''The public really needs to know about it because it's a modifiable risk factor,'' said Professor Olver, calling for awareness campaigns to alert people to the link. ''You might not be able to help your genes but you can make lifestyle choices.''

Professor Olver said public advice should not conflict with the National Health & Medical Research Council's 2009 recommendation people should drink no more than two standard alcohol units daily, already half the previous safe threshold for men.

But people should also be told there was no evidence of a safe alcohol dose below which cancer-causing effects did not occur - either from direct DNA damage, increased oestrogen levels or excessive weight gain. ''If you want to reduce your cancer risk as far as possible [abstinence] would be the option you have,'' he said.

Public advice was especially important, Professor Olver said, because studies that suggested alcohol could protect against heart disease were increasingly being challenged by new findings that people gave up drinking when they became ill or old - meaning any potential benefits of moderate alcohol use for cardiovascular health had probably been oversold.

Western Australia last year began screening government-funded advertisements about the link between cancer and alcohol and Victoria is understood to be about to start. But spokespeople for the Cancer Council NSW and Cancer Institute NSW yesterday said there were no immediate plans for a similar campaign here.

Mike Daube, the convener of the Public Health Association of Australia's alcohol expert group, said he would write today to the Australia and New Zealand Food Regulation Ministerial Council, which is meeting this month, to request it mandate health warnings on bottles.

''I'm not talking about tobacco-style warnings but at the moment there's no requirement for any health advice on alcohol packaging, and that's wrong,'' said Professor Daube, from Curtin University.

He said the council's findings also had implications for taxation of alcohol, which is on the agenda at the tax summit in October.

January 12, 2010



Meet Namiko Kajiwara of Japanese beer company, Kirin Brewery. Back in 2007, when the Japanese government introduced stricter DUI laws, she decided there ought to be a non-alcoholic beer with absolutely zero alcohol in it. Many so-called "non-alcoholic" beers contain anywhere between 0.01% to 0.5% alcohol. In April 2009, Kirin introduced the world's first non-alcoholic beer with 0.00% alcohol - a fact that is prominently displayed on the label.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal of Japan, the NIKKEI, honored Kajiwara's contribution to the success of this surprising hit product of 2009:


Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Female Hit Makers Recognized For Innovation, Sales Savvy

TOKYO (Nikkei)--Shoppers may be pinching pennies, but some products have proved irresistible regardless of the dismal economic conditions. The driving forces behind some of these successes have been women, and five of them made Nikkei Woman Magazine's annual ranking of Japan's top female movers and shakers.

Among the hit makers on the Woman of the Year 2010 ranking, Namiko Kajiwara, who played a leading role in developing Kirin Brewery Co.'s non-alcoholic beer, placed the highest.

Kirin Free, released in April, is the world's first non-alcoholic beer that contains zero alcohol. Within less than two months of its debut, sales surpassed the annual target of 630,000 cases (1 case=20 633ml bottles), prompting the company to raise the goal to 3.5 million cases just six months after the product's launch.

Kajiwara came up with the idea for the beverage in 2007, when the road traffic law was revised to crack down on drunk driving. Because conventional non-alcoholic beer actually contains 0.1-0.5% alcohol, she thought there would be demand for a beer that contains not a drop of alcohol.

In doing market research, Kajiwara spent the bulk of her time defining a vision for the product, eventually coming up with the phrase "contribution to society."

She explains that Kirin can contribute to society by offering a beverage that can slake drivers' thirsts without intoxicating them, thus making the roads safer.

Prominently displayed on each can of Kirin Free are the words "alcohol 0.00%." To drive home the message that its product is truly non-alcoholic, Kirin conducted a sampling event at a highway rest area.

Thanks to such efforts, Kirin Free became a smash success, winning over everyone from drivers to women who are pregnant to people who cannot drink alcohol for health reasons.

Power of perseverance

Some of this year's hit makers made the list thanks to their thorough research and tenacious efforts in introducing new or improved products.

Yuriko Kure spent about a year studying people's thoughts about laundry before coming up with the concept behind Kao Corp.'s (4452) Attack Neo liquid laundry detergent. But coming up with the concept -- a detergent that saves water, electricity and time by requiring only a single rinse -- was just the start; four more years were spent developing the product before Attack Neo hit the market in 2009.

Another hit maker, Keiko Nishida of Sharp Corp. (6753), has since 2002 been developing air purifiers that incorporate the firm's proprietary Plasmacluster technology. By making many product improvements, such as finding a way that enables people to see with their own eyes how effectively a device is cleaning the air, she played a significant role in expanding air-purifier sales at Sharp, which holds the largest share of the market.

The other two hit makers made the list on the strength of their innovative promotional campaigns.

Yuka Komori of Shochiku Co. (9601) led the promotional team for "Departures," which won the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Because of budget constraints, Komori took a word-of-mouth approach, drawing more than 100,000 people to previews in order to create a buzz, among other advertising tactics. The movie became a blockbuster, raking in more than 6.4 billion yen at the box office.

Akiko Sengoku, who works for cosmetics firm Nihon L'Oreal KK, persuaded the parent company in Paris to let the Japanese unit do its own advertising to better appeal to local tastes. This helped make Oscillation, a Lancome-brand mascara product that uses a vibrating brush, a product that the company claims sells "once every 30 seconds."

Nikkei Woman Magazine is published monthly by Nikkei Business Publications Inc.

(The Nikkei Marketing Journal Dec. 13 edition)

Other related links on this blog:

December 25, 2009

A Real-Deal Sure-Fire Hangover Remedy that Works!

A Real-Deal Sure-Fire Hangover Remedy that Works!

Unless you are way too hungover, spend 3 minutes to watch the brief entertaining YouTube video below.

If you don't have the ability nor patience, then follow these instructions for a simple sure-fire hangover remedy that won't have you scrambling for exotic ingredients you most likely don't have on hand:


3-4 fresh oranges
One fresh Grade-A egg


Using the oranges, squeeze out one glass of juice. Store-bought juice is not considered an acceptable substitute.

Pour the juice into a tall glass but definitely not to the top of the glass.

Carefully break one fresh raw egg into the orange juice.

Stir vigorously with a fork; the juice should change color.

Drink at once.

How It Works

The orange juice provides both much-needed water, Vitamin C and sugars while the raw egg provides protein and also Cysteine which helps counteract Acetaldehyde (CH3CHO) - a byproduct of ethanol oxidation and responsible for most of the hangover.

December 13, 2009

I saw that crash on the Taconic last Sunday...

I saw that crash on the Taconic last Sunday...

Date: 2009-08-05, 1:46AM EDT

Driver in N.Y. wreck that killed 8 was intoxicated

Im sure other people on this board must have seen it as well. I was drvivng home from my summer house upstate. There was a 10 minute rain storm so everyone slowed down, then the rain stopped and everyone sped up again.... Suddenly about a mile from the turn to get on the sawmill, cars just stopped . Brake lights as far as I could see. Stopped in the middle of a three lane highway...There were trees in the median bewtween the north and southbound lanes, and behind the tress was a huge, black plume of smoke going up into the sky. I was on a motorcycle, so i could go between the cars and move up to see what happened. Once I came around the bend, off to the side of the southbound lane, a mini van was upside down, completly engufled in flames. I could feel the heat from the flames as I pulled by. Hundreds of people were running from both sides of the North and South lanes of the Taconic. I pulled over and got off my bike, and try to take in what was happening.

The burning mini van was popping and sparking every once in a while, I assume something inside was making small explosions as they caught fire. I pulled behind a white van on the side of the highway, a Chinese man got out and was talking to me but frankly i cant remember a word we said to each other. About 20 feet from the burning mini van, there were clusters of people kneeling around what I assumed were the crash victims. Every 10 feet or so, there was another cluster, kneeling down.
Each one had a person pumping the chest of the victims while the other people were helping any way the can. Everyone was running with they're cellphones screaming frantically.

I noticed what looked like a station wagon, across the median. The entire front was smashed to the point where you wondered where the hell the engine could have gone. it looked like the cars front began at the front seat. I noticed the cluster of people closest to me, probably 15 feet away, and I saw a pair of tiny blue shorts, and small legs sticking out from the group of people. I knew it was a child, and as the father of a 6 year old daughter, I knew it was a girl. I couldnt see her face, only her blue shorts and her legs. Nothing was moving. A man in a white shirt was pumping her chest, and screaming for help. I thought for a moment of walking over to see what i could do, but it was so chaotic, and there were so many people already. People just abandoned theyre cars on the highway and ran to help. I looked at her legs, and there wasnt a scratch on them. I looked at the man pumping her chest, with the white shirt on. Every so often he'd turn to scream something, and there was no blood on the front of his shirt.I thought about what she may have looked like from the waist up, and I'm really glad I never got to see her face.

There was one cop there when I arrived, and you could see on her face, that she was really freaking out. She must have just pulled up before I got there and was assesing the situation. I'll never forget the look of panic on her face. One man ran passed us and got a first aid kit out of his trunk. All this happened in probably 4 minutes. Now you could hear people screaming to get back in they're cars because the fire engines couldn't get through . The fire engine was stuck behind all the cars on the Northbound side. Sirens and lights wailing.. An EMS guy jumped from the fire truck and started running towords the scene, screaming into his walkie.

I noticed a man leaning against his car weeping. Total strangers were coming up to him and huggin him, and by his body language and his movements of what he was describing, I knew he was one of the people that pulled these kids out of that burning car. He was inconsolable. So were the people hugging him. I got back on my motorcycle, and turned on to the Sawmill, back to NY. I saw her legs and blue shorts over and over again. i could not get them out of my head. I pulled over a mile down the road, got of my bike and starting crying harder then I've cried in a long time. I've been a New Yorker for 23 years. It takes a lot to shock or disturb us, but holy shit , this disturbed me.

It was a horrible thing to see. It's effected me in a surprising way, still is a week later. I have a daughter, and the thought of course thats been running through my head, along with the never ending vision of those little blue shorts, and pale white legs, not moving, it could have been her. In my dreams when i see the man in the white shirt pumping her chest, i walk over and see my daughters face. Not a scratch on her, just eyes closed as if shes sleeping. I imagine thats what that little girl looked like while they were desperatly trying to get her to breathe.

I rode by the spot yesterday coming back from upstate again. Theres a big chunk of earth where the mini van rolled and scorched grass where it sat and burned. I thought I saw a cross with some flowers on it , but I wasnt sure.

As the facts come out about what really happened, and turns out this woman was drunk, and high, I'm torn between anger and incredible sadness. Anger as an adult and father, who's sole purpose in life is to protect, and teach my child right from wrong. Anger having seen a dead child laying in the middle of the median, knowing that child was probably singing or playing with her doll, having no concept she was going the wrong way on a fucking highway, trusting her mother. Completely innocent. My God, I hope 4 those girls died on impact. Never knowing what hit them. I can honestly say, having sene that wreckage, they must have.

Sadness as a husband and father. This man will now have to explain to his only living son, what happened to his mother and his sisters one day. Not to mention the aunts and uncles of the nieces she also killed.

If anyone from these shattered families do read this, you have my deepest sympathy . Its little help but try to take some solace in the fact that hundreds, and I mean hundreds of people ran to help as best they could. It was utter chaos, but these people had the instinct and bravery to jump out of theyre cars, and run to a burning car to pull everyone out. They did the best they could with the little they had. It was truly inspiring......

I will NEVER get the image of those little blue shorts, and legs out of my head......I don't have some big message to end on or a moral of any kind. I'm simply getting what I saw off my chest, though it will be with me for the rest of my life.

Thanks for listening.


December 12, 2009



Alcoholic ‘energy’ drinks could raise risks from intoxication

WASHINGTON, DC—People who drink may want to know that coffee won’t sober them up, according to new laboratory research. Instead, a cup of coffee may make it harder for people to realize they’re drunk.

What’s more, popular caffeinated “alcohol-energy” drinks don’t neutralize alcohol intoxication, suggest the findings from a mouse study reported in the journal Behavioral Neuroscience, which is published by the American Psychological Association.

“The myth about coffee’s sobering powers is particularly important to debunk because the co-use of caffeine and alcohol could actually lead to poor decisions with disastrous outcomes,” said co-author Thomas Gould, PhD, of Temple University, in extending the research to what it means for humans.

“People who have consumed only alcohol, who feel tired and intoxicated, may be more likely to acknowledge that they are drunk,” he added. “Conversely, people who have consumed both alcohol and caffeine may feel awake and competent enough to handle potentially harmful situations, such as driving while intoxicated or placing themselves in dangerous social situations.”

In the laboratory, caffeine made mice more alert but did not reverse the learning problems caused by alcohol, including their ability to avoid things they should have known could hurt them, according to the study.

Scientists gave groups of young adult mice various doses, both separately and together, of caffeine and of ethanol (pure alcohol) at levels known to induce intoxication. The doses of caffeine were the equivalent of one up to six or eight cups of coffee for humans. Control mice were given saline solution.
Gould and co-author Danielle Gulick, PhD, then tested three key aspects of behavior: the ability to learn which part of a maze to avoid after exposure to a bright light or loud sound; anxiety, reflected by time spent exploring the maze’s open areas; and general locomotion.

Ethanol, as expected, increased locomotion and reduced anxiety and learning in proportion to the dose given. In other words, intoxicated animals were more relaxed and moved around more but learned significantly less well than control mice to avoid the part of the maze with the unpleasant stimuli.

By itself, caffeine increased anxiety and reduced both learning and locomotion. Compared to the control animals, mice given caffeine were significantly more inhibited, less mobile and less savvy about avoiding the unpleasant stimuli.

When the drugs were given together, ethanol blocked caffeine’s ability to make the mice more anxious. Conversely, caffeine did not reverse ethanol’s negative effect on learning. As a result, alcohol calmed the caffeine jitters, leaving an animal more relaxed but less able to avoid threats – a combination that the authors speculated could make people more likely to believe they are not drunk or not impaired enough to have problems functioning.

“The alcohol-energy drink combinations have skyrocketed in popularity,” Gould noted. He cited other evidence that these drinks produce deficits in general cognitive ability and raise the odds of alcohol-related problems such as drunken-driving citations, sexual misconduct, and needing medical assistance.

“The bottom line is that, despite the appeal of being able to stay up all night and drink, all evidence points to serious risks associated with caffeine-alcohol combinations,” he concluded.

The Food and Drug Administration is looking into the safety and legality of combination alcohol-caffeine beverages. In November, it sent letters to 30 manufacturers asking for evidence that such drinks are safe and legal under FDA regulations. To date, the FDA has only approved caffeine as an additive in soft drinks at concentrations less than 200 parts per million and has not approved adding caffeine at any level to alcoholic beverages. Under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, a substance added intentionally to food (such as caffeine in alcoholic beverages) is deemed unsafe and is unlawful unless its particular use has been approved by FDA regulation or is generally recognized as safe.

Article: “Effects of Ethanol and Caffeine on Behavior in C57BL/6 Mice in the Plus-Maze Discriminative Avoidance Task,” Danielle Gulick, PhD, and Thomas J. Gould, PhD, Temple University; Behavioral Neuroscience, Vol. 123, No. 6.
(Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office)

Thomas Gould can be reached by e-mail tgould@temple.edu or at (215) 204-7495.

The American Psychological Association, in Washington, D.C., is the largest scientific and professional organization representing psychology in the United States and is the world’s largest association of psychologists. APA’s membership includes more than 150,000 researchers, educators, clinicians, consultants and students. Through its divisions in 54 subfields of psychology and affiliations with 60 state, territorial and Canadian provincial associations, APA works to advance psychology as a science, as a profession and as a means of promoting health, education and human welfare.

October 10, 2009

Alcoholism May Alter Sleep Long-Term

Study: Alcoholism May Leave Lasting Effect on Sleep Patterns, Even After Sobriety

By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 1, 2009 -- Even if they quit drinking, alcoholics still have differences in their sleep when compared with other people, a new study shows.

The study, published in the Oct. 1 edition of the journal Sleep, included 42 alcoholics who had quit drinking and 42 people with no history of alcoholism. The alcoholics had been sober for anywhere from 30 days to more than two years.

All participants spent a night at a sleep lab, hooked up to monitors that showed their brain activity.

Compared with people with no history of alcoholism, the alcoholics had less slow-wave sleep and spent more of their sleep time in the early stage of sleep and in REM sleep. Those patterns were the same for male and female alcoholics.

The REM findings surprised the researchers, who included Ian Colrain, PhD, of SRI International, a nonprofit research institute in Menlo Park, Calif.

Colrain and colleagues note that increased REM sleep might be expected in people who had recently quit drinking to make up for the reduction that heavy drinking takes on REM sleep.

The fact that that difference persisted despite long-term sobriety suggests that alcoholism might have a lasting effect on sleep, Colrain's team notes.

The study doesn't prove that alcoholism caused those differences in sleep patterns.

But "self-reported sleep problems are ubiquitous in those suffering from alcohol abuse and dependence," Colrain's team writes.

September 9, 2009

Naltrexone aka "The Sinclair Method"

Click here to hear an interview with Dr. David Sinclair - the American researcher who developed a method of removing the cravings for alcohol using Naltrexone therapy. The method boasts a success rate between 78 to 85% in securing long-term control of alcohol consumption to abstinence or acceptable levels ("social").

Sinclair Method wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sinclair_Method


May 12, 2009
Primary Care for Alcoholics

In treating alcohol abuse and alcoholism, “we haven’t yet reached the Prozac moment,” says Dr. Mark Willenbring, referring to the drugs that radically changed the treatment of depression. But Dr. Willenbring, an expert on treating alcohol addiction, predicts that the day is not far off when giving a pill and five minutes of advice to an alcohol abuser will be all that is needed to keep drinking under control.

Two such medications are already available, though they are not as effective as modern antidepressants have been for depression.

“We’re at the same place with alcohol abuse that the treatment of depression was at 40 years ago, when only psychiatrists treated it and most people with depression were never treated at all,” said Dr. Willenbring, the director the Division of Treatment and Recovery Research at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Then came Prozac, followed by similar antidepressants that took the treatment of depression out of mental hospitals and psychiatric offices and put it in homes and in the offices of primary care doctors.

“Now almost all of depression is treated in primary care,” Dr. Willenbring said, “and two-thirds to three-fourths of depression is getting treated.”

But with alcohol dependence, he said, only one person in eight receives professional treatment.

“Those who get into treatment programs are the most severe alcoholics,” Dr. Willenbring said. “But the bulk of alcohol abusers have a more moderate form, with a better prognosis. Most could get well in primary care settings and not have to wait until they are at the end of their rope and forced to go into a rehabilitation program, which can be so stigmatizing.”

What is needed for controlling alcohol abuse early in the disease, he said, are drugs like Prozac that can be easily prescribed by primary care physicians to help people with moderate alcohol abuse. Several such drugs are now in the pipeline, Dr. Willenbring said.

The two already available — naltrexone and Topamax — are not yet the equivalent of Prozac for depression, but they can help many alcohol abusers learn to drink more moderately or abstain altogether. Naltrexone, now a low-cost generic, was originally developed to control drug addiction but was found to be more effective at reducing cravings for alcohol. Topamax, an antiseizure drug not yet available as a generic, has also been used to treat alcohol dependence, among other conditions.

Taken an hour before consuming alcohol, naltrexone blocks receptors in the brain that register “reward” and that reinforce a craving for alcohol. Within three to four months of starting treatment, naltrexone, when compared with a placebo, can reduce relapse to heavy drinking 20 to 40 percent, Dr. Willenbring said. Some European practitioners claim even greater effectiveness. By eliminating cravings for alcohol, the drug enables an abuser to drink more moderately or abstain entirely.

While naltrexone is not the final answer to alcohol abuse, it has been shown to be at least twice as effective as alcohol treatment programs and can avoid their stigmatizing consequences, which can include difficulty getting life insurance, jobs or security clearance.

Unfortunately, most primary care physicians know little or nothing about naltrexone, Dr. Willenbring said. He suggested that drinkers who need help controlling their intake ask their doctor for a prescription. More information about the drug can be found on the Web sites of the American Academy of Addiction Psychiatry (www.aaap.org) and the American Society of Addiction Medicine (www.asam.org). JANE E. BRODY

A brief four-minute news clip on the Sinclair Method (Naltrexone):

You can read more about the Sinclair Method in this book by Roy D. Eskapa, PhD which also has a foreword by David Sinclair, PhD:

An online forum for those using the Sinclair Method can be found here:


August 29, 2009

The Japanese Invasion: 0.00% Alcohol-free Beer

Following Kirin's unexpected success with the world's first 0.00% alcohol-free beer (see http://sobermd.blogspot.com/2009/07/kirin-beers-surprise-hit-product.html ), other Japanese brewers have announced plans for their own versions.

Kirin Free

Suntory Fine Zero

Asahi Point Zero

Sapporo Super Clear


Suntory to debut nonalcoholic beer

Kyodo News

Suntory Liquors Ltd. said Tuesday it will launch a nonalcoholic drink that tastes similar to beer called Suntory Fine Zero in late September, adding to the already keen competition to sell such beverages.

The new drink will hit the market Sept. 29 to compete with Kirin Brewery Co.'s Kirin Free, launched in April, and Asahi Breweries Ltd.'s Asahi Point Zero, which will debut Sept. 1.

The Japan Times: Thursday, Aug. 20, 2009

August 6, 2009






August 5, 2009 --

A Long Island mom guzzled vodka and smoked pot in a minivan packed with young kids before speeding the wrong way down the Taconic Parkway, sparking the head-on collision that killed eight, authorities revealed yesterday.

Diane Schuler had knocked back the equivalent of 10 shots of 80-proof booze and smoked marijuana as recently as 15 minutes before the horrific July 26 smash-up, officials said.

Cops later found a broken 1.75-liter bottle of Absolut vodka inside Schuler's van, which burst into flames after the crash, said State Police Maj. William Carey.

The crash killed Schuler, her 2-year-old daughter and three young nieces, as well as three men in the car she hit. Her 5-year-old son miraculously survived the crash.

Schuler had a blood-alcohol content of .19 percent -- more than twice the legal limit of .08 percent, authorities said. She also had 6 grams of undigested booze in her stomach, they said.

In addition, the West Babylon resident had "a high number" -- 113 nanograms per milliliter -- of THC, the active component of marijuana, in her bloodstream, said Betsy Spratt, chief toxicologist with the Westchester DA's Office.

That indicated Schuler smoked pot 15 minutes to one hour before the crash, Spratt said.

With the alcohol alone, Schuler, 36, "would have had difficulty with perception, with her judgment, with her memory," Spratt said. "Around that level of alcohol, you also start to get tunnel vision."

When combined with marijuana, "those effects are intensified," she said.

Schuler's husband, Nassau County public-safety officer Daniel Schuler, has told police that his wife occasionally smoked pot and was a social drinker, WCBS-TV reported.

Schuler's relatives were informed of the toxicology results after the funerals for the family late last week.

The relatives of her other victims were outraged when they learned about them yesterday.

"We were victims the first time, but now we feel like we're being victims all over again because she made that choice," said Roseann Guzzo, whose 49-year-old brother, Guy Bastardi, and father, Michael Bastardi, 81, were killed when their SUV was hit by Schuler's van.

"It's horrendous," Guzzo said. "It's making it worse for us now.

"How do you put five children in a car when you're a mother who's a drunk?" she asked. "It's crazy."

Outside the Floral Park, LI, house of Schuler's brother, Warren Hance, whose three daughters died in the tragedy, a neighbor said, "She's gonna burn in hell."

Carey, of the State Police, said that before the toxicology results, "We simply had no evidence that drugs or alcohol [were] at play . . . We do not have much in the way of people that morning describing Diane Schuler, other than saying she was fine."

While police do not expect to criminally charge anyone in the case -- which has been classified as a homicide by the Westchester County Medical Examiner's Office -- they plan to further investigate the events that lead to the horrific cash.

"At this point, we're getting limited information from the family," Carey said. "Obviously, the family is going through a grieving process. We've conducted some interviews with family members. We have not conducted as many interviews as we would like."

The disclosure that Schuler was heavily intoxicated cleared up some of the mystery that had surrounded the smashup, which occurred about four hours after she left an upstate campground with no apparent signs of intoxication.

The most perplexing question had been why Schuler, who was on her way home, would have entered the Taconic near Briarcliff Manor going the wrong way -- southbound in the northbound lane -- and continued on for nearly two miles before hitting the Bastardis' SUV.

For days, there had been speculation that the Cablevision executive had become disoriented because of a previously unknown medical condition or that she was suicidal.

Schuler had spent the weekend with Daniel, their 2-year-old daughter, Erin, 5-year-old son, Bryan, and three nieces -- the Hance girls Emma, 8, Alyson, 7, and 5-year-old Katie -- at the Hunter Lake Campgrounds in upstate Parksville.

The Schulers had been regular visitors there for the past three years, according to campground owner Ann Scott, 76.

"They're an ordinary family like you or I or apple pie," Scott said. "I've never seen them have an argument, never seen them with a drink. All they did was relax on their site with their kids.

"I swear on my grandmother's Bible, I've never seen them with a drink in their hand."

The Schulers separately left the campgrounds at about 9:30 a.m. on July 26. Daniel was driving with the family dog in his Dodge pickup, while Diane was taking the children in her Ford Windstar minivan.

Daniel could not follow Diane onto any parkway because his truck has commercial plates.

"She was fine. She was the same old Diane she was every weekend," said Scott. "The last words I said were, 'Have a safe trip home.' "

But the trip soon went horribly wrong. Schuler stopped at a McDonald's on Route 17 in Liberty and then headed onto Interstate 87, where numerous witnesses saw her driving recklessly.

She then turned east onto the highway and was seen driving across a grass divider at the Ramapo service area.

At 1 p.m., she crossed the Tappan Zee Bridge heading east. Two minutes later, Schuler pulled over and called her brother, Hance, who was at home, and said she was having trouble seeing and was disoriented. During that eight-minute call, Hance also spoke with his daughter Emma.

It was unclear if Hance knew his sister had been drinking, but he told her to stay put and he would come get her. Schuler instead drove off, and bizarrely dropped the phone off at a rest stop.

Hance then called police to alert them about his sister's call, but they were unable to locate her in time.

Schuler was supposed to get on the Saw Mill River Parkway heading south but ended up getting on the Saw Mill north.

She then made her way to the Taconic -- where she entered via an exit ramp and headed south in the northbound lanes, terrifying other drivers who swerved across three lanes to avoid her.

It was on the Taconic at 1:35 p.m. -- after going 1.7 miles the wrong way -- that the minivan smashed head-on into the SUV carrying the Bastardis and their friend and fellow Yonkers resident, 74-year-old Daniel Longo.

An upstate couple, Angela and Dean Tallarico, also were injured when their SUV was hit by the Bastardi's vehicle after the initial crash.

When a reporter yesterday told Angela Tallarico of Schuler's intoxication, she burst into tears.

"Oh, no!" she cried before calling out to a co-worker, "She was drunk!"

Daniel Schuler ducked reporters yesterday after visiting Bryan at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, where the boy was in stable condition, a source said.

Michael Bastardi Jr., another son of Michael Sr., said "I'm just kind of in disbelief" and "numb."

"We want to figure out what happened." Scott, the campground owner, said, "This is the most shocking news that I've heard in my lifetime.

"If this is true, she'll be treated like a monster.

"Dear God, what's her brother thinking at this point? What's her husband thinking? You've lost [four] children, and there's no reason for it. Everyone's been turned upside down by this.

"When I learned it this morning, I dropped the phone. It's absolutely terrible."

Additional reporting by Kieran Crowley, Austin Fenner, Erin Calabrese, Andy Geller and Perry Chiaramonte


August 1, 2009

"THE HANGOVER" - The Movie

The Hangover is a 2009 comedy film directed by Todd Phillips, who also directed the films Road Trip, Old School, and Starsky & Hutch. The main plot follows four friends who travel to Las Vegas for a bachelor party, only to wake up the next morning not remembering a thing and missing the groom, whose wedding is scheduled to occur the next day.

The plot was reportedly inspired by a real-life event that happened to Tripp Vinson, a producer friend of The Hangover executive producer Chris Bender. Vinson had gone missing from his own Las Vegas bachelor party, blacking out and waking up "in a strip club being threatened with a very, very large bill [he] was supposed to pay".

July 28, 2009



Could you be an addict?

k Boster / Los Angeles Times We know Michael Jackson was dependent on sedatives and painkillers, but our reliance also needs examining.

It's not just the Michael Jacksons and Anna Nicole Smiths who pop pills. Society's reliance on painkillers and sleeping aids has us walking a fine line.

Sandy Banks
July 11, 2009

Subpoenas have gone out, the DEA has been brought in, and every doctor who has ever come within a prescription pad of Michael Jackson can probably expect a phone call soon.

But even absent the results of the inquiries and toxicological reports, it seems obvious that prescription drugs played a role in the pop star's sudden death.

In fact, what we already know about Jackson's reliance on sedatives and painkillers is enough to prompt the kind of public discussion we have sidestepped too many times before -- when Anna Nicole Smith died from "combined drug intoxication" two years ago after mixing sleeping pills and sedatives; or when Heath Ledger was found dead last year with six different legal medications for pain, anxiety and insomnia in his blood.

Instead of simply dismissing them as celebrity drug addicts or pitiable tragedies, it's time we take a look at our own lives -- and the contents of our medicine cabinets.

It's no secret that the use of pharmaceutical drugs is on the rise. Prescriptions for painkillers climbed from 40 million to 180 million in the last 15 years. More than 56 million prescriptions were written for sleeping medications in 2008, up 54% since 2004. And 7 million Americans admit to "non-medical" use of drugs prescribed for pain or mental disorders.

Even the nation's new drug czar Gil Kerlikowske has called Jackson's death "a wake-up call." More Americans die from overdoses of legal drugs each year than from gunshot wounds, he told CNN on Thursday.

It's a complicated problem. There is no bright line separating use from misuse. And a constellation of circumstances is nudging us toward chemical solutions to the struggles of everyday living.

An ever-expanding list of mental illnesses means almost anyone can be diagnosed with a treatable malady. Pharmaceutical ads -- with butterflies flitting through bedroom windows and happy, prosperous families -- promise pills that can make you happier or more social; help you stop hurting and get to sleep. And doctors have been pressed by patients, plied by drug reps and squeezed by insurance companies until a 10-minute visit gets you a refillable prescription.

Yet pharmaceutical advances have allowed schizophrenics to hold down jobs, insomniacs to get a good night's sleep, and people with depression to go about their lives.

Substance abuse recovery programs have long relied on a simple nostrum: You're an addict if "your life has become unmanageable due to drugs or alcohol."

But what if your life is only manageable because you're taking drugs? How do you recognize addiction then?

I took my questions to Vickie Mays, a nurse and professor of psychology at UCLA.

"We think about addiction as 'Your life is out of control,' " Mays said. "But it's the medication that gives you a sense of control when you've got so many balls in the air . . . with so many demands from the job, the kids."

Sounds a lot like the lives that us non-rock stars live.

"It's the demands on us that are out of control," Mays said. "You yearn for just a little bit of peacefulness, a way to try to shut things off. . . . It's the normal, average, very busy, high-achieving person" who is most vulnerable to reliance on prescription drugs.

We're not trying to get high, just trying to get some sleep, blunt the pain from that old sports injury, keep from screaming at the kids.

But pill-popping can move almost imperceptibly, she said, from habit to ritual to need.

"When there's no other way in your mind to relieve the pain, and you start taking it more frequently and in higher doses. . . . When it's become too automatic. You can't sleep and you don't wait; you just reach over for the bottle on your bedside table.

"It's a slippery slope," she said. But that's when you ought to ask, "Am I becoming an addict?"

Her answer gave me pause this week, when I tossed and turned through a sleepless night.

I rolled over and reached for the bottle of pills my doctor prescribed last year, when chest pains that sent me to UCLA's emergency room turned out to be anxiety, not a heart attack.

Is this, I wondered, how Michael Jackson's problems with drugs began?

A pain pill when your hair catches fire and you end up mainlining Demerol? A tranquilizer when you're stressed out by the paparazzi and soon you're throwing back 10 Xanax pills at a time?

OK . . . so those were middle-of-the-night thoughts. But I can't blame Jackson for wanting a break from the cacophony in his head; relief for a 50-year-old body, called on to perform for hours every day onstage.

His manner of death was a tragedy with implications for all of us.

Have I started down the slippery slope if I have refilled that year-old prescription twice? If I can tell you exactly how many of those pills I have left?

Or was I wise not to take the sedative that night, even though I stumbled through work the next day? Instead I watched the sun come up, with "Man in the Mirror" playing in my head.