Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Minimally Buzzed, Maximum Help

Here are some interesting findings from a recent study out of the University of California, San Diego: there is absolutely no safe drinking limit when it comes to driving.

The researchers studied almost 600,000 fatal car accidents between 1994 and 2011. They used the U.S. Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) because it monitors the exact alcohol content of every person involved in a crash, starting with a BAC of 0.01% percent.

As you probably know, the legal limit for drunk driving in most countries is between 0.05 and 0.08%. But researchers found that even with a BAC of only 0.01% - or what they call 'minimally buzzed' - drivers were 46% more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than sober drivers. Yikes.

The study's lead researcher, sociologist David Phillips, concluded that based on the findings, there is "no point at which it is harmless to consume alcohol and get behind the wheel of a car." The results also support the National Transportation Safety Board's  recommendation to reduce the legal drunk driving limit in the U.S. to 0.05%. Though Phillips suggests the findings should indicate an even lower limit.

So if you're drinking, get some serious designated driver friends ... or take a cab. (read more about BAC and driving.)

Here's some good news if you're having trouble cutting down on your drinking - and aren't averse to drug therapies. The American Journal of Psychiatry has published the findings of a recent study that found the drug Topiramate can help heavy drinkers curb their habit significantly.

The anti-convulsant drug - normally used to treat epilepsy - has already been found to ease alcohol cravings in people who are trying to abstain completely. But these latest findings show that even people who want to 'cut down' can be helped. After a 12-week study, subjects who were given Topiramate had fewer heavy drinking days and more abstinent days than the group given a placebo.

However, the study found that the drug only helped those people with a particular genotype: a variant of the receptor for the neurotransmitter glutamate. Meaning it's yet more proof that brain chemistry and genetics play a major role in who develops a drinking problem - and in this case, who could benefit from certain drug therapies - and who would not.

btw, it's interesting to note that data for the study showed that 23% of people older than 12 can be considered heavy drinkers, reporting having 5 drinks or more on a given occasion at least once in the past month. For more info, here's the full article.