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It’s not just secondhand smoke — secondhand alcohol exposure is really what you should be worried about

It’s not just secondhand smoke — secondhand alcohol exposure is really what you should be worried about

Alcohol can be harmful even if you don't drink it yourself.

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Alcohol can be harmful even if you don’t drink it yourself.
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Justin Sullivan/Getty
  • A new study found that 1 in 5 adults surveyed had experienced harassment, assault, vandalism or other harm as a result of someone else’s drinking in the past year.
  • People who were heavy drinkers themselves also had a greater risk of harm, particularly by physical assault.
  • Women were more likely than men to be victimized by someone close to them, while men were more likely to be harmed by a stranger.
  • People under 25, those with a family history of alcohol problems, and black and Hispanic men were also more at risk. Further research is needed to understand the context of these incidents.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories

Non-smokers often have visceral reactions if someone lights up a cigarette nearby – the dangers of secondhand smoke are well-established, and it’s usually clear when you’re at risk.

Secondhand drinking, while not as obvious, could also be dangerous for your health, relationships, and finances, according to a study published June 30 in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs.

While smoking rates have dropped precipitously in recent decades, decreasing the likelihood of secondhand exposure, the majority of Americans are still exposed to secondhand drinking in their lifetimes.

Read more: 7 times you should never drink alcohol

More than half of Americans are exposed to secondhand alcohol harms in their lifetimes

If people around you are drinking, you could end up dealing with secondhand harms like property damage, threats, violence, relationship issues or financial woes. Some people appear to be more are risk than others.

The study included 8,750 adults in the US, interviewed via telephone in a 2015 survey. Researchers asked participants whether they had experienced harm caused by someone who was drinking, such as harassment, physical assault, financial trouble, or vandalism, in the past year.

Researchers estimated that across the total US population, secondhand harm from drinking affect an estimated 1 in 5 Americans every year.

As many as 53% of people are estimated to experience harm from someone else’s drinking in their lifetime, according to Dr. Katherine Karriker Jaffe, co-author of the study and a scientist with the Alcohol Research Group.

Heavy drinkers of both sexes are especially at risk of experiencing negative affects related to someone else’s drinking, according to the study. This risk especially significant for driving-related incidents – heavy drinkers were 12 times more likely to have been in an accident or in a car with a drunk driver than the rest of the population.

A majority of victims weren’t necessarily drinking themselves during the incidents. But the study found that an overall pattern of heavy drinking – 4 or more drinks in a day for women, 5 or more drinks for men, at least once a month over the past year – significantly increased the risk of harm from someone else’s drinking, too.

Men are more likely to be harmed by a stranger's drinking while women face greater risks from a heavy-drinking spouse or partner.

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Men are more likely to be harmed by a stranger’s drinking while women face greater risks from a heavy-drinking spouse or partner.
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Voyagerix / Shutterstock

Research also found stark differences in the problems faced by men and women around alcohol use.

While women are more likely to suffer physical harm, harassment or financial harm from a heavy-drinking spouse, partner, or ex, men are more likely to report harm because of a stranger’s drinking.

This risk is even greater for women who drink heavily themselves – they were 7 times more likely to report harm from physical aggression than women who didn’t drink.

Dr. Karriker Jaffe said that this in no way suggests that victims are to blame in these incidents. “We don’t know the mechanisms of this. It could suggest that women are more likely to be targeted when they are perceived as being drunk,” she told INSIDER.

Research also shows that if someone drinks heavily, there is a high risk for their spouse or partner to also develop a drinking problem.

The gender disparity was even higher when the victim share a home with a heavy drinker; more than 92% of women living with a heavy drinker reported being physically harmed, compared with 28% of men.

Unlike previous research, this study found no correlation between poverty and secondhand harm from alcohol. Dr. Karriker Jaffe said that this is an area that could use more research, along with studies on specific contexts of heavy drinking behavior. She also hopes to study the impact of harm on quality of life, since research suggests alcohol use is more damaging from someone close to you, rather than a stranger or co-worker.

“This information should encourage us to think of solutions, to come up with effective alcohol policies to reduce drinking and therefore reduce the secondhand harms of that drinking,” Dr. Karriker Jaffe said.

Read more:

9 signs you’re drinking too much, even if you don’t think so

6 dangerous things that can happen to your body when you drink too much

It turns out binge drinking could actually change our genes

How to best talk with teenagers about drinking and drugs

How to best talk with teenagers about drinking and drugs

What’s the best way to talk to teens about alcohol and drug use without them clamming up or tuning out?

Researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) and the University of Calgary in Canada have been studying the question.

Together with her colleagues, Emily Jenkins – a UBC professor of nursing, specialising in substance abuse among young people – interviewed 83 young people between the ages of 13 and 18.

The study, published early April 2019 in the Harm Reduction journal, found that the young people interviewed were more receptive to harm-reduction messages encouraging dialogue, rather than zero-tolerance approaches.

“Youth were more receptive when their parents talked – in a non-judgmental way – about substance use or could point to resources or strategies to help minimise the harms of use.

“This approach seemed to work better in preserving family relationships and youth health,” Prof Jenkins explained.

However, the research also found that teens still valued the setting of limits.

“An overly-lenient approach to substance use did not work either,” she noted.

For example, one participant explained that she did not know how to reduce her alcohol consumption, as she thought that her parents did not care much about what she was doing.

“I could go home drunk and they won’t do anything,” said the teen.

“This study goes beyond the typical approach, which features adult perspectives, and brings youth knowledge and expertise – a critical missing element in substance-use programming,” said Prof Jenkins.

She considers it important for parents to have access to reliable information to ensure that they have an informed strategy for talking to their children about substance use.

“The recent legalisation of cannabis (in Canada) further streng-thens opportunities for parents and other caregivers to have open and honest dialogue with youth about substance use and related harms, in a way that is developmentally appropriate and positions youth to make informed – and hopefully healthier – decisions,” Prof Jenkins concluded. – AFP Relaxnews

Here’s what happens to your mind and body when you stop drinking alcohol, according to a doctor

Here’s what happens to your mind and body when you stop drinking alcohol, according to a doctor

Some people go sober for October.

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Some people go sober for October.
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sebra/Shutterstock
  • In October, some people have decided to give up alcohol for 31 days.
  • It’s called Sober for October, and it could have some positive impacts on your mind and body.
  • Your sleep might improve, and you might feel healthier overall.
  • But you may experience withdrawal symptoms if you’re a heavy drinker.

Following a global report this year that there is no safe amount of alcohol, more people may be trying to cut back on booze. This month, many people are giving up alcohol for 31 days, in a campaign called Sober for October.

Fiona Sim, a former GP and medical advisor to Drinkaware, told The Evening Standard giving up alcohol for a month can have some noticeable impacts on your health and body.

For instance, your blood pressure might reduce, and your sleep pattern and quality may improve.

“Your liver will be helped too but how much will depend on how much damage has already been done due to alcohol,” she said.

man drinking at bar

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Olena Yakobchuk/Shutterstock

Also, the immediate positive effects may not be obvious for a very heavy drinker, as they may experience withdrawal symptoms like shaking, headaches, and nausea.

“If this is the case, you would probably find it better to cut down more slowly and steadily until you reach the low risk drinking guidelines or stop completely,” Sim said.

When trying Dry January one year, I found it completely messed with my sleeping pattern, despite being told the opposite would happen. Health experts I spoke to told me this could be a sign of withdrawal. Apparently, if your body is used to being put into a relaxed state by alcohol, it may struggle to get to that state for a while without being medicated.

The following year, I found I craved sugary food. Studies have shown sugar may actually be addictive, and the idea I could be making my body dependent on things that are bad for me put my drinking habits into perspective.

Despite the body sometimes taking a while to adjust, Sim said giving up alcohol for a while can be good for your mental health.

guys drinking beer

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Bruno Vincent/Getty Images

Alcohol is a depressant. So although you may feel good when you get the initial buzz, in the long term, it probably won’t make you feel great. Sim said it has also been linked with self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and memory impairment.

“After a heavy drinking session, you may not remember anything about the night before, but with long term drinking, that memory loss can be more serious,” she said.

“When you stop drinking, your risks are reduced but if the damage has already been done to your brain cells, not all the harm can be reversed.”

Any confidence alcohol gives you also probably won’t last long. Alcohol isn’t the aphrodisiac some people think it is, often reducing sensitivity meaning you enjoy sex less, Sim said.

“For both men and women, alcohol can reduce fertility, so particularly if you are both heavy drinkers, it may be more difficult to conceive,” she added.

“As far as relationships are concerned, drinking heavily can lead to bad mood swings and aggression, an important catalyst for domestic violence. So all in all, going sober has a lot to commend it in the realms of significant relationships.”

Other benefits of going sober for a while include better skin, decreased risk of obesity and certain cancers, fewer migraines, and the fact you can save money (potentially).

There’s also something to be said about waking up after seeing friends, and not worrying about anything that was said or done the night before.

When we drink heavily our brains miss out on the part of sleep that helps us process guilt – called REM sleep. So we’re more likely to wake up with “alcohol guilt” or the “beer fear.”

For whatever reason you’re considering going sober for a while, there are plenty of benefits you might see, both for yourself and those around you.

Sorry, drinkers, there is no safe level of alcohol

Sorry, drinkers, there is no safe level of alcohol

IF you were thinking of meeting up with friends after work for happy hour, think again.

A new global study from the British journal The Lancet found that the safest level of drinking was none.

Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

The study, published in August 2018, analysed data from the 2016 Global Burden of Disease report to determine levels of alcohol use and its health effects in 195 countries for males and females ages 15 to 49 between 1990 to 2016.

Researchers found alcohol use was the leading risk factor for death and disability, and accounted for nearly 10% of annual global deaths – about 2.8 million annually.

It accounted for about 3% of deaths in women and 12% of deaths in men.

“This study is extremely important because it sheds light on the dangerous impact of alcohol – which is greatly minimised in our culture,” said Joseph Garbely, vice-president of medical services and medical director at Caron Treatment Centers in the United States.

“We’re in the midst of a raging opioid epidemic, and yet, the majority of our patients seek treatment for alcohol use disorders. Make no mistake – alcohol can be deadly and will affect your health over time.”

The study, which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, contradicts other health guidelines – which espouse health benefits associated with consuming up to two drinks per day – saying any benefits were offset by the risks of developing 23 other alcohol-related diseases, specifically cancers or dying from alcohol-related accidents.

Moderation is defined as up to one drink a day for women of all ages and men older than age 65, and up to two drinks a day for men age 65 and younger, according to the Mayo Clinic.

One drink is considered 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine or 1.1 ounces of 80 proof spirits.

Based on the results, the researchers recommend that public health campaigns revise their message to include alcohol abstinence and focus on reducing overall drinking. – The Philadelphia Inquirer/Tribune News Service

Tee-totalers are more likely to call in sick from work than moderate drinkers, according to a new study

Tee-totalers are more likely to call in sick from work than moderate drinkers, according to a new study

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Warner Brothers Pictures/YouTube
  • A new study has shown that moderate drinkers take fewer sick days than tee-totalers.
  • Meanwhile, people who drank over the moderate amount were more likely to be absent because of “injury or poisoning.”
  • It could be because people with existing health problems are more likely to avoid alcohol.
  • Or it could be because people who drink are seasoned pros at making it to the office with a hangover.

How many times have you been hungover at work this week? If you have a 9-5 job, and you like a drink, you’ll know the feeling well – a concoction of nausea, pain, and regret. Here’s a different question: How many times in the past year have you called into work sick because you drank too much?

Unless you’re superhuman, the answer is probably at least once. And by that logic, you’d probably assume people who drink take more sick days than those who don’t. But according to new research, this might not be true.

The new study, published in the journal Addiction, examined the drinking habits and absence from work of 47,000 people in Europe using various surveys. The researchers, who were from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, then grouped participants into five categories based on their drinking, ranging from those who never touched alcohol to heavy party animals.

Overall, people who reported being tee-total for several years were absent from work due to illness more often than those who drank moderately, defined as 11 units a week for women and 34 for men.

Non-drinkers had a higher risk of absence because of mental disorders, muscle and skeletal disorders, and respiratory and digestive diseases. Less surprisingly, those who drank over the moderate threshold were at an increased risk of absence due to injury or poisoning.

Lead author of the study, Jenni Ervasti from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, said the findings demonstrate the different types of illnesses tee-totalers and heavy drinkers are susceptible to.

“Some diseases, or their treatment, prevent alcohol use, which may explain the excess risks among abstainers,” she said. “Moreover, participants to whom at-risk drinking causes health problems may be selected out from the labor market, that is, if they retire early or become unemployed. Then, the adverse effects are not seen in absence from work due to illness.”

The study was limited as the surveys were self-reported, and people tend to not be entirely truthful about things like drinking, diet, and their sex lives. But the findings do seem to suggest moderate drinkers take fewer sick days. Whether that’s because they drink due to fewer health problems, have a higher alcohol tolerance, or have simply gotten really good at making it to work with a hangover is unclear.

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