Kicking booze with drugs.

May. 21st 2012

It is possible alcoholics who fall off the wagon often or can’t kick the habit through clinics or help groups might find the solution in a pill, the New York Times reported today.

There are several drugs on the market today – naltrexone and acamprosate, to name two – whose moderate success is enough to give the medical community reason to believe that within a decade alcoholism could be treated similarly to depression.

“Patients will choose from a range of drugs to find the one that best suits them, then couple it with therapy and other tools to achieve long-term recovery,” according to the Times.

The drugs work by reducing “the effects and allure” of booze for some people.

Neither naltrexone or acamprosate is the silver bullet needed to curb alcohol cravings once and for all.

“In dozens of clinical trials, both orally consumed naltrexone and acomprosate worked well for about one in seven alcoholics and had virtually no effect on the others.”

There are critics who say treating alcoholism is too complicated for pills because not all alcoholics drink for the same reasons. (Pill supporters say a “menu of treatments” could help find the right pill for the right alcoholic.)

Other critics say using drugs to curb alcohol cravings “amounts to simply substituting one drug for another.”

There might be some truth to that.

But if the medical community is actively pursuing pills that cure alcoholism then it sees money. And there’s only money if the pills work.

Now drinking: coffee

 

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Creative juices flow with booze.

Apr. 12th 2012

Drunk folks solve problems more quickly than sober people and are more likely to attribute those solutions to “sudden insight,” according to a study published in the March edition of Consciousness and Cognition.

The study, “Uncorking the muse: Alcohol intoxication facilitates creative problem solving,” was conducted last year by the University of Illinois at Chicago’s Department of Psychology.

Researchers found that intoxicated individuals – those with a blood-alcohol content of about 0.075 – “solved more items in a shorter time compared to sober” and “were more likely to rate their solutions as insightful.”

Here’s how it worked:

Forty males between 21-30 were recruited via Craigslist and split into two groups – sober and drinking. The experimental (drinking) group members were weighed, breathalyzed and given bagels. Then they drank vodka and cranberry juice while watching Ratatouille. (All true.) They were again breathalyzed.

The control (sober) group didn’t get bagels or vodka cranberries but did get to watch Ratatouille.

Finally, all were given the Remote Associates Test, or RAT.

“For each item, participants are given three target words such as PEACH, ARM, and TAR, and are tasked with finding a fourth word, such as PIT, that forms a good two-word phrase with each of the target words.”

After analyzing the results, the boozers were not the losers. Just the opposite, in fact.

Chalk it up to a free mind:

“A popular belief is that altered cognitive processing, whether due to insanity, sleep state, mood, or substance use, may spark creativity among artists, composers, writers and problem solvers. The use of alcohol in particular (alone or in combination with other substances) has been linked to the accomplishments of many great individuals including Beethoven, Poe, Hemingway, Coleridge, Pollock, and Socrates.”

Now drinking: Karbach Hopadillo

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Next stop, Fresno.

Feb. 5th 2010

Despite its reputation as a city full of cursing, blue-collar drunks with shitty accents, Boston is the least intoxicated city in the nation, according to Men’s Health magazine’s list of the “drunkest” cities in the United States.

The magazine, which advertises the latest and greatest way to get laid but also puts half-naked men on its cover, compiled a list of 100 cities, graded and ranked them most to least drunk, considering factors such as “death rates from alcoholic liver disease, booze-fueled car crashes, frequency of binge-drinking in the past month, number of DUI arrests, and severity of DUI penalties,” according to a USA Today summary.

The most drunk city: Fresno, Calif., followed by No. 2 Reno, No. 3 Billings, Mont., No. 4 Riverside, Calif. and, rounding out the top five, Austin. Three Texas cities made it into the top 10, the other two being San Antonio and Lubbock, which was dry up until about a year ago. My home base of operations, Fort Worth, ranked No. 55, earning a C grade, whatever that means.

I don’t put much stock into this whole list – there are a lot of factors I suspect they didn’t consider, such as public transportation use, which would affect number of drunk driving accidents, number and proximity of bars, and the business those bars pull in. Oh well. It’s fodder for pissing contests about whose city can out-drink another person’s place of birth.

Now drinking: Banquet

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Less than average.

Dec. 29th 2009

Not long ago I was standing in the kitchen with my roommates, chugging beers and talking about the differences between the United States drinking culture and domestic alcohol consumption versus consumption abroad. One roommate remarked that as soon as we turned 15, there was a click – and suddenly, we all wanted to score booze and drink it in our parents’ garages while they were out and about. He wondered, what caused this sudden desire? I said it was probably cultural, in the sense that we knew the students in the grade above us drank beer when they were in the ninth grade, and it was expected not by other people, but by ourselves, that drinking was something you did at that point in your life – no question about it. From then on, the frequency and prevalence of drinking grew, in addition to the amount consumed. Many people in the United States, especially Texas, and especially Fort Worth, drink a lot on the weekends, what many people call binge drinking (five or more drinks in two hours for men). Therefore, we thought, people in the U.S. drink a lot more than residents of other countries, perhaps because alcohol isn’t as taboo in other societies as it is here in the states.

That was our assumption: people in the U.S. drink more than the world average, maybe even more than some of the European countries traditionally thought of as having big drinkers.

It turns out we were fucking wrong, according to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development, which tracks health data worldwide in addition to a range of other statistics.

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Throwing up blood.

Nov. 9th 2009

I threw up blood this afternoon. I was hungover as fuck after having stayed up until 4 a.m. with a roommate, drinking Keystone Light and smoking Camel Lights. The roommate had at least a 12-pack of Natural Light before moving on to Keystones, while I had three beers at dinner and a lot – an unreasonable amount – at the house. Over the course of the night, we threw knives at a cardboard box, blared Cameo’s “Word Up!” when others were sleeping, chunked rocks at opossums crossing a power line and peed all over the backyard when necessary. Eventually, I passed out and awoke just shy of 10 a.m. with a hangover that could kill a large mammal. I’d like to see a horse take on that hangover, because likely the four-legged beast wouldn’t stand a chance in hell.

I cracked my eyes and stared at my phone in a fruitless hope that the digits would roll back to 4 a.m. and I could sleep longer, maybe even long enough to sleep through the pain that would come. But it didn’t and I descended to smoke a cigarette and have a second espresso. (The roommate had brought the first upstairs with the intention that it would wake me and I could get to work on time, which didn’t happen.) I walked around, grabbed my temples and wondered just how bad it would get.

Pretty fucking bad. By noon I had made it to work, but I sat sweating, dizzy with shaking hands and a throbbing headache. I left within the hour to get nachos and a Dr Pepper. I got half down before asking for the check and a to-go box. Back at the office, I closed out e-mail and documents and called it a day – in and out within two and a half hours. Pitiful, but desperate times call for desperate measures.

I took an Excedrin with a mouthful of water from the sink faucet in my bathroom and gagged. I lurched forward and leaned toward to toilet bowl and let go. You can imagine where it goes from there, but what came next was not expected.

A viscous, red substance floating in the toilet water. I gagged again and spit more of it. Blood. Disgusting, bright red blood. Fear rushed over me, temporarily tossing the hangover sensation to one side. I’ve thrown up blood once before – after a sinus infection, so, shocking as it was, I wasn’t too scared – but this was something for which I was not prepared. My mouth didn’t taste like iron, but I had little reason to believe the culprit at which I stared was anything but the liquid that flowed through my veins, heart and past by throbbing temples. I flushed the toilet.

I’ve always been a big drinker, and my intake of alcohol has increased over the years. Since summer 2006, I’ve consistently had at least a six-pack of beer on most days. I recognize that this is detrimental to my health, but, clearly, I don’t care. I drink a lot not because I was molested or abandoned as a kid. I’ve had a great life, family, sibling, friends, education and so on. But, for some reason or another, I drink a lot – mostly because I enjoy drinking but maybe due to some other inexplicable reason, too. And so I’ve continued to drink because it feels good, and when something feels good I see no reason not to continue with it.

But blood in the toilet makes you stop and think. Is this is a one-off? Do I have an ulcer? If I threw up a week from now would the blood reappear? Was it even blood? I don’t know, and now I’m going to figure out if I even care.

Now drinking: water

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Dead by 35: great rockers, better drinkers

Nov. 4th 2009

“Nicotine, Valium, vicodin, marijuana, ecstasy and alcohol. C-c-c-c-c-cocaine.” – Queens of the Stone Age, “Feel Good Hit of the Summer”

Keith Moon, backstage in California 1976

A few years ago, a journalist-professor and I were talking about the differences between the hedonistic lives of rock ‘n’ rollers and rappers. Rappers boast of drinking, smoking and popping pills because they like to party – fuck work and responsibility, all we want to do is get rich and celebrate that wealth and new-found status, they seem to say. It’s all a bit nihilistic. For example:

“You leave your green around me, nigga your green gonna get lit up. You leave your drink around me, believe your drink gonna get drunk up. You leave your girl around me, and if she’s bad she’s gonna get stuck.” – Three Six Mafia, “Stay Fly”

Meanwhile, rockers go to great lengths to destroy themselves in a completely different way: it’s also a nihilistic, fuck-it-all attitude, but without celebration of anything. It’s almost like a steady intake of drugs and alcohol doesn’t need a reason, it’s all just part of being a rocker.

Where rappers revel in the mainstream and glitzy lights of mass acceptance, rockers retreat to the counterculture because they just don’t fucking care.

And so I got to thinking about three celebrated musicians from the 1960s and 1970s, of whom I’m a fan, who died when their steady intake got the better of them.

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Cheeseburgers: a hangover’s worst enemy.

Oct. 14th 2009

In a move that clearly illustrates its ignorance of causality, CNNhealth.com asks the question, “Should Americans banish the burger?”

Hell fucking no.

If U.S. residents made a conscious choice to kick the bacon cheeseburger to the curb the ramifications would be severe. Of course, hardworking cattle raisers (like my cousin in West Virginia) would be put out of business, bun bakers’ revenue would vanish and half my diet would have to be replaced. But worse and simply put: banish the burger, and watch hangovers get the upper hand on a daily basis.

The article references a recent Larry King Live round-table discussion in which a group of people (selected because they either know something about the argument or have an opinion regardless) discusses the pros and cons of a meat-inclusive – specifically ground beef – diet.

Two panelists avoid delicious hamburgers because they’re scared of Escherichia coli, which apparently is not an essential part of a wholesome diet because it sickens, paralyzes and kills some people.

“What happens in hamburger is the E. coli bacteria is in the guts of cows. And during the slaughtering process, those guts are nicked or there’s fecal material on the hides. It gets on the red meat,” explained Bill Marler, a food-borne illness litigator since the Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak in 1993.

“And when you cook a steak, assuming that steak hasn’t been penetrated, you can kill the bacteria that’s on the outside of the meat. It’s not on the inside of the meat. But when you ground that meat up, that E. coli is in there,” he said.

Taking a pro-vegetarian diet stance, a Cornell University professor said, “The closer we get to consuming a whole foods, plant-based diet, the healthier we’re going to be on all accounts.”

Perhaps, but I’m going to have to side with a true bon vivant: Anthony Bourdain, the chef-turned-novelist-turned-television host who pointed out it’s not a fucking coincidence that humans have forward-facing eyes, fingernails, long legs and sharp teeth.

“We were designed from the get-go … so that we could chase down smaller, stupider creatures, kill them and eat them,” he said. “That said, we may be designed to eat meat. We are not designed to eat fecal choliform bacteria.”

Some facts:

  • Texas produces about 7.6 billion pounds of beef annually, half of which will make its way to the food-service industry, according to the Texas Beef Council.
  • The National Cattleman’s Beef Association reports U.S. residents consumed 11.9 billion hamburgers in 2007, 9.6 billion of which were consumed in restaurants. Hamburgers also account for more than 40 percent of all sandwich sales in the United States.

Delicious hamburgers, much like white miniskirts on women and mid-’70s funk, are my weakness. I eat more hamburgers than anything else, although Wingstop’s chicken wings are a close second. I’ve eaten a cheeseburger four of the last seven days. Not only does a patty of ground-up cow meat, burned and slapped between two buns with the works, ensure that I’ll never look like Christiano Ronaldo when shirtless, it also soothes me when I’m at my lowest. Nothing cures (or marginally placates) a raging, vicious hangover like a hot shower, double espresso, two Excedrin, a bottle of sparking mineral water, two pints of beer and a delicious bacon cheeseburger. Without hamburgers, I can kiss my fucking productivity goodbye if hungover.

So sure, maybe bacteria transmitted from a cow’s ass to its annihilated flesh and into your body can be harmful – and kind of gross when I think about it – but my desire to kick a hangover in the balls before it kicks me will always supersede a fear of sickness or death.

Now drinking: Keystone Light

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What happens in Tempe apparently doesn’t stay there.

Aug. 11th 2009

“I don’t feel like I’m a hypocrite. I feel like I’m human,” said Josh Hamilton, on revelations that he might not have been as sober as he previously led on.

Josh Hamilton, at Arizona bar Maloney's Tavern in January 2009Josh Hamilton, at Arizona bar Maloney's Tavern in January 2009

If you’re going to break sobriety for a night, you might as well do it in style.

The Texas Rangers outfielder, a ‘comeback kid’ who ditched drugs and alcohol to return to baseball, recently found himself in deep shit when pictures surfaced showing him and some classy ladies carousing in a Tempe, Ariz. bar. Hamilton has claimed not to have had a drop of the evil since Oct. 6, 2005, but apparently that excluded the January 2009 night in question.

Naturally, people are pissed. Some fans feel like he let them down because he claimed to be free of alcohol’s shackles, he had wrested himself from cocaine’s grip. He was on the lord’s path. Apparently the lord’s path doesn’t allow for occasional stops at Maloney’s Tavern, the now defunct bar near Arizona State University.

Sure, he was less than truthful about the duration of his sobriety, but I hardly consider one mistake (as he calls it) to warrant criticism. The man’s got issues, and it’s hardly anyone else’s business, but you waive your right to privacy when you’re a celebrity. Hamilton got a bit rowdy, and I think that’s OK. (At least he looks happy in the photographs.)

Maybe we should all relax a bit, and allow others a bit of breathing room.

Now drinking: red wine

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Surprisingly, alcohol not that good for you.

Jun. 26th 2009

One in 25

Shocking as it sounds, one in 25 deaths worldwide is alcohol related, according to a new study by Canadian researchers. The study reports that alcohol use is increasing and that fact is leading to more cases of liver disorders, many cancers, stroke and depression.

For 2004, the latest year for which comparable data are available on a global level, 3.8 percent of all global deaths (around 1 in 25) were attributable to alcohol. Overall, alcohol-attributable deaths have increased since 2000 mainly because of increases in the number of women drinking. Europe had the highest proportion of deaths related to alcohol, with 1 in 10 deaths directly attributable.

Pretty much you’re fucked if you drink a lot of booze, the researchers said. Another UK official agrees and wants to do to alcohol what has been done to tobacco – high taxes, a ban on advertising and reduction in availability.

It’s rare that I buy cigarettes, so none of that impacts me. But a large chunk of my paycheck goes to Andy Pham at ABC Liquor and MacCool’s. I’m not looking forward to paying more for the same thing, nor am I looking forward to a new round of truth commercials against beer. 

Now drinking: nothing

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It’s not the size of the boat, but the motion of the ocean.

May. 11th 2009

In contrast to the previous post about the number of drinks defining one’s possibility of being an alcoholic, I thought I’d point out an interesting article published today in The New York Times about high-functioning alcoholics – or people who are atypical to the conventional stereotype of a dirty sot on a barstool. In the article, reporter Jane E. Brody speaks with Sarah Allen Benton, a recovering alcoholic, mental health counselor and author, who said the following:

“It’s not the number of drinks that defines an alcoholic,” Ms. Benton said. “It’s what happens to you when you’re drinking.”

Instead of counting how much, Benton points out bigger concerns are how one drinks and whether things like blackouts, obsessive ponderings on when and with whom the next drinks will come, and inability to control intake are common. And heavy drinking doesn’t necessarily mean one can’t function in society, which really is the whole point. People such as Benton can hold high-level jobs requiring a good bit of attention to perform, yet still find the time and effort to throw back a bottle of gin during the day. (Here’s looking at you, journalists of old.) These high-functioning alcoholics can be good parents, good workers, can watch their weight and yet still be classified as alcoholics.

“High-functioning alcoholics also may not be physically addicted to alcohol, abstaining for days or weeks without suffering withdrawal symptoms. But they are psychologically dependent on alcohol, often focused on when they can drink again and convinced that they need to drink in certain settings. They are also likely to experience blackouts, remembering nothing the next day about a night of heavy drinking, with only a hangover as evidence of their abusive behavior,” according to the article.

So then what’s the big deal? If an alcoholic can function as the hobo on the street or the woman with the corner office, why not just quit blaming an affinity for alcohol as the root of so many problems, when clearly (according to Benton) a person can drink two bottles of wine and still function as expected. Sure, it’s not healthy, but many other things are detrimental to health, too.

Now drinking: nothing

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