NIH funded University of North Carolina study links alcohol abstinence with depression

New research supported by the National Institutes of Health and published in the Journal Neuropsychopharmacologyhas found that cutting back on drinking could possibly lead to feelings of depression. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Bowles Center for Alcohol Studies announced the results of their study Tuesday. Senior study author Clyde Hodge, a psychiatry professor at UNC, says the research “establishes a causal link between abstinence from alcohol drinking and depression.” In the study, mice that voluntarily drank alcohol for 28 days exhibited depression-like behavior 14 days after they stopped drinking. “This research provides the first evidence that long-term abstinence from moderate alcohol drinking – rather than drinking per se – leads to a negative mood state, depression,” Hodge wrote in a statement.

UNC researchers postulate that the abstinence from alcohol after drinking somehow impairs the brain’s ability to create new nerve cells. Recent studies show that the development of the nerve cells could regulate people’s mood; thus, UNC says, impaired creation could lead to feelings of depression. The study also found that treatment with an antidepressant drug during abstinence prevents the development of depression, a statement says. The authors of the study say their work could help lead to better treatment options for people who quit drinking.

Alcohol consumption and the elderly

Provided they stick to the same guidelines about alcohol consumption as younger adults, regular moderate drinking poses no additional risks to the over 65s, and may even bring health benefits, according to two studies from the Peninsula Medical School in the South West of England. Researchers assessed the drinking levels of over 13,000 older people in England and the US and looked at the effects on physical disability, mortality, cognitive function, depression, and well-being. They concluded that moderate drinking is fine for the over 65s — and in some cases is better than not drinking at all. This is good news for the elderly who want to get into the festive spirit, and who until now have lived by the commonly held belief that they have to reduce their alcohol consumption as they get older. “We are not advocating that elderly people should go out and get ridiculously drunk,” said Dr. Iain Lang, lead author of the two studies from the Peninsula Medical School. “What we are saying is that current guidelines on drinking for the elderly are too conservative, and that a couple of drinks a day will do no harm, and will in fact have a more beneficial affect on cognitive and general health than abstinence.”

Research showed that 10.8 per cent of US men, 28.6 per cent of UK men, 2.9 per cent of US women and 10.3 per cent of UK women drank more than the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism recommended limit for people aged 65 and over. The research also showed that those drinking on average more than one to two drinks a day achieved similar health results as those drinking on average more than zero to one drink a day. The worst results were in those who did not drink at all and in those who were heavy drinkers. The shape of the relationship between alcohol consumption and the risk of disability were similar in men and women. Said Dr. Lang: “The upshot of this research is that ‘a little of what you fancy does you good.’ There is no reason why older people should not enjoy a tipple this Christmas, as long as they are sensible about it. Previous research has shown that middle-aged people can benefit from moderate drinking — these findings show the same applies to the over-65s.”

Causes for hangover
  • Drinking more alcohol than your body can metabolize efficiently causes the toxins in the alcohol to build up in your body. A chemical known as acetaldehyde is an alcohol by-product and is responsible for the severe symptoms of a hangover.
  • The ethanol found in alcohol has a dehydrating effect which is responsible for your raging headache, dry mouth and tiredness.
  • Dark spirits such as red wine, brandy and whiskey contain more congeners (by-products of the process of alcohol fermentation) which increase the symptoms of a hangover. Cheaper spirits are also known to cause a worse hangover because fewer impurities have been removed.
  • Body weight can be a key factor: A smaller body weight usually means a greater hangover.
  • Mixing your drinks is a sure way to become inebriated and lead to a hangover. When you mix your drinks, for instance tequila and whiskey, you are actually mixing the different poisons of the alcohol together. More pressure is then placed on the liver to get rid of the toxins and cleanse the system by flushing them out – causing more dehydration.
Helpful Hints for Healing Hangovers

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the hangover were a result of dehydration as many of us thought when we first started drinking? Unfortunately preventing a hangover is much more complicated than just drinking lots of fluids along with our alcoholic beverages. Aside from dehydration, hangovers are a result of alterations in endocrine function, dysregulation of cytokine pathways, and proper elimination of toxins produced during alcohol preparation and normal liver metabolism. Because abstinence is easier said than done, we have put together some useful tips that can be used as hangover cures to help you get through ‘the morning after the night before’:

  • If you do have any alcohol, drink small amounts, and remember that small amounts of better quality alcohol will have fewer hangover symptoms.
  • Drinking on an empty stomach is one of the better known causes of a hangover. Eat a large meal before drinking to line the stomach and slow down the rate of alcohol absorption into the bloodstream.
  • Eat bland foods such toast or crackers to relieve nausea.
  • Fructose-containing foods such as fruit and fruit juices may also decrease hangover intensity.
  • Drinking water during and after alcohol consumption can minimize alcohol-induced dehydration, one of the main causes of a hangover.
  • Know your limits and pace yourself by drinking slowly (the body metabolizes alcohol and needs time to do so).
  • Avoid smoking while drinking because smoking constricts the lungs and decreases oxygen flow to the blood stream.
  • Vitamin B helps to replace the nutrients lost while drinking.