New Cause of Alcohol Dependence /Craving in Our Body

New Cause of Alcohol Dependence /Craving in Our Body

Public health problems associated with alcohol consumption have reached alarming proportions, and alcohol has become one of the most important risks to health globally.In 2000 alcohol use was responsible for 4.0% of global disease burden, slightly less than the damage caused to society by tobacco use (4.1%) and high blood pressure (4.4%). In developed countries it is responsible for 9.2% of all disability-adjusted life years (DALYs) lost, with neuropsychiatric conditions (e.g. dependence, psychoses and depression) and unintentional injuries (e.g. road traffic crashes, burns, drowning and falls) accounting for most DALYs lost.


The distribution of the burden of stroke morbidity and mortality is heterogeneous in the US population and is changing dramatically with time. Stroke mortality remains the third leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for 1 in every 15 deaths during 1992.The burden of stroke is heterogeneous and is greater among the elderly, men, and African-Americans. In the southeastern United States, stroke risk is approximately 1.4 times that of other regions

Anxiety has long been linked to substance abuse. It is the key psychological factor driving the impulse to drink alcohol and one of the first symptoms of alcohol withdrawal.When used in excess, alcohol damages brain structure and function. Alcoholics have impairments in the ability to reason, plan or remember," said Crews, professor of pharmacology and psychiatry in UNC's School of Medicine. "A variety of psychological tests show alcoholics have a difficulty in ability to understand negative consequences."

Several interacting factors contribute to the harm caused by alcohol consumption, three important elements of drinking being: how much the drinker consumes over a year, how much is consumed on one occasion, and in what environment and circumstances alcohol is consumed.Drinking to intoxication is a significant cause of alcohol-related harm that accounts for the greatest proportion of DALYs lost in countries with high mortality. This loss is due in large part to acute events such as some cardiovascular diseases and injuries. Unintentional and intentional injuries are responsible for up to 10% of the global burden of disease.

The cause of alcohol dependence is not known. It is more likely if you have:

Alcohol dependence, as described in the DSM-IV, is a psychiatric diagnosis describing a physical dependence on alcohol. It is differentiated from alcohol abuse by the presence of symptoms such as tolerance and withdrawal. Alcohol dependence is sometimes referred to by the less specific term alcoholism.It is a major cause of breakdown in relationships, trauma, hospitalization, prolonged disability and early death. Alcohol-related problems represent an immense economic loss to many communities around the world.

The brains of alcohol-dependent individuals are affected not only by their own heavy drinking, but also by genetic or environmental factors associated with their parents' drinking, according to a new study by researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

Alcoholism is characterized by a preoccupation with alcohol and impaired control over alcohol intake. Alcoholism is a chronic, often progressive disease. Left untreated, alcoholism can be fatal.You may continue to abuse alcohol despite serious adverse health, personal, work-related and financial consequences. Alcoholism usually involves physical dependence on alcohol, but genetic, psychological and social factors contribute to the addiction as well.

Alcoholism is divided into 2 categories: dependence and abuse.

People with alcohol dependence, the most severe alcohol disorder, usually experience tolerance and withdrawal. Tolerance is a need for markedly increased amounts of alcohol to achieve intoxication or the desired effect. Withdrawal occurs when alcohol is discontinued or intake is decreased. Alcohol dependents spend a great deal of time drinking alcohol, and obtaining it.

Alcohol abusers may have legal problems such as drinking and driving. They may also have problems with binge drinking (drinking 6 or more drinks at one sitting).Alcohol dependence is common among homeless populations (24,117) and many present to health services with potentially serious neurological, gastroenterological, cardiovascular or psychosocial complications.

4 drinks per occasion; there are no alcohol-related consequences, but the risk of future physical, psychological, or social harm increases with increasing levels of consumption; risks associated with exceeding the amounts per occasion that constitute “binge” drinking in the short term include injury and trauma; risks associated with exceeding weekly amounts in the long term include cirrhosis, cancer, and other chronic illnesses; “risky use” is sometimes used to refer to the spectrum of unhealthy use but usually excludes dependence; one third of patients in this category are at risk for dependence.

The protein alpha synuclein (SNCA) plays an important role in the regulation of dopamine function. SNCA mutations can lead to significant problems, such as the neurodegenerative disorder Parkinson's disease, which is caused by a substantially reduced production of dopamine. New findings show that sequence variation in the SNCA gene also contributes to whether or not an individual craves or does not crave alcohol.

Two appetite-regulating hormones -- leptin and ghrelin -- appear to influence alcohol craving in some alcoholics, according to new research.

"The findings of our study show that appetite-regulating mechanisms like secretion of ghrelin and leptin are of diverse importance in different subtypes of alcohol dependence," write study investigators in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research.

"Investigations on neurobiological mechanisms in these subgroups may therefore also be important for a more specific pharmacotherapy," add Dr. Thomas Hillemacher and colleagues from University Hospital Erlangen, Germany.

Leptin is released from fat cells and helps alert the brain that it's time to stop eating, and ghrelin is produced in the stomach and helps trigger hunger. Recent studies suggest that appetite-regulating hormones and peptides may be involved in alcohol craving -- an important contributor to the development and maintenance of alcoholism.

Hillemacher's team measured leptin and ghrelin levels in samples obtained from 188 patients who entered an alcohol detoxification program.

They grouped patients into four types of alcohol dependence. Type 1 refers to people with heavy alcohol withdrawal symptoms who tend to use alcohol to weaken withdrawal symptoms. Type 2 patients use alcohol as self-medication because of its anti-anxiety effects. In patients with Type 3, the main characteristic is an affective disorder as origin for alcohol abuse. Type 4 patients show pre-illness brain defects, behavior disorders and a high social burden.

Tests showed that leptin levels (corrected for body mass index) were highest in type 4 patients and lowest in type 1 patients, the authors report. Ghrelin levels were also highest in type 4 patients, the results indicate, but the difference was not statistically significant.

BMI-corrected leptin levels were significantly positively associated with the Obsessive Compulsive Drinking Scale (OCDS) score in type 1 and type 2 patients (but not in type 3 and type 4 patients), the researchers note, and there was a significant trend for a negative association between ghrelin levels and the OCDS score in type 1 patients.

Moreover, the report indicates, there was an association between leptin and craving in patients drinking beer and wine, but not in spirits drinkers. There was no such association for ghrelin.

"Our findings show that there exist important differences between alcohol-dependent patients, not only regarding psychosocial but also regarding neurobiological influences," said Hillemacher.

In a written statement, Dr. Otto Lesch of the University of Vienna noted that "in alcohol dependence, 88 different methods are used to decrease relapse rates. Most of them are not effective, some of them increase relapse rates, some of them are really effective in subgroups of alcohol-dependent patients, but there is no one method which has only positive results."

This study's results, he added, are of great importance to alcohol research because they help to clarify that other studies' results may be due to different selection criteria leading to different rates among subgroups.

Ask yourself these questions:

If you answer yes to 1 or more of the following questions, you may have a problem with alcohol. Have you ever felt:

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