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Top Substance Abuse Stories of 2007

New Efforts in Treatment, Prevention


Updated December 19, 2007

Stories about the negative effects and consequences of substance abuse often make the biggest headlines. These stories highlight the year's good news -- the top stories of new efforts to treat and prevent alcoholism and drug abuse.

1. Alcoholic Brains Can Recover With Abstinence

Brain Scan
Some damage caused to the brain by chronic alcohol consumption does begin to reverse itself once alcoholics stop drinking, if they do not wait too long to stop. An international study, using sophisticated scanning technology to measure how the brain changed during abstinence, found that the damaged brain will regenerate, but the amount of improvement is related to how long the person drank excessively.

2. NIAAA Guide Helps Physicians Treat Alcoholics

NIAAA Clinician Guide
The National Institute for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism updated its free guide for primary care and mental health professionals, adding new resources and information. The guide, "Helping Patients Who Drink So Much," presents a user-friendly approach to screening, diagnosing and managing patients with drinking problems.

3. Mailed Pamphlets Can Reduce Binge Drinking

A Canadian study has found that mailing a simple information pamphlet to drinkers in the general public can reduce binge drinking as much as 10 percent. Researchers at the University of Alberta say the mail approach could significantly reduce health and social problems associated with heavy drinking.

4. Guide Aimed at Improving Screening in the ER

ER Doctor
A new guide distributed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration hopes to improve substance abuse treatment in emergency departments, where excessive drinking is often the cause of treated injuries. The goal of the guide is to integrate substance abuse treatment with primary and general care.

5. New Tool Helps Children in the Welfare System

Crying Boy
A new guidebook, designed to help agencies respond to families in the child welfare system affected by substance abuse, is now available from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The guidebook is "Screening and Assessment for Family Engagement, Retention, and Recovery" (SAFERR).

6. Prevention Programs That Teach Skills Most Effective

Beer Drinker
A Swedish study has found that intervention programs for college students that include basic skills training are the most effective with students who are in the highest risk group of drinkers. In a study of 556 students, those with higher Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test (AUDIT) scores benefited most from skills training, researchers found.

7. Spiritual Experiences Can Aid Recovery

Coffee Cup
Researchers at the University of Michigan Addiction Research Center found recovering people who increase day-to-day spiritual experiences and their senses of purpose in life are most likely to be abstinent six months after beginning recovery.

8. New Compound May Help Prevent Relapse

Brain Scan
A new synthetic compound, known as MTIP, has been found to prevent alcoholic behavior relapse in animals by blocking stress response. Scientists at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism demonstrated that MTIP blocks chemical signals that are active in the brain's response to stress, thereby stopping excessive drinking and preventing relapse.

9. Motivational Interview Can Reduce Pregnant Drinking

Stressed Lady
In a study called Project CHOICES, University of Virginia Health System researchers found that a few nonjudgemental, nonconfrontational counseling sessions had a significant impact on women at high risk for binge drinking, unplanned pregnancy, and exposure to alcohol during pregnancy.

10. Tool Kit Aims to Prevent Birth Defects

Crying Baby
A new resource kit is designed to help pregnant Native American women avoid the harm of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders. The American Indian/Alaska Native/Native Hawaiian Resource Kit is aimed at mothers-to-be, their friends, relatives, health professionals and community leaders.
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