A new study helps explain why some people crave alcohol and others don't. Published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the research used PET scans to capture images of activity in the brains of heavy drinkers and non-heavy drinkers. All scans were taken before and after each person had an alcoholic beverage. Drinking alcohol triggered an endorphin release in the brain in all 25 people studied; the more endorphins released, the more pleasure a person felt when drinking. As the heavy drinkers reported feeling more intoxicated, they released more endorphins in the orbitofrontal cortex, which is the part of the brain that is associated with reward processing. However, this did not happen with the non-heavy drinkers. The results suggests that some people’s brains are more likely to produce a feeling of pleasure when drinking, causing them to crave alcohol in order to feel this sensation. This information may help in the search for more effective drug treatments for addiction.
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In a startling new report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, more than 38 million US adults—or one in six—binge drink, typically consuming eight drinks at a sitting around four times a month. Binge drinking is usually considered to be five drinks for men or four drinks for women, over a period of a few hours. Heavy boozers aged 18-34 take it further, downing an average of 9.3 drinks per binge. The study is meant to highlight the dangers. “What we found was that indeed the frequency [of binge drinking] is very high, and the amount consumed was also very high,” says Robert Brewer, the CDC’s alcohol program leader. Health officials blame binge drinking for more than 80,000 deaths each year. It contributes to drunk-driving accidents, violence and health issues like heart disease, liver failure and cancer. The CDC suggests that making changes to how alcohol is sold may help to curb binge drinking in the future.
Lindsay Lohan has been working hard to reform her party-girl image—even foregoing high-octane New Year’s celebrations in lieu of a humble fete at home with friends—but it seems that paying Uncle Sam may have gotten lost amidst all that reforming. TMZ reports that the IRS has hit LiLo with a tax lien for over $93,000; the troubled starlet failed to file her taxes in 2009. She says she had no idea she was even in debt. According to a source close to Lohan, she thought accountants were taking care of all of her taxes. Perhaps it’s this kind of issue that inspired her to clean house recently; she just replaced most of her business staff. The actress says she’ll be remedying the situation immediately. If she’s the kind of person who can accidentally misplace $10,000 in cash, a measly $90K fine probably isn’t that big of a deal, as she fumbles her way toward the straight and narrow.
The Dutch government formally announced yesterday that it's banning the use of khat—an East African leaf that's chewed as a stimulant. “If taken in moderation there are no major problems, but an investigation showed it to be problematic among some 10% of khat users, leading to health and social issues,” says immigration department spokesman Frank Wassenaar. Khat has been chewed for centuries by people in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia and Yemen. But Wassenaar claims the drug is especially problematic within the Netherlands' Somali community. Around 843 tons of khat—valued at $18 million—passed through Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport in 2010, up from 714 tons in 2009. Fifteen of the European Union’s 27 states currently list khat as an illegal narcotic, while the US bans it as a Schedule I drug. The Netherlands has been trying to distance itself from its drug-loving reputation, with foreigners being phased out of Dutch "coffee" shops this year.
A new proposal hit the South Carolina legislative floor yesterday that would require all laid-off workers to take and pass a drug test in order to receive unemployment payments. The proposal won initial approval from the a Senate panel, but is expected to be challenged by federal labor officials. “(This proposal) doesn’t send the right message,” says Sue Berkowitz, who runs a Midlands legal service for the poor. Senator Kevin Bryant (R-Anderson) who brought up the bill, holds that the drug tests are similar to the ones required for employment at many companies, and that those out of work would be reimbursed for the tests if they are found to be drug-free. South Carolina ranks among the toughest states for drug control, earning top honors in 2007 for arresting the most marijuana users. The proposal is similar to Florida’s introduction last year of mandatory drug testing for everyone applying for welfare. The law was shot down in October by an American Civil Liberties Union legal challenge.