Links to relevant websites on alcohol-related issues and research, ARG research publications, the ARG library and what's new at ARG.


News & Events

This page contains information on what's new at ARG and a listing of press releases. Press releases are issued by the communications department at the Public Health Institute (PHI) and are available for viewing on their site. Media inquiries should be directed to PHI.


Special Edition Release: Examining the Social Model Approach in Recovery Residences

ARG Senior Scientist, Doug Polcin, heads up a special edition of the International Journal of Self Help & Self Care as guest editor. This recently released edition  focuses on sober living houses (SLHs)  - alcohol and drug free living environments for individuals attempting to abstain from alcohol and drugs - and their model of recovery care. Highlights include the history of SLHs, how architecture impacts residents and faciliates their recovery, along with a first-hand account from a sober living homes' developer. In addtion, ARG Associate Scientist Amy Mericle's article explores different types of recovery residences based on standards developed by the National Alliance for Recovery Residences to determine if recovery homes in Philadelphia differ from SLHs in California.

Newly funded study assesses effectiveness of alternatives to 12-step programs for people who suffer from addiction.

While the number of alternatives to common 12-step programs has grown over the past few years, there has been little to no research on how effective these programs are in treating addiction, in particular over the long term.  ARG Senior Scientist, Sarah Zemore's project seeks to do just that - compare traditional 12-step programs such as AA to alternatives in a NIAAA funded study.

Zemore hopes that study findings will help determine the benefits and limitations of specific programs, including measuring outcomes such as abstinence and quality of life over a 12-month period.  The study may also prompt a closer look at specific alternatives thus providing individuals who suffer from addiction a much wider range of effective treatment options.  Read more.

How effective is Intensive Motivational Interviewing (IMI) for women with an alcohol dependency? 

A new randomized-control trial compares approaches to determine which treatment will help women significantly reduce the amount they drink over time.

ARG Senior Scientist, Doug Polcin's recent NIAAA award enables the researcher to build on previous findings where women with serious drinking problems who participated in intensive motivational interviewing significantly reduced their alcohol consumption compared to women who received standard motivational interview treatment.   This new study will increase the number of participants and provide an opportunity to randomly assign women to a treatment group to see which approach is more effective. Policin and colleagues will also assess whether IMI has a longterm effect on drinking and alcohol-related problems by interviewing women at two months, 6 months and one year following the intervention.

Factors that may contribute to more positive outcomes will also be measured, including retention,  relationship with the healthcare professional, self-efficacy, motivation, satisfaction, and use of outside services.  Read more.

Innovative study seeks to prevent drinking during pregnancy and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) through a low cost computerized tool.

The NIAAA announced that a trial to assess a computerized tool for preventing prenatal drinking, better known as an electronic screen and brief intervention (or "e-SBI"), has been funded. The three-year pilot project that builds on previous work on cost-effective strategies to reduce alcohol-related harms will be headed up by ARG Associate Scientist, Madhabika B. Nayak. Nayak and her team plan to adapt the bilingual (English and Spanish) tool for use with non-pregnant women to see if this low-cost approach is effective in reducing drinking.

Study findings will help design a larger trial of e-SBI’s efficacy and provide critical information on health risks and possible negative related outcomes such as increased drug use among participants.   Read more.

New study tackles how social, economic and cultural factors influence a person's drinking and health over a lifetime.

The NIAAA announced that ARG Senior Scientist and Center Associate Director William Kerr's study on inter-relationships between life-course alcohol patterns and health conditions has been funded.  A four-year project, Kerr and colleagues will examine the effects of alcohol use over a lifetime, including social and economic hardships, and racial and ethnic differences in factors that may contribute to poorer health.

Kerr will use  data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) 1979, 1997 cohorts and the 2010  National Alcohol Survey (NAS) to assess risks for alcohol-related health outcomes. in addition,  Kerr hopes his study findings will help determine how health problems affect future drinking  as well as providing new data nf the impact of the recent economic recession on a person's health.  Read more.

Another Post-doc Receives an NIH Loan Repayment Program (LRP) award.  Congratulations, Paul Gilbert.

Paul’s research explores the ways that the social environment shapes substance use. His current work describes the associations of gender and racial/ethnic discrimination with specialty treatment, use of 12-step groups, and other help seeking for problem drinking. His next project seeks to explain racial/ethnic disparities in alcohol services use, including whether intermediary factors that facilitate or inhibit services vary by gender. Together, Paul’s research may lead to more efficacious interventions to increase alcohol services use.

Congratulations to Priscilla Martinez on her recent NIH Loan Repayment Program (LRP) award.

Priscilla's investigation of immune function associated with alcohol use disorder and psychological distress comorbidity was selected from a highly competitive pool of applicants within the Clinical Research Program, highlighting the significance of this young, talented researcher's work. All of us at ARG are very proud of her accomplishments and look forward to her future research contributions that this grant enables her to pursue. Congratulations again, Priscilla!

International alcohol and injury project gets another green light.

The NIAAA announced that the Cross-national Analysis of Alcohol and Injury study, which began in 2002, will receive funding for another five-years through to March 2019.  This competing continuation headed up by Cheryl Cherpitel, explores the relationship between alcohol and injury with data gathered from 33 emergency room sites across eight countries as part of the Emergency Room Collaborative Alcohol Analysis Project (ERCAAP)/World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborative Study on Alcohol and Injury. 

Research highlights include the relationship between amount of alcohol consumed and injury type,  country and regional drinking patterns, and the relationship between blood alcohol content and clinical assessment of intoxication.   

Congratulations Cheryl, Jason Bond, Yu Ye and Rachel Korcha.  We look forward to another five years of innovative and informative research on injury and alcohol from around the globe.

The public health case for legalizing pot: it could replace alcohol 

In a recent review of the scientific literature, researcher Meenakshi Subbaraman, of the Alcohol Research Group at the Public Health Institute, found that marijuana can act as a substitute for alcohol for some people. In one survey of Canadian medical marijuana users, 41 percent said they replace alcohol with marijuana because pot causes less withdrawal, fewer side-effects, and better symptom management. In another survey, medical marijuana patients in California reported alcohol use at two-thirds the national rate.
As Subbaraman explained "some people just want to wind down at the end of the day; whether they do it through alcohol or marijuana is personal preference. Legalizing marijuana, then, could allow some people to pick pot over alcohol without worrying about the potential repercussions of engaging in illicit activity."  Read more.

ARG's Paul Gilbert Receives University of North Carolina Honor

Alcohol Research Group postdoctoral fellow Paul A. Gilbert, PhD, MSPH, has been awarded a prestigious Impact Award for research that benefits North Carolina by the Graduate School of the University of North Carolina (UNC), Chapel Hill. Read more.

ARG Scientists at RSA (June 22-26)

Many ARG Scientists are among the speakers, discussants or presenters at the upcoming Research Society on Alcoholism  Conference in Orlando, Florida (June 22-26) at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cyprus.  The event serves as a meeting ground for scientists in the broad areas of alcoholism and alcohol-related problems. Stop by to hear William Kerr’s talk on “Racial/ethnic differences in drinking in the U.S..: Paradoxes, problems, and research priorities” and Jane Witbrodt’s talk on “Longitudinal analyses of 12 step participation and improved outcomes: Does gender matter?”  Also, Bill Kerr and Sarah Zemore are discussants on other symposia sessions. Visit ARG's poster sessions during the week. For details on all the posters being presented by ARG scientists, download ARG's RSA Schedule (pdf). Visit RSA's website for more on the conference. 

Drinking Causes 3.5% of Cancer Deaths - More Than from Melanoma, New Study Finds

Drinking Causes 3.5% of Cancer Deaths - More Than from Melanoma, New Study Finds more Researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), the National Cancer Instiute, Alcohol Research Group, and others have shown that alcohol is a major contributor to cancer deaths and years of potential life lost. The article titled “Alcohol-Attributable Cancer Deaths and Years of Potential Life Lost in the United States” appears in the online edition of the American Journal of Public Health. Read more about the study here.

State honors Kaskutas for contributions to substance abuse research

On August 21, the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs (ADP) awarded the 2012 Director’s Award for Innovative and Effective Approaches to Research to Lee Ann Kaskutas. The ADP Director’s Awards, presented at ADP’s statewide training conference, recognize valuable contributions by individuals and organizations to the substance abuse prevention, treatment, research and recovery fields. Read more about the award here.

"What is Recovery?" Study Seeks Participants

The "What is Recovery?" study is seeking people in recovery from an alcohol or drug problem to participate in a web-based survey. "What is Recovery?" is the first federally-funded nationwide study on this critical topic. The purpose of this research is to learn how people experience and define recovery. Additionally, the researchers hope to develop a Recovery Scale that will help provide a framework for educating the public and policymakers about what recovery from alcohol and drug entails. Visit the study's website to learn more about study. Click here to read more.

ARG Scientist Cheryl Cherpitel discusses her project "Cross-National Analysis of Alcohol and Injury"

Cheryl Cherpitel discusses issues of culture, control, consent and country-to-country consumption raised by her project ‘Cross-National Analysis of Alcohol and Injury’ with Research Media. Click here to view document.

ARG Scientist Discusses Challenge of Determining how AA works on NPR

Alcohol Research Group scientist Lee Kaskutas recently appeared on NPR’s OnPoint to talk about the legacy of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), its “12 steps” and science. In an interview with Wired Magazine contributing editor Brendan Koerner, Kaskutas discussed an article on the secret of AA’s success in helping recovering alcoholics stay sober recently published in Wired. For decades, experts have been unable to explain exactly how and why AA works. But researchers are most stymied by the fact that the program’s efficacy cannot be tested in a randomized experiment, the scientific gold standard. To listen to the show, click here. To read the original article, click here.

ARG Scientists Hosting a Session at APHA 2009

ARG scientists and affiliate scientists will be hosting a session titled "Drinking patterns and harms: New findings from the National Alcohol Survey". This session's objectives are to define drinking patterns and understand their importance in predicting alcohol-related problems, evaluate heavy drinking and its role in acute and chronic consequences, and to discuss the alcohol policy/prevention implications of new population-based risk curve findings from National Alcohol Surveys.

ARG Scientific Director Wins APHA Section Award

Tom Greenfield, Scientific Director and Center Director of the National Alcohol Research Center, has received a section leadership award from the American Public Health Associations's Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs (ATOD) section. This award recgonizes and ATOD section member who has made significant contributions to the section and field.


Press Releases

January 20, 2015

Some racial/ethnic groups overestimate the number of drinks they can have before driving.

Black and Hispanic drinkers are more likely to overestimate how much they can safely drink two hours before driving, a new and innovative study examining impairment limits found.  The study, to be published on line ahead of print in the American Journal of Public Health, determined that, on average and controlling for other factors such as weight, education and drinking history, self-reported impairment thresholds (number of standard drinks one could drink in 2 hours before driving without being impaired) were 30% higher for Black drinkers and 26% higher for Hispanic drinkers than for White drinking drivers.  Further, 28% of Black drinkers and 31% of Hispanic drinkers reported 5 or more drinks can be consumed in two hours without their becoming too impaired to get behind the wheel compared to 12% of White drinkers.  Read more.

October 20, 2014

International study finds acute aclohol consumption causes higher risk of injury for woman than men.

A new study of emergency department patients in 18 countries led by ARG Senior Scientist, Cheryl Cherpitel, made available online by the scientific journal Addiction, shows that the risk of injury caused by acute alcohol consumption is higher for women compared with men. While the risk of injury is similar for both men and women up to three ‘standard’ drinks (containing 16 ml or 12.8 g of pure ethanol), the risk then increases more rapidly for women, becoming twice the risk to men around 15 drinks and three times the risk to men around 30 drinks. In this study the drinks were reportedly consumed within six hours prior to injury.

The risk of violence-rated injury is consistently larger than the risk of other types of injuries and has a steeper dose-response relationship than other types of injuries, meaning the risk of injury from violence increases more rapidly as the volume of alcohol consumed increases. The ‘standard’ drink used in this study equals less than a 350 ml glass of 5% ABV beer, a 150 ml glass of 12% ABV wine, or a 44 ml glass of 80-proof spirit, each of which contains approximately 18 ml of pure ethanol. In this study, one 750-ml bottle of 12% wine equals 5.6 drinks. The study looked at over 13,000 injured patients from Argentina, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Dominican Republic, Guatemala, Guyana, India, Ireland, Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Panama, Sweden, and Switzerland.

July 17, 2014

Study finds that alcohol-programming outreach is important to women of color.

There has been very little research conducted on racial and ethnic disparities in the utilization of alcohol services and little known about whether such disparities also carry across genders. Sarah Zemore, a senior scientist at the Alcohol Research Group and the corresponding author of the study that assessed the combined impact of race/ethnicity and gender on alcohol services utilization, found lower service utilization among Latinos and Blacks, versus Whites, and women, versus men. Such lower utilization rates reveal the difficulty that ethnic minorities and non-English speakers have in accessing treatment services with female Black and Latina drinkers at a greater disadvantage.  Read more...

October 15, 2013

How Much Alcohol Is in Your Drink? Stronger Beers and Wines Make It Harder to Tell.

Consumers often don’t know how much alcohol they are actually drinking, according to “The Blurring of Alcohol Categories,” a new report from the Public Health Institute’s Alcohol Research Group (ARG) published by the National Alcoholic Beverage Control Association. Many new beer and wine products have increased alcohol content—blurring what were once clear lines between the alcohol content of beer, wine and spirits. Read more...

October 9, 2012

With problem drinking, where you live may matter.

Some people living in disadvantaged neighborhoods may be at increased risk of problem drinking—though much may depend on race and gender, according to a new study by Katherine Karriker-Jaffe, PhD. Read more...

January 20, 2010

Public Health Institute to Test New Treatment for Methamphetamine Addiction in Contra Costa County, California.

Methamphetamine use is rapidly increasing and reaching epidemic proportions in certain parts of the country such as the western United States. The addiction afflicts more than 400,000 people in the country and costs society more than $20 billion every year. To test how well a new treatment approach that uses Motivation Enhancement Therapy helps people quit using methamphetamine, researchers at the Alcohol Research Group (of the Public Health Institute) study more than 200 people who are or have recently been dependent on methamphetamine at an alcohol and drug treatment center in Lafayette, California.

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