Alcohol, sleep, and school work: College drinking and GPA

Co-authored by: Jamie Felzer

We all know that college students often party and sleep more than they actually study.  But do heavy alcohol use and poor sleep patterns cause poor grades?

A recently published study found that just altering bed times by 2 hours can throw off your sleepiness during the day.  Most students in the study did show a 2-4 hour difference in daily bed times between weekdays and the weekend, and most went to bed after midnight.

The average number of drinks for participants came in around 6 drinks a night (equal for men and women).

The big question is: can these heavy drinkers in college still perform well academically? (See here for influential factors in college drinking)

No matter what the cause, insufficient sleep causes poor academic consequences.  Interestingly, those students who reported much more sleep also had lower GPAs (oversleep was mostly assumed, by the researchers, to be caused by drinking and staying up too late, though it could have been due to other issues such as depression).

Overall, those that drank more often went to sleep later and also had bigger gaps between weekday and weekend bedtimes, all of which correlated very highly with a lower GPA.

Citation:

Singleton, Wolfson (2009). Alcohol Consumption, Sleep And Academic Performance Among College Students. Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. 70, 355-363)

About Addiction: Smoking, Alcohol, Painkillers, Prescriptions

This are new, interesting articles about addiction. Check out the links to the articles, and give us your feedback.

Smoking and related issues

Health Day: Smoking increases the risk of age-related macular degeneration, a disease that robs people of their sight.

Reuters: When cigarette smokers quit smoking, chronic stress levels may go down. This should give smokers reassurance that quitting will not deprive them of a valuable stress reliever.

Reuters: A nicotine mouth spray may help prevent cigarette cravings three times faster than nicotine lozenges or chewing gum. This might help smokers who are trying to quit smoking.

Cesar Fax: The percentage of national tobacco retailers selling to minors appears to have leveled off. The average national retailer violation rate decreased from 40.1% to 10.8%, and stabilized at 10.8%.

wcstv: Under a proposed deal reached by Governor David Paterson and Albany legislators, cigarette taxes would increase by $1.60 per pack. In New York City, the price of one pack of cigarettes would cost over $10 in many stores. The hope is that this huge price increase will help smokers quit smoking and reduce overall levels of smoking in New York.

About addiction to alcohol, painkillers, and prescription medication

Hazelden: Abuse of alcohol, painkillers, and prescription medication is rising dramatically among older people. Signs of alcohol abuse and drug addiction are different in older adults than in younger people.

Science Daily: Religiosity can moderate genetic effects on alcohol abuse during adolescence but not during early adulthood. The heritability of an alcohol abuse phenotype depends upon the social environment within which it is measured.

Medical News TODAY: Sleep problems can predict the onset of alcohol abuse in healthy adults and relapse in abstinent alcoholics. Puberty is related to sleep problems and later bedtimes, which are associated with alcohol abuse.

Health Day: Exercise may be an effective treatment option for alcoholism. In addition, alcoholism disrupts normal daily circadian rhythms, which can lead to disrupted sleep patterns.

About addiction and mental illness

KansasCity.com:  To study drug addiction and mental illness researchers, at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, have received a $1.8 million federal grant. One of the leading researchers states that conditions such as drug addiction and depression are major problems across the globe.

About Addiction: Smoking, drinking and Heroin

Some great, informative articles about addiction, alcohol and smoking, as well as some about Heroin.  We also have some new sites with links listed here so give us your feedback on what you like!

Alcohol

Caron Chit Chat: According to a world renowned addiction treatment center, the female problem drinker in Dallas is most likely between the ages of 25-39, single, prefers wine and beer to hard liquor, drinks more with her girlfriends than on a date or with work colleagues and may not sleep well.

PhysOrg.com: Binge drinking can cause long lasting damage to an important area in the brains of adolescent monkeys, suggesting that binge drinking could have serious effects on memory formation in adolescents.

HealthDay: One in five college students admitted to drunk driving. Additionally, more than 40% of twenty year old adolescents rode in a car with an intoxicated driver.

Medical News Today: Young people in the two years after high school who are in romantic relationships are less likely than their peers to report heavy drinking and marijuana use. Marriage lowers the odds that people will get drunk frequently or smoke pot.

HealthDay: As teens become adults, their tendency toward impulsive behaviors decreases as well as the amount of alcohol they consume. Teenagers tend to mature as they get older as well as drink less alcohol.

SAMHSA: Around 508,000 adolescents aged 12-17 in the United States drink alcohol; 641,000 use illicit drugs; and more than 1 million smoke cigarettes on any average day. This data was conducted in a national survey sponsored by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

Heroin

The Sydney Morning Herald: Heroin users regularly land in hospitals, and heroin use is often fatal. This study traced all hospital admissions of a group of heroin users over 10 years, to mid 2004.

REUTERS: According to the National Institute on  Drug Abuse, around 3.7 million people in the US have used heroin sometime in their lives. Prescription heroin may help addicts to stay off street drugs.

Smoking

PhysOrg.com: Increasing cigarette taxes could be an effective way to reduce smoking among alcohol or drug abusers or people with mental disorders. A ten percent increase in cigarette pricing resulted in an eighteen percent decline in smoking among alcohol or drug abusers or individuals with mental disorder.

REUTERS: Tobacco companies and retailers say in a lawsuit that anti-smoking signs in New York City showing a decaying tooth, diseased lungs and a damaged brain violate cigarette vendors’ free speech and should be removed.

About Addiction: Alcohol, breast cancer & war veterans

Check out our weekly links about addiction!

Health Day: A new study shows that breast cancer survivors who smoke are at increased risk for a second cancer. The time frame to develop second cancer is fifteen years.

Cesar Fax: Drug positives increase consistently with age amongst DC juvenile arrestees. 53% of the juvenile arrestees tested positive for drugs.

Psychology Today: An article from Psychology Today (which Adi has been writing for so check them out!) and discusses the issue of war veterans and drug use as well as PTSD. It relates the discussion to soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Science Daily: There are some new insights into how alcohol affects brain function. Drinking alcohol over a long period of time does profoundly affect the brain.

Science Daily: More about alcohol! According to Science Daily, genetic differences that make you sleepy when you drink can protect against alcohol dependence.

Time to get high- Circadian rhythms and drug use

Contributing Co-Author: Andrew Chen

Like most living creatures, humans have internal biological clocks known as circadian rhythms. These internal cycles synchronize our bodies with the Earth’s 24-hour day/night cycle and prepare us for predictable daily events (1). Circadian rhythms regulate a number of bodily functions including temperature, hormone secretion, bowel movements, and sleep (2). Recent research suggests that drug use may disturb our circadian rhythms, possibly influencing our decisions to take drugs.

Moon

Environmental drivers of drug use

Our biological clocks are set by external cues from the environment, called zeitgebers (3). The most familiar to us are light and food. However, research on rats has shown that opiates, nicotine, stimulants, and alcohol also have the ability to alter the phase of circadian rhythms independent of light or food (1). Drug use has long been associated with major disruptions in the human sleep cycle. Cocaine, crystal meth, and MDMA users often go without sleep for days, and these sleep disruptions can continue long after people stop using drugs. In fact, sleep disturbance outlasts most withdrawal symptoms and places recovering addicts at greater risk for relapse (3).

The rhythm of drug use

Circadian rhythms could also be the reason why people show 24-hour patterns of drug use. A study of urban hospitals found that overdose victims are admitted to hospitals more around 6:30PM than any other time of the day (2). Fluctuations in drug sensitivity, effect, and reward value are believed to be regulated by genes that control circadian rhythms. In other words, our biological clocks are telling us when to get high.

Researchers are just beginning to explore the relationship between circadian rhythms and drug use. Future understanding of this relationship will help us explain how drug addiction develops and develop better ways to treat it. It’s possible that offering specific aspects of treatment as certain point in the circadian rhythm can improve the probability of success.

Citations:

1. Kosobud, A. E. K., Gillman, A. G., Leffel, J. K., Pecoraro, N.C., Rebec, G.V., Timberlake, W. (2007) Drugs of abuse can entrain circadian rhythms, The Scientific World Journal, 7(S2), 203-212

2. McClung, C.A. (2007) Circadian rhythms, the mesolimbic dopaminergic circuit, and drug addiction, The Scientific World Journal, 7(S2), 194-202

3. Gordon, H.W. (2007) Sleep, circadian rhythm, and drug abuse, The Scientific World Journal, 7(S2), 191-193

Crystal meth withdrawal – It’s not like heroin, but don’t expect it to be easy

Heroin, or opiate, withdrawal symptoms is the gold standard of addiction withdrawal. Imagine the worst flu of your life, multiply it by 1000, and then imagine knowing that taking a hit of this stuff will make it all better. Think sweats, fever, shaking, diarrhea, and vomiting. Think excruciating pain throughout as your pain sensors get turned back on after being blocked for way too long. Now you have an abstract idea of the hell and it’s no wonder why heroin withdrawal has become the one every other withdrawal is judged against.

Crystal meth withdrawal

Withdrawing from crystal meth use is nothing like opiate withdrawal and there’s no reason that the withdrawal symptoms should be. Opiates play a significant role in pain modulation and opioid receptors are present in peripheral systems in the body, which is the reason for the stomach aches, nausea, and diarrhea. Dopamine receptors just don’t play those roles in the body and brain, so withdrawal shouldn’t be expected to have the same effect.

But dopamine is still a very important neurotransmitter and quitting a drug  that has driven up dopamine release for a long time should be expected to leave behind some pain, and it does.

One of the important functions of dopamine is in signaling reward activity. When a dopamine spike happens in a specific area of the brain (called the NAc), it signifies that whatever is happening at that moment is “surprisingly” good. The parentheses are there to remind you that the brain doesn’t really get surprised, but the dopamine spike is like a reward signal detector, when it goes up, good things are happening.

Well guess what? During crystal meth withdrawal, when a crystal-meth user stops using meth, the levels of dopamine in the brain go down. To make matters worse, the long-term meth use has caused a decrease in the number of dopamine receptors available which means there’s not only less dopamine, but fewer receptors to activate. It’s not a surprise than that people who quit meth find themselves in a state of anhedonia, or an inability to feel pleasure. Once again, unlike the heroin withdrawal symptoms, anhedonia doesn’t make you throw up and sweat, but it’s a pretty horrible state to be in. Things that bring a smile to a normal person’s face just don’t work on most crystal-meth addicts who are new to recovery. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it can take as long as two years of staying clean for the dopamine function of an ex meth-addict to look anything like a normal person’s.

This anhedonia state can often lead to relapse in newly recovered addicts who are simply too depressed to go on living without a drug that they know can bring back a sense of normalcy to their life. The use of crystal-meth causes the sought-after spike in dopamine levels that helps relieve that anhedonic state.

When it comes to more physiological sort of withdrawal symptoms, the meth addict doesn’t have it that bad, I guess. After an extended period of sleep deprivation and appetite suppression that are some of the most predictable effect of meth, the average addict will do little more than sleep and eat for the first week, or even two, after quitting the drug. Many addicts experience substantial weight gain during this period as their metabolism slows and their caloric intake increases greatly. Like everything else, this too shall pass. With time, most addicts’ metabolism return to pre-use levels and their appetite catches up and returns to normal as well. Still, there’s no doubt that a little exercise can help many addicts in early recovery steer their bodies back on track.

There’s some research being talked about around the UCLA circles to see if detoxification from meth may help people do better in treatment for meth addiction by reducing the impact of their withdrawal. Detox before addiction treatment is an accepted fact in opiate and benzodiazepine addiction, but because of the supposedly “light” nature of crystal meth withdrawal, it’s been ignored. Hopefully by now, you realize that was a mistake.

More drug addiction research from CPDD: Teenage smoking, childhood trauma, and marijuana withdrawal

Today, I’ll give a short summary of a few interesting talks I saw at the conference:

  1. Teenage smoking – Children of mothers who used drugs during pregnancy had abnormal stress hormone levels. When assessed over time, their abnormal stress response was associated with an earlier onset (age of first use) of cigarettes smoking and an increased amount and frequency of smoking cigarettes.
  2. Childhood trauma and drug use – Children who experienced excessive childhood trauma had altered brain activity (in the Nucleus Accumbens specifically) and showed increased anxiety. This area, which is important for essentially all learning, was differentially activated in a way that correlated with the amount of childhood trauma.
  3. Marijuana withdrawal and relapse to marijuana use – Marijuana withdrawal, which might soon be added to the APA‘s DSM (in version 5) was characterized as: Increased irritability, restlessness, and misery, reduced sleep quality, sleep duration, and food intake. When tested, restlessness, sleep disturbance, and early wakening were found to be predictors of relapse among participating marijuana users.