Dr. Kimberly Dennis is the Medical Director at Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Alcoholic Energy Drink Sweeping College Campuses, Along with Its Dangerous Side Effects

Nicknamed “blackout in a can” or “liquid cocaine,” alcoholic energy drink Four Loko seems like the perfect cocktail because the combination of alcohol and caffeine can heighten the buzz for those drinking it. The mix can be especially tempting for college students, even more so if they have or are predisposed to alcoholism. But warns the effects can be seriously damaging to one’s health, and even deadly.

Colleges across the country are banning Four Loko after the recent events at Central Washington University, where a group of students "partying" with the drink began to pass out and suffer symptoms of toxicity. Over nine students were rushed to the hospital and more than fifty suffered serious illness.

This incident shows just how dangerous alcohol and caffeine mixes can be when taken rapidly and in excess. Students and college administrators need to recognize the added risks of products like this. One can of Four Loko contains 12 percent alcohol, significantly higher than regular beers, and then it adds high amounts of caffeine on top of that.

The caffeine in Four Loko can suspend the effects of alcohol consumption, allowing a person to consume more than usual without being aware of his or her level of intoxication. When the caffeine wears off the results can be deadly.

The caffeine masks awareness of the effects of the alcohol, even though the blood alcohol level changes with each drink. As a result, those drunk on energy drink and alcohol mixes are able to stay awake, even when their bodies would normally shut down from alcohol intoxication, which makes them more prone to health risks, including death.

A University of Florida study also showed that Four Loko drinkers are more inclined to attempt to drive after consuming the beverage in excess than those who consumed only alcohol. Alcohol poisoning is an issue we take very seriously at Timberline Knolls.

Once the caffeine wears off, the full force of the alcohol content will hit the body, with all of the physical ramifications. And with its low price point ($2.50 a can) the drink seems perfectly tailored to the college-age drinker that may not know when enough is enough. Regulatory bodies need to consider taking this off the market...college students die from alcohol poisoning regularly in this country using standard products alone.

Friday, November 12, 2010

When it Comes to PTSD in the Military, Sexual Trauma Can Cause as Much Damage as Combat

Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, continues to inflict a mental and physical toll on America’s soldiers, leaving physical, emotional and spiritual scars long after these veterans have left their posts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Additionally, for female soldiers, sexual assault and rape can create similar, and many times more treatment-resistant, symptoms of PTSD.

It has been well-documented in research literature that women are already twice as likely to develop PTSD as men following a trauma. And in the military, women have to deal with increased rates of sexual harassment and assault. Recent studies have shown that even without exposure to combat, our female troops could have increased rates of developing PTSD following rape or sexual assault than they could after combat.

Sexual assault in the military has been a serious problem throughout history. Among those seeking VA disability following the first Persian Gulf War, 71 percent of women reported sexual assault during their military service. At present time, for women in the military, 21.5 percent suffer some kind of sexual trauma while serving, while among men the numbers are closer to 1.1 percent.

Trauma affects the brain’s ability to function and sexual trauma is particularly damaging. Trauma can lead in some cases to psychological reactivity, exaggerated startle response, symptoms of avoidance and numbing, and co-morbid mood, substance abuse and/or eating disorders. Post traumatic stress disorder can have devastating effects on all areas of a sufferer’s life…I see this daily in the girls and women at Timberline Knolls.

A Veterans Health Administration (VHA) outpatient survey discovered that 55 percent of women reported sexual harassment, and 23 percent reported sexual assault. A study of reservists found that 60 percent of female soldiers had been sexually harassed and 13.1 percent sexually assaulted.

Even though the numbers are staggering for our service women, there is hope. PTSD can be effectively treated with trauma informed interventions. By integrating mental health and trauma treatment approaches into counseling, greater improvements can be yielded than by just providing basic psychological treatments or several core therapies separately.