22 February 2019 In Drinking & Driving

BACKGROUND: Drink driving is an important risk factor for road traffic accidents (RTAs), which cause high levels of morbidity and mortality globally. Lowering the permitted blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for drivers is a common public health intervention that is enacted in countries and jurisdictions across the world. In Scotland, on Dec 5, 2014, the BAC limit for drivers was reduced from 0.08 g/dL to 0.05 g/dL. We therefore aimed to evaluate the effects of this change on RTAs and alcohol consumption.

METHODS: In this natural experiment, we used an observational, comparative interrupted time-series design by use of data on RTAs and alcohol consumption in Scotland (the interventional group) and England and Wales (the control group). We obtained weekly counts of RTAs from police accident records and we estimated weekly off-trade (eg, in supermarkets and convenience stores) and 4-weekly on-trade (eg, in bars and restaurants) alcohol consumption from market research data. We also used data from automated traffic counters as denominators to calculate RTA rates. We estimated the effect of the intervention on RTAs by use of negative binomial panel regression and on alcohol consumption outcomes by use of seasonal autoregressive integrated moving average models. Our primary outcome was weekly rates of RTAs in Scotland, England, and Wales. This study is registered with ISRCTN, number ISRCTN38602189.

FINDINGS: We assessed the weekly rate of RTAs and alcohol consumption between Jan 1, 2013, and Dec 31, 2016, before and after the BAC limit came into effect on Dec 5, 2014. After the reduction in BAC limits for drivers in Scotland, we found no significant change in weekly RTA rates after adjustment for seasonality and underlying temporal trend (rate ratio 1.01, 95% CI 0.94-1.08; p=0.77) or after adjustment for seasonality, the underlying temporal trend, and the driver characteristics of age, sex, and socioeconomic deprivation (1.00, 0.96-1.06; p=0.73). Relative to RTAs in England and Wales, where the reduction in BAC limit for drivers did not occur, we found a 7% increase in weekly RTA rates in Scotland after this reduction in BAC limit for drivers (1.07, 1.02-1.13; p=0.007 in the fully-adjusted model). Similar findings were observed for serious or fatal RTAs and single-vehicle night-time RTAs. The change in legislation in Scotland was associated with no change in alcohol consumption, measured by per-capita off-trade sales (-0.3%, -1.7 to 1.1; p=0.71), but a 0.7% decrease in alcohol consumption measured by per-capita on-trade sales (-0.7%, -0.8 to -0.5; p<0.0001).

INTERPRETATION: Lowering the driving BAC limit to 0.05 g/dL from 0.08 g/dL in Scotland was not associated with a reduction in RTAs, but this change was associated with a small reduction in per-capita alcohol consumption from on-trade alcohol sales. One plausible explanation is that the legislative change was not suitably enforced-for example with random breath testing measures. Our findings suggest that changing the legal BAC limit for drivers in isolation does not improve RTA outcomes. These findings have significant policy implications internationally as several countries and jurisdictions consider a similar reduction in the BAC limit for drivers.

FUNDING: National Institute for Health Research Public Health Research Programme.

05 December 2018 In Liver Disease

BACKGROUND: Alcohol is a known cause of cirrhosis, but it is unclear if the associated risk varies by whether alcohol is drunk with meals, or by the frequency or type of alcohol consumed. Here we aim to investigate the associations between alcohol consumption with meals, daily frequency of consumption, and liver cirrhosis.

METHODS: The Million Women Study is a prospective study that includes one in every four UK women born between 1935 and 1950, recruited between 1996 and 2001. In 2001 (IQR 2000-03), the participants reported their alcohol intake, whether consumption was usually with meals, and number of days per week it was consumed. Cox regression analysis yielded adjusted relative risks (RRs) for incident cirrhosis, identified by follow-up through electronic linkage to routinely collected national hospital admission, and death databases.

FINDINGS: During a mean of 15 years (SD 3) of follow-up of 401 806 women with a mean age of 60 years (SD 5), without previous cirrhosis or hepatitis, and who reported drinking at least one alcoholic drink per week, 1560 had a hospital admission with cirrhosis (n=1518) or died from the disease (n=42). Cirrhosis incidence increased with amount of alcohol consumed (>/=15 drinks [mean 220 g of alcohol] vs one to two drinks [mean 30 g of alcohol] per week; RR 3.43, 95% CI 2.87-4.10; p<0.0001). About half of the participants (203 564 of 401 806) reported usually drinking with meals and, after adjusting for amount consumed, cirrhosis incidence was lower for usually drinking with meals than not (RR 0.69, 0.62-0.77; p<0.0001; wine-only drinkers RR 0.69, 0.56-0.85; all other drinkers RR 0.72, 0.63-0.82). Among 175 618 women who consumed seven or more drinks per week, cirrhosis incidence was greater for daily consumption than non-daily consumption (adjusted RR 1.61, 1.40-1.85; p<0.0001). Daily consumption, together with not drinking with meals, was associated with more than a doubling of cirrhosis incidence (adjusted RR 2.47, 1.96-3.11; p<0.0001).

INTERPRETATION: In middle-aged women, cirrhosis incidence increases with total alcohol intake, even at moderate levels of consumption. For a given weekly intake of alcohol, this excess incidence of cirrhosis is higher if consumption is usually without meals, or with daily drinking. FUNDING: UK Medical Research Council and Cancer Research UK.

18 May 2018 In General Health

BACKGROUND: Low-risk limits recommended for alcohol consumption vary substantially across different national guidelines. To define thresholds associated with lowest risk for all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease, we studied individual-participant data from 599 912 current drinkers without previous cardiovascular disease.

METHODS: We did a combined analysis of individual-participant data from three large-scale data sources in 19 high-income countries (the Emerging Risk Factors Collaboration, EPIC-CVD, and the UK Biobank). We characterised dose-response associations and calculated hazard ratios (HRs) per 100 g per week of alcohol (12.5 units per week) across 83 prospective studies, adjusting at least for study or centre, age, sex, smoking, and diabetes. To be eligible for the analysis, participants had to have information recorded about their alcohol consumption amount and status (ie, non-drinker vs current drinker), plus age, sex, history of diabetes and smoking status, at least 1 year of follow-up after baseline, and no baseline history of cardiovascular disease. The main analyses focused on current drinkers, whose baseline alcohol consumption was categorised into eight predefined groups according to the amount in grams consumed per week. We assessed alcohol consumption in relation to all-cause mortality, total cardiovascular disease, and several cardiovascular disease subtypes. We corrected HRs for estimated long-term variability in alcohol consumption using 152 640 serial alcohol assessments obtained some years apart (median interval 5.6 years [5th-95th percentile 1.04-13.5]) from 71 011 participants from 37 studies.

FINDINGS: In the 599 912 current drinkers included in the analysis, we recorded 40 310 deaths and 39 018 incident cardiovascular disease events during 5.4 million person-years of follow-up. For all-cause mortality, we recorded a positive and curvilinear association with the level of alcohol consumption, with the minimum mortality risk around or below 100 g per week. Alcohol consumption was roughly linearly associated with a higher risk of stroke (HR per 100 g per week higher consumption 1.14, 95% CI, 1.10-1.17), coronary disease excluding myocardial infarction (1.06, 1.00-1.11), heart failure (1.09, 1.03-1.15), fatal hypertensive disease (1.24, 1.15-1.33); and fatal aortic aneurysm (1.15, 1.03-1.28). By contrast, increased alcohol consumption was log-linearly associated with a lower risk of myocardial infarction (HR 0.94, 0.91-0.97). In comparison to those who reported drinking >0-100-200-350 g per week had lower life expectancy at age 40 years of approximately 6 months, 1-2 years, or 4-5 years, respectively.

INTERPRETATION: In current drinkers of alcohol in high-income countries, the threshold for lowest risk of all-cause mortality was about 100 g/week. For cardiovascular disease subtypes other than myocardial infarction, there were no clear risk thresholds below which lower alcohol consumption stopped being associated with lower disease risk. These data support limits for alcohol consumption that are lower than those recommended in most current guidelines.

FUNDING: UK Medical Research Council, British Heart Foundation, National Institute for Health Research, European Union Framework 7, and European Research Council.

03 May 2018 In General Health
BACKGROUND: Hazardous and harmful alcohol use and high blood pressure are central risk factors related to premature non-communicable disease (NCD) mortality worldwide. A reduction in the prevalence of both risk factors has been suggested as a route to reach the global NCD targets. This study aims to highlight that screening and interventions for hypertension and hazardous and harmful alcohol use in primary healthcare can contribute substantially to achieving the NCD targets. METHODS: A consensus conference based on systematic reviews, meta-analyses, clinical guidelines, experimental studies, and statistical modelling which had been presented and discussed in five preparatory meetings, was undertaken. Specifically, we modelled changes in blood pressure distributions and potential lives saved for the five largest European countries if screening and appropriate intervention rates in primary healthcare settings were increased. Recommendations to handle alcohol-induced hypertension in primary healthcare settings were derived at the conference, and their degree of evidence was graded. RESULTS: Screening and appropriate interventions for hazardous alcohol use and use disorders could lower blood pressure levels, but there is a lack in implementing these measures in European primary healthcare. Recommendations included (1) an increase in screening for hypertension (evidence grade: high), (2) an increase in screening and brief advice on hazardous and harmful drinking for people with newly detected hypertension by physicians, nurses, and other healthcare professionals (evidence grade: high), (3) the conduct of clinical management of less severe alcohol use disorders for incident people with hypertension in primary healthcare (evidence grade: moderate), and (4) screening for alcohol use in hypertension that is not well controlled (evidence grade: moderate). The first three measures were estimated to result in a decreased hypertension prevalence and hundreds of saved lives annually in the examined countries. CONCLUSIONS: The implementation of the outlined recommendations could contribute to reducing the burden associated with hypertension and hazardous and harmful alcohol use and thus to achievement of the NCD targets. Implementation should be conducted in controlled settings with evaluation, including, but not limited to, economic evaluation
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