Maximizing Spring Break for mental health

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

  • Many college students look forward to the month of March and spring break, as a way to take time off from school and relax, to recharge for the second half of the spring semester, etc.
  • There are healthy and unhealthy options to keep in mind when considering a rejuvenating spring break.
  • This is important because unhealthy choices during spring break could create more problems for the rest of the semester.

What are unhealthy spring break patterns to avoid?

  • Excessive alcohol, including short term, binge drinking, has been shown to impact brain functioning (1 ), and grades (2), depression (3 ), increased risk of sexual assault (4 ). this can also increase your anxiety for the weeks and months to follow.

Low risk drinking recommendations can be found here (17 )

  • Cannabis use can worsen depression and suicidal ideation (5 ), brain functioning (6,7 ), sleep (8) and anxiety (8 ).
  • Sleep deprivation can impact academic performance (9, 10 ).
  • Consider minimizing caffeine intake since excessive caffeine intake can impact stress (11), and sleep (12, 13).

What are healthy spring break options to consider?

  • Catch up on sleep.
  • Rest your brain. If you’ve been studying intensely, reading, writing, analyzing, etc. it may be useful to rest those areas of the brain by doing different types of activities.
  • Minimize screen time, if possible. If you’ve spent a lot of time doing schoolwork on your computer, it may be useful to rest that part of your brain by doing different types of activities that don’t involve screens.
  • Eat well to fuel yourself properly and for optimal mental health. Examples include plenty of fresh fruit, vegetables, nuts, lean meats, etc. (14). This might also enhance recovery.
  • If you’ve spent a lot of time indoors, spending time outside, safely and to a point may be helpful for mental health ( 15, and 16).
  • Reduce isolation by spending time with others, if possible.
  • Other options include hiking/camping/other activities in nature, playing recreational sports, traveling to museums, art exhibits, beaches, shows, etc.
  • You might improve your mental health by doing something good in the community where you travel through programs like BUCK-I-SERV, and other service trips, etc. (18)

Tips on how to stay safe during spring break:

  • Since the number one cause of death in young adults is accidents, it may be wise to minimize/avoid high risk-hazardous activities (19).
  • Very useful link for Travel safety tips for spring break (20).

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References:

  1. Zeigler DW, Wang CC, Yoast RA, Dickinson BD, McCaffree MA, Robinowitz CB, et al. The neurocognitive effects of alcohol on adolescents and college students. Prev Med. 2005;40:23–32.
  1. https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2014/09/12/does-alcohol-use-impact-your-grades/
  2. Boden JM1, Fergusson DM. Alcohol and depression. Addiction. 2011 May;106(5):906-14. doi:10.1111/j.1360-0443.2010.03351.x. Epub 2011 Mar 7.
  1. https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2015/10/21/study-alcohol-impacts-sexual-assault/
  2. Gobbi G, Atkin T, Zytynski T, et al. Association of Cannabis Use in Adolescence and Risk of Depression, Anxiety, and Suicidality in Young Adulthood: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online February 13, 2019. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2018.4500
  3. Doss MK et al. Δ9-Tetrahydrocannibinol at retrieval drives false recollection of neutral and emotional memories. Biol Psychiatry 2018 May 9; [e-pub]. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.biopsych.2018.04.020.
  4. Schuster RM, Gilman J, Schoenfeld D, et al. One month of cannabis abstinence in adolescents and young adults is associated with improved memory. J Clin Psychiatry. 2018;79(6):17m11977 .
  5. Hser YI, Mooney LJ, Huang D, et al. Reductions in cannabis use are associated with improvements in anxiety, depression, and sleep quality, but not quality of life. J Subst Abuse Treat. 2017;81:53-58.
  6. http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2017/12/31/poor-sleep-and-poor-grades-might-go-together/
  7. Phillips AJK, Clerx WM, O’Brien CS, et al. Irregular sleep/wake patterns are associated with poorer academic performance and delayed circadian and sleep/wake timing. Scientific Reports.                2017;7:3216. doi:10.1038/s41598-017-03171-4.
  1. http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2017/04/19/study-caffeine-stress-and-brain-function/
  2. T. Roehrs, T. Roth. Caffeine: sleep and daytime sleepiness. Sleep Med Rev, 12 (2) (2008), pp. 153–162.
  3. 13. H.P. Landolt, E. Werth, A.A. Borbely, D.J. Dijk. Caffeine intake (200 mg) in the morning affects human sleep and EEG power spectra at night. Brain Research, 675 (1–2) (1995), pp. 67–74.
  4. http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2018/06/28/food-choices-to-improve-depression/
  5. Avery DH, Kouri ME, Monaghan K, Bolte MA, Hellekson C, Eder D. Is dawn simulation effective in ameliorating the difficulty awakening in seasonal affective disorder associated with  hypersomnia? J Affect Disord. 2002 May;69(1-3):231-6.
  6. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/sun-safety.htm
  7. http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2018/02/26/alcohol-and-grades/
  8. http://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2017/11/22/mental-health-benefits-of-volunteering/
  9. https://www.cdc.gov/family/springbreak/index.htm
  10. https://www.limcollege.edu/safety/are-you-prepared/spring-break

 

 

 

 

Alcohol and Grades

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Almost 2 out of 3 college students reported binge drinking of alcohol in the last 30 days (1).
Adults ages 18 to 29 years had the highest proportion of people with alcohol disorders (2).

In the United States, a standard drink is defined as (12):
• 12 ounces of beer with 5 percent alcohol content
• 5 ounces of wine with 12 percent alcohol content
• 1.5 ounces of distilled spirits with 40 percent alcohol content

What is high risk drinking?
High risk, heavy drinking, or binge drinking, defined as 5 or more drinks on one occasion, can impact academics (3, 4, 5).
It is also related to:
• Academic problems (6)
• Fewer study hours (5,7)
• Lower reported grades (8)

How does heavy drinking impact your academic performance?
• Frequent heavy drinking is related to:
• Increased sleepiness (4)
• Disrupted sleep (4)
• Disrupted learning (9)
• Disrupted memory (9)
• Increased social and emotional problems over time (10)
These factors might cause you to miss classes, deadlines, or perform poorly.

What is low risk drinking?

 

 

https://www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/How-much-is-too-much/Is-your-drinking-pattern-risky/Whats-Low-Risk-Drinking.aspx

Low risk DOES NOT mean no risk.
For some people a lower cutoff may be more beneficial.

Who should avoid alcohol?
It’s safest to avoid alcohol altogether if you are:
• Taking medications that interact with alcohol (11)
• Managing a medical condition that can be made worse by drinking (11)
• Underage (11)
• Planning to drive a vehicle or operate machinery(11)
• Pregnant or trying to become pregnant (11)
You should also avoid alcohol if you have a family history of addiction because of increased genetic risk of addiction.

Where can you learn more about alcohol?
How much is too much, strategies for cutting down, quitting can be found here:
https://www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/Thinking-about-a-change/
http://www.ccs.osu.edu/self-help/alcohol/
• Take the OSU Free Anonymous Mental health Screen

From what I have seen in practice and research, as we learn more about the impact of alcohol, the amount of alcohol that is considered safe continues to be lower than previously thought.

Are you regularly drinking too much alcohol? How is it impacting your academic, emotional and physical health?

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

 References:

1.  SAMHSA. 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH). Table 6.89B—Binge Alcohol Use in the Past Month among Persons Aged 18 to 22, \HWVGFGHNSDUH-DetTabs2014/NSDUH-DetTabs2014.htm#tab6-89b 

2. Turrisi R, Larimer ME, Mallett KA, Kilmer JR, Ray AE, Mastroleo NR, et al. A randomized clinical trial evaluating a combined alcohol intervention for high-risk college students. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2009;70:555–67.

3. El Ansari W, Stock C, Mills C. Is alcohol consumption associated with poor academic achievement in university students? Int J Prev Med (2013) 4(10):1175–88. 

4. Singleton RA, Jr, Wolfson AR. Alcohol consumption, sleep, and academic performance among college students. J Stud Alcohol Drugs. 2009;70:355–63. 

5. Wolaver AM. Effects of heavy drinking in college on study effort, grade point average, and major choice. Contemp Econ Policy. 2002;20:415–28.

6.  Wechsler H, Dowdall GW, Maenner G, Gledhill-Hoyt J, Lee H. Changes in binge drinking and related problems among American college students between 1993 and 1997. Results of the Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study. J Am Coll Health. 1998;47:57–68. 

7. Webb E, Ashton CH, Kelly P, Kamali F. Alcohol and drug use in UK university students. Lancet. 1996;348:922–5. 

8. Engs RC, Diebold BA, Hanson DJ. The drinking patterns and problems of a national sample of college students. Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education. 1996;41:13–33.

 9. Zeigler DW, Wang CC, Yoast RA, Dickinson BD, McCaffree MA, Robinowitz CB, et al. The neurocognitive effects of alcohol on adolescents and college students. Prev Med. 2005;40:23–32.

10. Crosnoe R, Benner AD, Schneider B. Drinking, socioemotional functioning, and academic progress in secondary school. J Health Soc Behav. 2012;53:150–64.

11. https://www.rethinkingdrinking.niaaa.nih.gov/How-much-is-too-much/Is-your-drinking-pattern-risky/Whats-Low-Risk-Drinking.aspx

12. The National Institute on alcohol abuse and alcoholism. https://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/collegefactsheet/Collegefactsheet.pdf

 

 

 

Study: Alcohol might cause brain changes

In a recent national survey of over 30,000 college students, almost 2 out of 3 college students reported using ANY alcohol in the last 30 days (1).

In 2011, almost 70 million Americans reported binge drinking in the last month ( binge drinking defined by the survey as 5 or more drinks on one occasion) (2).

In some people, alcohol can impact emotional health by altering important brain chemicals involved in regulating mood, anxiety.

A previous post looked at the impact of alcohol on grades (3), and alcohol’s impact on sexual assault (4). A recent study looked at the impact of alcohol on brain health (5).

Who was studied? (5)

  • 550 men and women with mean age 43.0, were followed weekly over a 30 year time period.
  • None of the participants had alcohol dependence at the beginning of the study.
  • What was measured? (5)
  • Alcohol intake and cognitive performance were measured on a weekly basis.
  • Multimodal magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was performed at the end of the study (2012-15).Even after adjusting for various factors:

What were the results? (5)

  • In this study, higher alcohol consumption over 30 years was associated with higher odds of hippocampal atrophy.
  • Even those drinking moderately (14-21 units/week) had 3x higher odds of right sided hippocampal atrophy.
  • In this study, there was NO protective effect of light drinking (1-<7 units/week) over abstinence.
  • Higher alcohol use was also associated with differences in corpus callosum microstructure and faster decline in lexical fluency (selecting and retrieving information based on spelling).

What does this mean? (5)

  • Hippocampus changes are implicated in Alzheimer’s disease (6) and depression (7)
  • Alcohol consumption might also impact lexical fluency (selecting and retrieving information based on spelling) (5)
  • Caution is advised even with long term non dependent use of alcohol.

What are some caveats?

  • This is a single, small study of middle age adults in a small region, which limits generalization world wide.
  • Participants could not be randomized.
  • Further study is needed.

Where can I learn more about alcohol?

How much is too much, strategies for cutting down, quitting can be found here:

From what I have seen in research, the amount of alcohol that is considered safe continues to be lowered as we learn more about the impact of alcohol.

Are you regularly drinking alcohol?  How is it impacting your emotional and physical health?

By R. Ryan S Patel DO, FAPA OSU-CCS Psychiatrist

Disclaimer: This article is intended to be informative only. It is advised that you check with your own physician/mental health provider before implementing any changes. With this article, the author is not rendering medical advice, nor diagnosing, prescribing, or treating any condition, or injury; and therefore claims no responsibility to any person or entity for any liability, loss, or injury caused directly or indirectly as a result of the use, application, or interpretation of the material presented.

References

  1. American College Health Association. American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II: Reference Group Executive Summary Fall 2016. Hanover, MD: American College Health Association; 2017.
  2. Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality. Behavioral health trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (HHS Publication No. SMA 15-4927, NSDUH Series H-50); 2015.
  3. https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2014/09/12/does-alcohol-use-impact-your-grades/
  4. https://u.osu.edu/emotionalfitness/2015/10/21/study-alcohol-impacts-sexual-assault/
  5. Topiwala Anya, Allan Charlotte L, Valkanova Vyara, Zsoldos Enikő, Filippini Nicola, Sexton Claire et al. Moderate alcohol consumption as risk factor for adverse brain outcomes and cognitive decline: longitudinal cohort study BMJ 2017; 357 :j2353.
  6. McKhann GM, Knopman DS, Chertkow H, et al. The diagnosis of dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease: recommendations from the National Institute on Aging-Alzheimer’s Association workgroups on diagnostic guidelines for Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimers Dement2011;357:263-9.
  7. Masi, G. & Brovedani, P. CNS Drugs (2011) 25: 913. doi:10.2165/11595900-000000000-00000.  The Hippocampus, Neurotrophic Factors and Depression.