Study: Canadians drink to sleep

And here I thought  it was just me. A study in Quebec found that Canadians spend money buying alcohol to help them sleep. Or is that just an excuse?

Sharon Kirkey, Canwest News Service

Published: Friday, January 02, 2009

Canadians are spending hundreds of millions of dollars every year self-medicating their insomnia with alcohol, a new study suggests.

“We were very surprised to see that so many people use alcohol as a way to promote sleep, particularly because it has more detrimental than beneficial effects on sleep,” says Charles Morin, a professor of psychology at Laval University and one of the authors of the study, published this week in the journal Sleep.

Overall, eight per cent of the sample reported using alcohol as a sleep aid. Among people with insomnia, 28 per cent reported self-medicating with alcohol.

The study, one of the first in Canada to put numbers to the societal and economic burden of insomnia, estimates the total annual costs of the sleep disorder in Quebec alone is $6.5 billion.

“We know insomnia is a very prevalent problem, it has a very negative impact on people’s quality of life,” Mr. Morin said. “If we can show that it’s 10 times more costly not to treat insomnia because of its impact on absenteeism from work and reduced productivity than it is to treat it, why aren’t we treating it more often?”

Part of the problem is that so few people seek help. Mr. Morin says some people take sleeping pills, “but there are many more who self-medicate with over-the-counter products or, worse, with alcohol.”

“Why do people do that? Is it because they’re scared of using prescribed sleeping pills because of the stigma associated with it, or because they don’t know there are other treatment options available?”

The research found the money spent on the use of booze as a sleep aid far exceeds costs associated with visits to doctors and the use of prescription pills and over-the-counter products from antihistamines to herbal teas.

“The idea that schnapps before your bedtime is good for your sleep might have been right about 100 years ago, as long as it was the occasional schnapps,” said Dr. Adam Moscovitch, medical director of the Canadian Sleep Institute and associate clinical professor at the University of Calgary.

“When you knock yourself out as a way of dealing with it, if you can’t shut your mind off in any other way, then alcohol has a very negative effect on your sleep. It deprives you of any of the deep stages of sleep and, once it wears off, it has a rebound effect. So your problem becomes much worse.”

Of the $6.5 billion estimated annual costs associated with insomnia in Quebec, the biggest indirect cost by far — $5 billion — was reduced productivity.

The highest direct cost — $339.8 million — was money spent on alcohol to help sleep. By comparison, an estimated $16.5 million was spent on prescription drugs, and $1.8 million for over-the-counter products.

The study involved Quebec only, but the researchers are doing a similar study throughout Canada. “I expect we will get pretty much the same results,” Mr. Morin says.

The study, based on a random sample of 948 adults, distinguished between those people who drink at the end of the day, and those who use booze specifically to help them sleep, meaning they drink before bedtime or in the middle of the night.

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What is denialism?

On the blog Denying AIDS and Other Oddities, I found an article about “What is HIV/AIDS Denialism?” and it includes a description of denialism in general:

Like other extremist groups, denialists hold an absolute certainty that they are the sole bearers of “The Truth.” For HIV/AIDS denialists, the truth is that HIV is a harmless virus that cannot possibly cause disease, and that anti-HIV medications amount to nothing more than poison, DNA terminators that can themselves cause AIDS. Second, extremist groups believe that governments are under the control of conspiring forces. In the case of HIV/AIDS denialism, the power of Big Pharma and the medical establishment have corrupted the National Institutes of Health and biomedical sciences in general. A third characteristic of extremists is a hatred for its opponents, often seen as conspiring with their enemies. HIV/AIDS denialists attack the most visible scientists; especially those who are widely exposed in the media as well as those who have publicly debunked their rhetoric. Fourth, extremists deny basic civil liberties to those whose views they see as their enemies. Ironically, denialists censor science by cherry-picking results of research while claiming to be the victims of censorship themselves, and often claiming that their rights to free expression are being systematically thwarted. Finally, denialists, as do extremists, indulge in irresponsible accusations and character assassination. As expected, denialists refer to AIDS scientists and medical specialists as Nazis, the mafia, and murderers.

Psychologist Michael Shermer is the leading authority on Holocaust denialism and he has found that Holocaust deniers’ “fallacies of reasoning are eerily similar to those of other fringe groups, such as creationists”. Remarkably, these same personality features that Shermer describes in holocaust deniers are immediately recognizable among HIV/AIDS denialists. First, denialism concentrates on opponents’ weak points without making definitive statements about their own position. In HIV/AIDS denialism, without a shred of credible evidence to the contrary, there is an incessant call for the one study that proves HIV causes AIDS while not recognizing the thousands of studies that accumulate to irrefutably show that HIV causes AIDS. Even knowing the complexity of HIV and the barriers it poses to vaccines, Peter Duesberg looked me dead in the eyes and said that failure to achieve an HIV vaccine means that an infectious agent cannot be the cause of AIDS. Second, denialists exploit errors made by AIDS scientists, implying that a few errors detected in a mass of work calls into question the entire scientific enterprise.

…There are striking similarities in rhetoric, using selected excerpts from credible documents and calling for a debate on matters for which there is universal agreement. Denialist groups of all types claim mounting controversy and the need for a debate.

A big hat tip to Orac at Respectful Insolence for starting the discussion with his article “HIV/AIDS denialist Celia Farber on the death of Christine Maggiore: It was a “radical detox” regimen, not HIV.”

Totally looks like…

This is an offshoot of the LOLcat site I Can Has Cheezburger.

cowardly-lion-totally-looks-like-james-hetfield
See more famous look-a-like faces.

James Helfield is a member of Metallica.

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