Health Buzz: Facebook IDs Problem Drinkers

For addiction help, hire a 'sober coach'; tips for overcoming a hangover.

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Social Media Helps Spot College Drinking Problems

Facebook photos and status updates may reveal which college students are at risk for alcohol problems, a new study suggests. Researchers examined the online profiles of 307 undergrads at two public universities and found that kids who posted about getting drunk or blacking out were likelier to be deemed at risk of drinking problems by a screening test for alcohol abuse. Nearly 60 percent of students whose profiles broadcast their drunkenness with posts like "I've been hung over all weekend" were considered at risk for problem drinking, compared with 38 percent of those who made more casual comments like "I had a couple beers." And students who posted about intoxication were more than six times as likely as those who posted nothing about alcohol to have reported an alcohol-related injury in the past year, according to findings published Monday in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. "Social media gives us a new way to look at behaviors that are tough to identify on the surface," study author Megan Moreno, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, told Time. "If parents start to see references to intoxication, it's probably time to pick up the phone and have a tough conversation. Our hope from this study is that we will be able to empower someone to approach a student and say, Are you doing OK?"

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  • For Addiction Help, Hire a 'Sober Coach'

    The call of drugs and alcohol to substance abusers trying to kick their habit never goes silent. For someone who has relapsed repeatedly, a new specialist—the "sober coach"—has emerged. They are paid at least $200 an hour to work one-on-one with recovering addicts, sometimes moving into their homes at more than $1,000 a day to fulfill a 24-7 role. They are motivators and cheerleaders, role models and mentors. They don't sugarcoat their words. And they resort to the unconventional to break a client's addiction cycle.

    A coach might go grocery shopping with his client until that person learns not to stop in the wine aisle. He'll police an alcoholic's morning coffee routine to ensure no rum or brandy is added. And if there's a slipup? "I've used everything from 'Shut up!' to 'Do you want to become a person or remain a dope fiend?' " says Doug Caine, founder and president of Sober Champion, a sober coaching company that has offices in Los Angeles, New York, and London. "I've asked, 'Is smoking crack the best way you can serve your children?' Every client requires a different motivating tool at a different time."

    Tough love is central to sober coaching, U.S. News reported in 2010. "We don't do hand-holding or babysitting jobs," Caine says. "Coaches and clients develop an intense, bonded relationship. If you're not willing to do some work, if you won't go to any lengths to stay clean, you're going to have a tough time benefitting." [Read more: For Addiction Help, Hire a 'Sober Coach'.]

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    • Hangover Cure? Hah. But These Tips May Help

      When it comes to hangovers, everyone has a swear-by-it remedy, from bingeing on cheeseburgers and fries (grease supposedly lines the stomach and slows alcohol absorption) to gulping spiked orange juice or a Bloody Mary (hair of the dog). Hundreds of others are free for the taking online, so why not pick one and get moving the day after you've had a few too many?

      Because "in terms of anything that's proven to, quote, cure a hangover, there isn't anything," says Michael Fingerhood, an associate professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. In 2005, researchers scoured studies as far back as the 1950s that addressed preventing or treating hangovers. They unearthed just eight that were worth a closer look, none of which could convincingly demonstrate success for their hangover tricks (such as taking a supplement of prickly-pear cactus or a yeast-vitamin pill), according to the report published in the British Medical Journal. That doesn't mean you have to be miserable all day, though, U.S. News reported in 2010. Experts say some old standbys will at least take the edge off a hangover and end it a little faster: