Lindsay Lohan, Andrew Koppel: Two Faces of Alcohol’s Destructive Power

It was announced today that Andrew Koppel, son of veteran TV newsman Ted Koppel, has died after binge drinking. The 40-year-old was an attorney for the city’s Housing Authority. The New York Post reported that Koppel “was found dead in a Washington Heights apartment under mysterious circumstances yesterday morning after a daylong drinking binge with a man [Russel Wimberly] he had just met in a Midtown bar.”  After going from bar to bar,  drinking whiskey all day he was brought back to the Wimberly’s apartment and fell asleep on a bed there. A couple of hours later, he was found unresponsive, and not breathing. Paramedics were called, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Quick Stats on Binge Drinking (from the Centers for Disease Control)

Binge drinking is a common pattern of excessive alcohol use in the United States. The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism defines binge drinking as a pattern of drinking that brings a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) to 0.08 grams percent or above. This typically happens when men consume 5 or more drinks, and when women consume 4 or more drinks, in about 2 hours.

Most people who binge drink are not alcohol dependent.

According to national surveys

•             Approximately 92% of U.S. adults who drink excessively report binge drinking in the past 30 days.

•             Although college students commonly binge drink, 70% of binge drinking episodes involve adults over age 25 years.

•             The prevalence of binge drinking among men is 2 times the prevalence among women.

•             Binge drinkers are 14 times more likely to report alcohol-impaired driving than non-binge drinkers.

•             About 90% of the alcohol consumed by youth under the age of 21 years in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.

•             About 75% of the alcohol consumed by adults in the United States is in the form of binge drinks.

•             The proportion of current drinkers that binge is highest in the 18- to 20-year-old group (51%).

Binge drinking is associated with many health problems, including but not limited to

•             Unintentional injuries (e.g., car crashes, falls, burns, drowning).

•             Intentional injuries (e.g., firearm injuries, sexual assault, domestic violence).

•             Alcohol poisoning.

•             Sexually transmitted diseases.

•             Unintended pregnancy.

•             Children born with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders.

•             High blood pressure, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases.

•             Liver disease.

•             Neurological damage.

•             Sexual dysfunction.

•             Poor control of diabetes.

For more information:

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Meanwhile, back in LA, after being “detained” at the Cannes Film Festival, 23 year-old actress Lindsay Lohan finally made it to court for a mandatory progress hearing related to a DUI conviction in 2007. Judge Marsha Revel in Los Angeles Superior Court was apparently fed up with Lohan’s excuses and ordered her to wear an alcohol-monitoring ankle bracelet (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring, or Scram bracelet) at least until her next court date in July. In addition, she must complete an alcohol-education program and submit to random drug tests every week in the Los Angeles area. Lohan tried to laugh it off by tweeting: “can CHANEL please help me out by getting me some stickers to put on my scram bracelet so that i can at least wear a chic dress?! maybe!? x”.

How does SCRAM monitoring work?

The bracelet has a pump that sucks in what is known as insensible perspiration (small amounts of sweat) every 30 minutes. The box attached to the bracelet contains the same mechanism as a Breathalyzer and the data it collects is uploaded through a modem and analyzed by monitors.

On a chemical basis, when the user exhales into the breathalyzer, ethanol (the alcohol found in alcoholic beverages) is oxidized into acetic acid and water. An electrical current is produced by this reaction, and is measured, processed, and displayed as an approximation of overall blood alcohol content by the breathalyzer.

Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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