URI endowed professor joins global experts writing on hazardous drinking and alcohol use disorders

New paper published in Nature Reviews Disease Primers

Sarah Feldstein Ewing
Sarah Feldstein Ewing

KINGSTON, R.I. – Dec. 22, 2022 – A University of Rhode Island endowed professor is in top-tier company this week as co-author of a new paper on the state-of-the-state of hazardous drinking and alcohol use disorders, published in Nature Reviews Disease Primers. URI Prochaska Endowed Professor Sarah Feldstein Ewing joins 10 of the world’s most respected experts in the addiction field to provide a global overview of contemporary cutting-edge perspectives on alcohol use, including current global epidemiology on alcohol use and use disorders, along with current approaches to diagnosis, screening, prevention, management and treatment, and where gaps in knowledge remain.

According to the World Health Organization, there are 3 million global deaths each year due to harmful alcohol use. While more than 80% of adults in high-income countries like the United States have used alcohol at least once during their lifetime, understanding its effects can be complicated by differences in definitions and medical classifications from country to country.

Led by senior author James MacKillop, Ph.D., Peter Boris Chair of Addictions Research and professor of psychiatry and behavioral neurosciences at McMaster University in Canada, the Primer draws on the expertise of its global authors to provide clarity in these domains.

“This is really a current status report on what used to be called ‘alcohol abuse’ and ‘alcoholism’ – terms that are no longer used. We now call these behaviors ‘hazardous drinking’ and ‘alcohol use disorders.’ In this Primer, we report how those manifest, from the cell level all the way to the behavioral level, how that can evolve into hazardous drinking and alcohol use disorders and what the implications of that are,” said Feldstein Ewing.

In addition to her position as a professor of psychology within the URI College of Health Sciences, Feldstein Ewing is a licensed clinician with over two decades of direct care experience working in adolescent substance use prevention and treatment. Feldstein Ewing’s central role in the Primer was reporting on diagnosis, screening, and prevention, as well as behavioral intervention for hazardous drinking and alcohol use disorders.    

Feldstein Ewing reports that we are still in the early days of understanding what works for adolescents in terms of prevention and treatment as compared to the much broader and deeper knowledge base on adults.

“That’s an important distinction to make,” she said. “In addition to all of the best information that we have on hazardous drinking and alcohol use disorder from a point as fine-grained as neurochemistry, all the way up to the global incidence, it is also essential to point out where more research is needed.”

Feldstein Ewing indicates that one of the central future directions for this work is to dive even deeper into areas that are currently missing for young people, including effective measurements, concepts/models of hazardous drinking, and impactful behavioral treatments for this age group.

Nature Reviews Disease Primers is part of the Nature Reviews portfolio of journals. Primers are peer-reviewed, provide a global overview of the field and are authored by an international panel of academic scientists, translational researchers and clinicians. Each Primer outlines epidemiology; disease mechanisms; diagnosis, screening and prevention; management; and quality of life; and identifies key open research questions.

In addition to MacKillop and Feldstein Ewing, the writing team consisted of Roberta Agabio, M.D., assistant professor of biomedical sciences, University of Cagliari (Italy); Markus Heilig, M.D., Ph.D., professor of psychiatry, Linköping University (Sweden); John F. Kelly, Ph.D., professor of psychiatry in addiction medicine, Harvard Medical School; Lorenzo Leggio, M.D., Ph.D., senior investigator, NIH Intramural Research Program; Anne Lingford-Hughes, Ph.D., professor and chair of addiction biology, Imperial College London (United Kingdom); Abraham Palmer, Ph.D., professor and vice chair for basic research, Department of Psychiatry, University of California San Diego; Charles Parry, M.D., Ph.D., director, Alcohol, Tobacco and Other Drugs Research Unit, South African Medical Research Council (South Africa); Lara Ray, Ph.D., professor of psychology, University of California Los Angeles; and Jürgen Rehm, Ph.D., senior scientist, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (Canada).