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Prohibition does not help: Nimhans study

Kalyan Ray, New Delhi, April 22, 2013, DHNS: 1:22 IST
A survey by researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans), Bangalore, has revealed that Indian alcoholics are slowly killing their families, forcing children to drop out of school, losing their hard-earned money and causing harm to others. The study also showed that prohibition has failed in Gujarat.

Carried out on 20,000 people in 8,500 households in five cities including Surat, the survey shows that almost 17 per cent Gujarati men drink regularly and it impacts their families.

A smaller percentage of women too drink.

On the national scale, 32 per cent Indians are regular drinkers out of which 4-13 per cent are daily users. “High alcohol usage in Surat suggests prohibition does not work.

It only drives the demand underground,” said Vivek Benegal, professor of psychiatry at the centre for addiction medicine at Nimhans.

“What’s worrisome is 50-85 per cent of Indians have harmful drinking habits with hazardous social and public health consequences,” Benegal told Deccan Herald here on the sidelines of a conference on public health consequences of alcohol consumption.

Making a distinction between alcoholics and heavy-drinkers, the research focus on the second category as they are much more common than alcoholics.

The signature of heavy drinking was more than 5 drinks (each of 30 ml or small peg) or 3 large pegs.

The Nimhans study for the first time quantifies how alcohol habits not only ruin personal health, family and savings, but harm’s others as well. Besides Surat, the survey was also conducted in Cuttack, Dhule (Maharashtra), Gangtok and Vishakhapatnam.

Families with one or more alcohol users spend 50 per cent less compared to non-drinker families for buying fruits, vegetables, medicine and other essential commodities.

They also faced double the difficulty in paying rent and school fee. Significantly higher proportion of children were out of schools in the user’s family, Benegal said.

“Alcohol should be part of the non-communicable disease programme as it leads to 90 diseases. Almost 30 per cent of people who go to a doctor have alcohol related conditions,” he said.

According to the recent Global Burden of Disease study, alcohol has become the third leading risk factor in 2010 from sixth spot in the 1990s.

In the same period, deaths attributable to alcohol use have increased from 3.7 million to 4.8 million.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) gave India a voluntary target of 10 per cent reduction in alcohol use by 2025, which means a drop in total alcohol consumption, binge drinking and alcohol related morbidity and mortality.

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