Drinking problems among women on the rise, study finds

More and more women are having drinking problems, and foetal alcoholism is also on the rise, according to a recent study by a group of doctors and psychiatrists from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (Nimhans).

Foetal alcohol syndrome is a severe form of foetal alcohol spectrum disorder in which children show facial anomalies, growth retardation (pre- and post-natal) and central nervous system disorders. This happens because of alcohol abuse by mothers during pregnancy.

Maternal alcohol consumption during pregnancy results in a range of birth defects and neurobehavioural disorders. This fact needs to be recognised by developing nations where it is likely to emerge as an important and potentially preventable cause of neurobehavioural problem among children, especially in socially disadvantaged groups, the study concludes.

The team had done a field study on underprivileged women sometime ago. The study was entitled ‘Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders: A Case Control Study from India’. But during and after the study, it found similar results in other sections of the society too.

“Although the study was done sometime ago, nothing much has changed. It has become worse and women of all age groups and economic statuses come under the umbrella. We have been getting a lot of cases for the last five years. The number of cases in Nimhans and other hospitals has increased tenfold. It is gradually emerging everywhere,” said Dr Prathima Murthy, Professor of Psychiatry, Nimhans.

She continued: “The reason for the rise in such cases is cultural acceptance. Another survey showed that a number of women, including girls aged 10-20, were getting addicted to drinking and drugs. Besides drinking socially, women consume alcohol and prescription drugs to improve sleep and ease tension. Besides, since more women come for treatment, we are able to record an increase in these cases. It was also found that children had abnormalities if mothers and fathers were nicotine-dependent.”

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