Saturday, June 6, 2015

Rise in alcohol problem requires a concerted effort by Indian public health officials

India is now the third largest consumer of alcohol in the world, according to a global report on alcohol consumption patterns. And this has medical professionals and healthcare workers in India worried about the health repercussions of drinking.

The per capita consumption of alcohol in India increased by a whopping 55% in the 20-year period from 1992-2012, according to a report by the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The report, released on May 12, also points out a sharp increase in risky drinking behaviour (such as binge drinking), particularly among young people and women.

The rapid rise in alcohol consumption is an alarming statistic for public health. So far, alcohol has not been considered a public health problem and we lack alcohol control policies from a public health perspective. These reports and studies clearly underline the need for a comprehensive national policy on alcohol control.

He noted that alochol consumption is casually related to cancers of the mouth, oropharynx, liver, oesophagus and breast. It is sad that such a toxic and carcinogenic compound is being brazenly advertised and consumed by ever increasing number of youngsters without any warning.

The OECD report is not the first one to highlight the dangers of alcohol consumption. The risk multiplies when alcohol is consumed along with tobacco, another lethal consumer product that is easily available.

Globally, alcohol consumption results in approximately 3.3 million deaths each year (WHO Global Status Report on alcohol and health, 2014). It is the third largest risk factor for disease and disability in the world. Alcohol is known to be the leading risk factor for death among the economically and socially productive age group of 15-49 year old men and has grave implications in terms of a society's over all development.

According to WHO, about 30% of Indians consume alcohol. Of these, 4-13% are daily consumers and upto 50% of them fall under the category of hazardous drinking. Besides, the average age of initiation of alcohol use in India is 17 years (as of 2007), significantly lower than what it used to be in the 1980s — 28 years.

Alcohol abuse amounts to huge annual losses due to alcohol-related problems at workplaces. Nearly 25 per cent of all road accidents in India occur under the influence of alcohol.
How will the Indian Government deal with the issue. Will it show the same good resolve as it is showing in dealing with Maggi issue.


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