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Alcohol Regulation: A Middle Ground

There is ample empirical proof to document the negative effects of excess alcohol consumption on human pathology. The well-substantiated body of evidence against alcoholism is undeniable. However, low consumption of alcohol has shown some cognitive benefits among adults. For millennia, alcoholic beverages have acted as a social adhesive and creative stimulant (Dunbar et al., 2016). Human populations have shown a diverse reaction to alcohol. That being said, strategically regulating its consumption rather than complete prohibition, remains at high priority given the wide range of undesirable and skewed effects.

The most common comorbidities in older adults, such as hypertension, liver cirrhosis, high cholesterol, diabetes, etc. are exacerbated by excess alcohol. Not only does it make certain existing conditions worse, but is also proven to cause these disorders and increase the risk of cancer (Rehm et al., 2010). Alcohol clearly contributes to an overall decline in the physical health of unmoderated consumers. A host of mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, clinical depression are adversely affected in some cases by regular consumption of alcohol (Pary et al., 2017). Chronic users are inclined towards risky behavior often contributing to increased incidents of crime and violence against women. Alcohol abusers were more likely to commit suicide than non-users (Eashwar et al., 2020).

Disagreeable effects of alcohol are more commonly seen in chronic users. Therefore it becomes important to distinguish between the amount consumed. Low to moderate or social use is seen to lower the amount of bad cholesterol (LDL), thus aiding in the prevention of coronary artery diseases (CAD) (Chiva-Blanch & Badimon, 2019). Mindful drinking is also reported to improve the sense of overall well-being, reduce social barriers and stress due to the release of endorphins(Dunbar et al., 2016). It remains up to debate whether this can outweigh the ill effects. The diversity of reported effects of low to moderate consumption of alcohol must be taken into account. Personalities that have a susceptibility to addiction need to be vigilant to avoid dependency.

The alcohol policy in India has been prohibitive in line with the directives of the Indian constitution. Several Indian states such as Gujarat, Manipur, Nagaland, Bihar, and the UT Lakshadweep have partially or completely banned the usage and sale of liquor. In light of complete prohibition, these ‘dry states’ have seen an emergence of a black market and unregulated production of liquor. This has led to an increase in cases of methanol poisoning. The presence of a black market also gives way to other crimes in absence of any state intervention (Dar & Sahay, 2018). In Tamil Nadu, a ban on alcohol was lifted due to methanol poisoning as unregulated production of local brews such as arrack, toddy had risen (Gopalakrishnan, 2020). A state monopoly on the sale of alcohol has since endured in the state after its experimentation with prohibition. The state govt also earns tax revenues like many other Indian states. Similarly, a debate had emerged in Manipur after the notorious ‘hooch tragedy’ resulting in the death of 5 by methanol poisoning (Saikia A., 2017). Methanol poisoning from consuming unregulated country liquor is a huge problem with dry states. Government-controlled sale not only lifts the burden of deaths due to unregulated liquor but also provides lucrative tax revenue. The Mizoram state effectively regulates the sale of liquor and also caps the amount of alcohol that can be bought at a time (Saikia A., 2017).

In conclusion, the consumption of alcohol has always been a hot topic for debate. Extremes like complete prohibition or uncontrolled alcoholism do inevitably lead to citizens dealing with social and personal tragedies. It is paramount that the state intervenes and creates a middle ground where the population can carry on the thousands of years old positive legacy of fermented beverages, alcohol and avoid its detrimental impact.

References

Chiva-Blanch, G., & Badimon, L. (2019). Benefits and Risks of Moderate Alcohol Consumption on Cardiovascular Disease: Current Findings and Controversies. Nutrients, 12(1), 108. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu12010108
Dar, A., & Sahay, A. (2018, April 23). Designing Policy in Weak States: Unintended Consequences of Alcohol Prohibition in Bihar. Papers.ssrn.com. https://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=3165159

Dunbar, R. I. M., Launay, J., Wlodarski, R., Robertson, C., Pearce, E., Carney, J., & MacCarron, P. (2016). Functional Benefits of (Modest) Alcohol Consumption. Adaptive Human Behavior and Physiology, 3(2), 118–133. https://doi.org/10.1007/s40750-016-0058-4

Eashwar, V. M. A., Umadevi, R., & Gopalakrishnan, S. (2020). Alcohol consumption in India– An epidemiological review. Journal of Family Medicine and Primary Care, 9(1), 49–55. https://doi.org/10.4103/jfmpc.jfmpc_873_19

Gopalakrishnan, K. (2020). Alcoholism and the politics of total prohibition in Tamil Nadu state, India: A historical and sociological overview. Corvinus Journal of Sociology and Social Policy, 11(1), 127–147. https://doi.org/10.14267/cjssp.2020.1.5

Pary, R., Patel, M., & Lippmann, S. (2017). Depression and Bipolar Disorders in Patients With Alcohol Use Disorders. Federal Practitioner, 34(Suppl 2), 37S41S. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6375498/

Rehm, J., Baliunas, D., Borges, G. L. G., Graham, K., Irving, H., Kehoe, T., Parry, C. D., Patra, J., Popova, S., Poznyak, V., Roerecke, M., Room, R., Samokhvalov, A. V., & Taylor, B. (2010). The relation between different dimensions of alcohol consumption and burden of disease: an overview. Addiction, 105(5), 817–843. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1360-0443.2010.02899.x

Saikia, A. (2017). A hooch tragedy that killed five people rekindles old debate about prohibition in Manipur. Scroll.in. https://scroll.in/article/845997/a-hooch-tragedy-that-killed-five-people-rekindles-old-debate-about-prohibition-in-manipur

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