The importance of controlling Alcohol use

Alcohol has been widely used in many cultures over many centuries. In the society we live in, it will not be an exaggeration if we say that alcohol does form an important component of most of our social gatherings these days. As our youth takes to consumption of alcohol very early in life, unlike their older generations, it has become imperative to undertake a healthy discussion on the importance of controlling Alcohol use.

Before going into any discussion on alcohol usage it is important to understand what is meant by moderate drinking, binge drinking and heavy drinking. A standard drink is considered to contain 0.6 ounces (14gms or 1.2 tablespoons) of pure alcohol.

Moderate drinking is considered to be 2 or fewer drinks for men and 1 or fewer drinks for women on the days when alcohol is consumed.

 Binge drinking is defined as:

  • For women, 4 or more drinks on a single occasion
  • For men, 5 or more drinks on a single occasion

Heavy drinking is defined as:

  • For women, 8 or more drinks per week
  • For men, 15 or more drinks per week

Understanding the risks and any possible benefits of alcohol use seems confusing because the evidence of the effect of moderate alcohol use in adults is not certain. Almost all studies on alcohol usage including diet, exercise, caffeine and alcohol depend on patient recall and truthful reporting of one’s habits over many years.

Some research suggests that moderate alcohol use may provide the following benefits:

  • Reducing your risk of developing and dying of heart disease
  • Possibly reducing your risk of Ischemic stroke (when the arteries to your brain become narrowed and blocked causing severely reduced blood flow to the brain)
  • Possibly reduces your risk of diabetes

However, most research findings indicate that even moderate alcohol use is not completely risk-free and even light drinkers (who do not take more than one drink a day) have a tiny but real increased risk of some cancers. Alcohol use while driving is known to be a maximum risk behaviour as per most research done across the world further emphasizing the importance of controlling alcohol use.

While moderate alcohol use may offer some health benefits, heavy drinking including binge drinking has none whatsoever. Listed below are some of the risks that heavy or binge drinking is known to lead to:

  • Certain cancers, including breast cancer and cancers of the mouth, throat, oesophagus and liver
  • Pancreatitis
  • Sudden death if you already have cardiovascular disease
  • Heart muscle damage (alcoholic cardiomyopathy) leading to heart failure
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure
  • Liver disease
  • Suicide
  • Accidental serious injury or death
  • Brain damage and other problems in an unborn child
  • Alcohol withdrawal syndrome

Social and Economic Impact of Alcohol usage in a developing country like India

Another parameter along which the importance of controlling alcohol use must be assessed is the social and economic impact of alcohol. According to a WHO report released in September 2018, the per capita alcohol consumption in India had increased two folds in a span of 11 years between 2005 and 2016. India is the third largest alcohol consumer market in the world. This also raised concerns about the social consequences of excessive drinking such as:

  • deterioration of family and social relations;
  • poorer performance at work;
  • increased domestic violence and sexual abuse;
  • severe economic strain on families in the lower and middle strata of society due to poor rehabilitation facilities

Conclusion

Alcohol consumption has been recorded in human societies for ages and it is not something which can be fully eradicated across cultures. However, unlike the developed world where Alcohol consumption has steadily reduced since the 1980s, consumption has sadly increased in developing countries and alarmingly so in India. After assessing the pros and cons of Alcohol consumption and the unique challenges that increased Alcohol consumption will present for a country like ours, the importance of controlling alcohol use becomes quite clear and a focused planning and implementation of various government measures and awareness campaigns emerges like the need for the hour.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.