Avoid Liquor

Alcoholism is becoming widespread problem in the Indian society and Tamil Nadu is no exception. The age of first exposure to alcohol in the state has dropped to 15 years. Added concern is the increasing numbers of women specially girls becoming addicted to alcohol. This trend is causing socio-economic problems but little is being done to arrest this social trend.

On the contrary, the state government is encouraging alcoholism to gain revenue. Tamil Nadu State Marketing Corporation (TASMAC) is a company owned by the Tamil Nadu government which has a monopoly over wholesale and retail vending of alcoholic beverages in the state.

The state government, for years has been adding a huge amount of money to its exchequer by licensing and selling the liquor through its 2500 government controlled TASMAC shops. Liquor sales in 2011-12 has touched 18,081.16 crore rupees, registering a 20.82% increase. Every year during the New Year and Pongal festival, TASMAC is making around Rs. 500 crores selling liquor in wholesale and retail market.

‘Whether GDP rate grows or not, the alcohol consumption rate has been growing at 8 per cent every year, says Lakshmi Vijaykumar, head of the department of psychiatry at the Voluntary Health Services, Taramani, Chennai.

‘No government is willing to stop it because they get revenue from it, but the costs are higher’ she says adding, ‘dealing with problems caused by alcoholism costs three times more than the amount of revenue the government gets from liquor sales.’

In order to understand the magnitude of the problem and to feel the pulse of the society, Nandini Voice for the Deprived, a Chennai based NGO conducted a survey in Tamil Nadu to ascertain the views of the people about the TASMAC shops, believed to be the root cause of this social problem

This study was necessitated because in recent times, there have been number of agitation by group of people in several places in Tamil Nadu, demanding that TASMAC shops to be removed from the residential areas. There were also protests that the TASMAC shops should be barred near the places of worship and educational institutions. Judiciary have also given instructions that the highways should be free from the TASMAC shops. However, all this is having little impact on checking the sale of liquor in the state. The sales turnover of TASMAC shops are steadily increasing and proportionate to it the number of liquor addicts is growing among various age groups.

With men increasingly becoming alcohol addicts, large numbers of poor families in Tamil Nadu are suffering economically and emotionally. Women getting beaten up by drunken husband and sometimes even by drunken sons and sons in law, desperate women hitting back the drunken men to protect themselves , children unable to concentrate in their studies in such disturbing conditions and sometimes women even committing suicide, unable to bear the torture, have become a regular feature of Tamil Nadu society.

As alcohol addicted men seem to lose values in life, the trend of promiscuity and Illicit relationships is growing, leading to breakdown of marriages. This phenomenon is common both in the lower as well as upper income groups, the study has found. What is even more disturbing is that while such matter is regularly reported in the media, they no more shock the people. Everyone seems to be reconciling to the fact that it is inevitable development of modern times.

In many poor families, the household is mainly run by the earnings of women. With the men folk frittering away the earnings in liquor and several of them not going to jobs regularly, due to poor health condition and indiscipline, life has really become hard for women in such households.

Mothers shoulder the responsibility and are seen pleading with NGOs and others for financial support for the education of the children, particularly due to the increasing realisation that imparting good education to the children, especially to their daughters, is the only way to protect their long term economic and social well being.

There was an overwhelming response from the non alcohol consuming people, particularly among the women in lower income group that the TASMAC shops have encouraged liquor consumption in a big way. They also blame political parties in power for many decades in the state in providing legitimacy and sanction to such social evil.

The respondents widely felt that the Tamil Nadu government alone can set the conditions right. The best way to do so is to gradually close the TASMAC shops and create a climate where liquor consumption is once again seen as a taboo. Such response mainly came from the poor women who are not informed about the revenue earned from liquor sales and have high hopes that government may educate the people of its ill effects.

However, well informed people responded that the government will not close the TASMAC shops as it is one of the main sources of its revenue. Without it several social measures and freebies offered by the government may be withdrawn. This may create social unrest and may lead to mass agitations and protests among the poor people. This may also have an effect on the vote banks particularly from lower income group, who are the recipients of the freebies. In such case, no government may like to face such conditions and think about clamping prohibition.

Health Risks of Drinking Alcohol

Anemia

Heavy drinking can cause the number of oxygen-carrying red blood cells to be abnormally low. This condition, known as anemia, can trigger a host of symptoms, including fatigue, shortness of breath, and lightheadedness.

Cancer

"Habitual drinking increases the risk of cancer," says Jurgen Rehm, PhD, chairman of the University of Toronto's department of addiction policy and a senior scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, also in Toronto. Scientists believe the increased risk comes when the body converts alcohol into acetaldehyde, a potent carcinogen. Cancer sites linked to alcohol use include the mouth, pharynx (throat), larynx (voice box), esophagus, liver, breast, and colorectal region. Cancer risk rises even higher in heavy drinkers who also use tobacco.

Cardiovascular disease

Heavy drinking, especially bingeing, makes platelets more likely to clump together into blood clots, which can lead to heart attack or stroke. In a landmark study published in 2005, Harvard researchers found that binge drinking doubled the risk of death among people who initially survived a heart attack.

Heavy drinking can also cause cardiomyopathy, a potentially deadly condition in which the heart muscle weakens and eventually fails, as well as heart rhythm abnormalities such as atrial and ventricular fibrillation. Atrial fibrillation, in which the heart's upper chambers (atria) twitch chaotically rather than constrict rhythmically, can cause blood clots that can trigger a stroke. Ventricular fibrillation causes chaotic twitching in the heart's main pumping chambers (ventricles). It causes rapid loss of consciousness and, in the absence of immediate treatment, sudden death.

Cirrhosis

Alcohol is toxic to liver cells, and many heavy drinkers develop cirrhosis, a sometimes-lethal condition in which the liver is so heavily scarred that it is unable to function. But it's hard to predict which drinkers will develop cirrhosis. "Some people who drink huge amounts never get cirrhosis, and some who don't drink very much do get it," Saitz says. For some unknown reason, women seem to be especially vulnerable.

Dementia

As people age, their brains shrink, on average, at a rate of about 1.9% per decade. That's considered normal. But heavy drinking speeds the shrinkage of certain key regions in the brain, resulting in memory loss and other symptoms of dementia.

Heavy drinking can also lead to subtle but potentially debilitating deficits in the ability to plan, make judgments, solve problems, and perform other aspects of "executive function," which are "the higher-order abilities that allow us to maximize our function as human beings," Garbutt says.

In addition to the "nonspecific" dementia that stems from brain atrophy, heavy drinking can cause nutritional deficiencies so severe that they trigger other forms of dementia.

Depression

It's long been known that heavy drinking often goes hand in hand with depression, but there has been debate about which came first -- the drinking or the depression. One theory is that depressed people turned to alcohol in an attempt to "self-medicate" to ease their emotional pain. But a large study from New Zealand showed that it was probably the other way around -- that is, heavy drinking led to depression.

Research has also shown that depression improves when heavy drinkers go on the wagon, Saitz says.

Seizures

Heavy drinking can cause epilepsy and can trigger seizures even in people who don't have epilepsy. It can also interfere with the action of the medications used to treat convulsions.

Gout

A painful condition, gout is caused by the formation of uric acid crystals in the joints. Although some cases are largely hereditary, alcohol and other dietary factors seem to play a role. Alcohol also seems to aggravate existing cases of gout.

High blood pressure

Alcohol can disrupt the sympathetic nervous system, which, among other things, controls the constriction and dilation of blood vessels in response to stress, temperature, exertion, etc. Heavy drinking -- and bingeing, in particular -- can cause blood pressure to rise. Over time, this effect can become chronic. High blood pressure can lead to many other health problems, including kidney disease, heart disease, and stroke.

Infectious disease

Heavy drinking suppresses the immune system, providing a toehold for infections, including tuberculosis, pneumonia, HIV/AIDS, and other sexually transmitted diseases (including some that cause infertility). People who drink heavily also are more likely to engage in risky sex. "Heavy drinking is associated with a three-fold increase in the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease," Rehmn says.

Nerve damage

Heavy drinking can cause a form of nerve damage known as alcoholic neuropathy, which can produce a painful pins-and-needles feeling or numbness in the extremities as well as muscle weakness, incontinence, constipation, erectile dysfunction, and other problems. Alcoholic neuropathy may arise because alcohol is toxic to nerve cells, or because nutritional deficiencies attributable to heavy drinking compromise nerve function.

Pancreatitis

In addition to causing stomach irritation (gastritis), drinking can inflame the pancreas. Chronic pancreatitis interferes with the digestive process, causing severe abdominal pain and persistent diarrhea --and "it's not fixable," Saitz says. Some cases of chronic pancreatitis are triggered by gallstones, but up to 60% stem from alcohol consumption.

How to Cut Down on Your Drinking

If you are drinking too much, you can improve your life and health by cutting down. How do you know if you drink too much? Read these questions and answer "yes" or "no":

• Do you drink alone when you feel angry or sad?

• Does your drinking ever make you late for work?

• Does your drinking worry your family?

• Do you ever drink after telling yourself you won't?

• Do you ever forget what you did while you were drinking?

• Do you get headaches or have a hang-over after you have been drinking?

If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you may have a drinking problem. Check with your doctor to be sure. Your doctor will be able to tell you whether you should cut down or abstain. If you are alcoholic or have other medical problems, you should not just cut down on your drinking—you should stop drinking completely. Your doctor will advise you about what is right for you.

If your doctor tells you to cut down on your drinking, these steps can help you:

1. Write your reasons for cutting down or stopping.

Why do you want to drink less? There are many reasons why you may want to cut down or stop drinking. You may want to improve your health, sleep better, or get along better with your family or friends. Make a list of the reasons you want to drink less.

2. Set a drinking goal.

Choose a limit for how much you will drink. You may choose to cut down or not to drink at all. If you are cutting down, keep below these limits:

• Women: No more than one drink a day

• Men: No more than two drinks a day

A drink is:

a 12-ounce bottle of beer;
a 5-ounce glass of wine; or
a 1 1/2-ounce shot of liquor.

These limits may be too high for some people who have certain medical problems or who are older. Talk with your doctor about the limit that is right for you.

Now—write your drinking goal on a piece of paper. Put it where you can see it, such as on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror. Your paper might look like this:

My drinking goal

• I will start on this day ____________.

• I will not drink more than ______ drinks in 1 day.

• I will not drink more than ______ drinks in 1 week. (or)

• I will stop drinking alcohol.

3. Keep a "diary" of your drinking.

To help you reach your goal, keep a "diary" of your drinking. For example, write down every time you have a drink for 1 week. Try to keep your diary for 3 or 4 weeks. This will show you how much you drink and when. You may be surprised. How different is your goal from the amount you drink now? Use the "drinking diary" below to write down when you drink.

Week:
Day of Week # of drinks type of drinks place consumed
Monday
Tuesday
Wednesday
Thursday
Friday
Saturday
Sunday

Now you know why you want to drink less and you have a goal. There are many ways you can help yourself to cut down. Try these tips:

Watch it at home.

Keep a small amount or no alcohol at home. Don't keep temptations around.

Drink slowly.

When you drink, sip your drink slowly. Take a break of 1 hour between drinks. Drink soda, water, or juice after a drink with alcohol. Do not drink on an empty stomach! Eat food when you are drinking.

Take a break from alcohol.

Pick a day or two each week when you will not drink at all. Then, try to stop drinking for 1 week. Think about how you feel physically and emotionally on these days. When you succeed and feel better, you may find it easier to cut down for good.

Learn how to say NO.

You do not have to drink when other people drink. You do not have to take a drink that is given to you. Practice ways to say no politely. For example, you can tell people you feel better when you drink less. Stay away from people who give you a hard time about not drinking.

Stay active.

What would you like to do instead of drinking? Use the time and money spent on drinking to do something fun with your family or friends. Go out to eat, see a movie, or play sports or a game.

Get support.

Cutting down on your drinking may be difficult at times. Ask your family and friends for support to help you reach your goal. Talk to your doctor if you are having trouble cutting down. Get the help you need to reach your goal.

Watch out for temptations.

Watch out for people, places, or times that make you drink, even if you do not want to. Stay away from people who drink a lot or bars where you used to go. Plan ahead of time what you will do to avoid drinking when you are tempted.

Do not drink when you are angry or upset or have a bad day. These are habits you need to break if you want to drink less.

Quotes

  • "Give me blood and I will give you (new) freedom!" - Subhas Chandra Bose
  • “All powers are within you, you can do anything and every thing” - Swami Vivekananda
  • “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win” - Mahatma Gandhi
  • “In India we only read about death, sickness, terrorism, crime” - A. P. J. Abdul Kalam