April 2, 2012

Sweet 16, but teenagers want their bitters (17 PICS)

In today's fast-paced world, those reaching out for a bottle of Scotch are getting younger and younger. Alcohol is now part of an urban teenager's life - the average age of those consuming alcohol has come down to 16-17 years, as the third National Family Health Survey (NFHS3) in 2007 pointed out. A far cry from the average age of 25-29, documented in NFHS2 in 2003.

The latest survey also revealed that at least 5-10% women in India drink alcoholic beverages. Experts say the factors are globalization and easy availability of alcohol in the market. 

"One can find alcohol in departmental stores as well as medical stores. It is easily available to the youth today," said Dr Vivek Benegal, professor of psychiatry, Centre for Addiction Medicine, Nimhans. 

The experts gathered at Dr M V Govindaswamy Centre, Nimhans, to discuss 'Evolving Effective Strategies for Alcohol Advocacy and Prevention', were of the view that the only way to fight this menace is by spreading awareness and educating people against the effects of alcohol consumption. 

Dr P Satish Chandra, director, Nimhans, said: "Prohibiting alcohol has not worked in many states of India. Certain lobbies are active to promote consumption and sale of alcohol. Like it was done in the case of HIV, only spreading awareness and educating people can fight this problem. People must be told how drinking alcohol can damage almost every part of the body and kill a person." 

Pointing out that the average age of alcohol consumers has come down, Dr Satish Chandra recommended that education should be started at the high school level. 

15-30% Accidents Linked To It 

Dr Mohan Isaac, associate chair of Population Mental Health, School of Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, University of Western Australia, quoted a recent BBC report in which Scotland Whiskey Association claimed that sale of Scotch whisky has gone up by 30-35%, especially in Brazil, India and South Africa. 

"Most road accidents happen because drivers are under the influence of alcohol. Drinking alcohol today is considered a status symbol and women too consume it. All aspects of society need to contribute in spreading awareness of the side-effects of alcoholism in society." 

Dr G Gururaj, head, department of epidemiology, Nimhans, said that since 1980, the consumption of alcohol has come down in most developed countries, "but has gone up in developing economies like 

India. This is because of production, availability, and promotion of alcohol." 

Quoting several studies conducted by Nimhans, Dr Gururaj said: "Alcohol consumption is related to 16 various diseases, including cancer, heart failure, stroke, epilepsy and HIV-AIDS. It also contributes to intentional and unintentional injuries. About 15-30% road crashes are linked to alcohol consumption." 

Dr Benegal said: "Many factors have contributed to popularizing alcohol consumption in India. The younger generation is under social pressure, because if you don't drink, you are considered rigid and outdated. Globalization has made varieties of alcohol available in the market and the marketing is done strategically, to target the younger population."

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