Excessive alcohol consumption continues to damage the society, economy and the health of the individuals

It is the cause of death of over 2.5 million individuals every year (almost 4% of all deaths worldwide), and the third leading risk factor for poor health globally, accounting for 5.5% of disability-adjusted life years lost

Excessive alcohol consumption and under-age drinking are common issues, which all countries globally continue to struggle with. The urgent need to raise awareness about the evils of alcohol consumption has been brought up by most National and International bodies during their annual meetings. However, till now, no strict action has been taken to curb the menace of alcohol.

In a developing country like India, there’s an immediate need for framing a new set of policies, which will focus on reducing excessive alcohol consumption and framing new policies for harm reduction.

Speaking on the issue, Padam Shri Awardees Dr A Marthanda Pillai National President Indian Medical Association and Dr K K Aggarwal – Honorary Secretary General IMA and President HCFI said, “The government should start with formulating new policies, which will focus on reducing the harm caused by excessive alcohol consumption. They should also impose some staunch legal and regulatory measures to limit the access to alcohol in cases of individuals who are below the certain age. The focus should be laid on creating new healthy and social policy interventions regarding alcohol, consumption by targeting vulnerable groups like high-risk drinkers. At present, the country already has some existing policies but they are not being properly implemented in the required areas. Bringing in international public health advocacy and partnerships to educate individuals about the ills can definitely help to free society from the shackles of alcohol consumption.”

As far as our health is concerned, alcohol weakens the communication pathways of the brain, which causes sudden mood shifts, changes behavior and weakens the ability to coordinate. Excessive drinking can aggravate severe cardiovascular issues like cardiomyopathy – stretching and drooping of heart muscle, arrhythmias – irregular heartbeat, heart stroke and high blood pressure. Not only this, excessive consumption can cause liver inflammation problems like steatosis, or fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis, fibrosis and cirrhosis. It is also a leading cause of obesity.

Towards the cause of a reduction in the alcohol consumption worldwide, the World Medical Association recently during its General Assembly launched a declaration, which focuses on reducing excessive alcohol consumption and framing new policies for harm reduction.

According to it, the following steps that should be taken in this regard:

• Increase alcohol prices, through volumetric taxation of products based on their alcohol strength, and other proven pricing mechanisms, to reduce alcohol consumption

• Regulate access and availability of alcohol by limiting the hours and days of sale, the number and location of alcohol outlets and licensed premises, and the imposition of a minimum legal drinking age

• Governments should tax and control the production and consumption of alcohol, with licensing that emphasizes public health and safety and empowers licensing authorities to control the total availability of alcohol in their jurisdictions

• Public authorities must strengthen the prohibition of selling to minors and must systematically request proof of age before alcohol can be purchased in shops or bars

• Practicing alcohol marketing in a restricted way, so as to prevent the early adoption of drinking by young people and to minimise their alcohol consumption

• Imposing regulatory measures ranging from wholesale bans and restrictions on measures that promote excessive consumption, to restrictions on the placement and content of alcohol advertising that is attractive to young people

• Increase public awareness of harmful alcohol consumption through product labeling and public awareness campaigns.

• Key drink-driving deterrents should be implemented like strictly enforced legal maximum blood alcohol concentration for drivers of no more than 50mg/100ml.