Alcohol consumption, also known as ‘boozing’ on a ‘cooler’ note, is perceived as a mature habit by people in many social strata. While alcohol consumption accounts for various medical complications as you grow older, it deteriorates you in person. According to Dr. Mahesh Rajasuriya, Consultant Psychiatrist and Director of the Center for Combatting Tobacco (CCT), people consume alcohol as means of celebrating an occasion or to be active. “They feel stimulated when they consume alcohol. But alcohol is a depressant and none of these actually happen. It is believed that alcohol can make you forget your problems and that it can make you happy and carefree as well. But even though these are myths, people still believe in them,”said Dr. Rajasuriya.
According to medical terminology, a depressant is a substance which would slow down the functions of the brain and the body. They affect the Central Nervous System (CNS). As soon as they enter the bloodstream, they lower blood pressure and affect the heart and breathing. Drinking high levels of alcohol for a long period of time can develop a host of medical problems. While it makes one an alcoholic altogether it will slow down the functions of the brain and those who drink and drive will be at risk.
Over the years, the alcohol industry has succeeded in making unbelievable profits as a result of the high consumption of alcohol. “One reason why people believe in these myths is because of this industry,” said Dr. Rajasuriya, speaking about the downside of this influential industry. “Since they want more profits and sales most of these myths promote alcohol consumption. This always attracts a group of people who would want to try it. They in turn will keep promoting this newfound ‘remedy’ among the rest of their friends. Therefore most scenes in movies and tele dramas include people consuming alcohol or smoking. These scenes are often associated with people having a ‘good time’; portraying how alcohol can keep people happy. Another reason is that certain individuals are honestly tricked to believe these myths. One may think that he could be more creative in his work if he takes a ‘shot’. Hence they will propagate this myth to a point that sometimes it’s difficult to figure out whether they are being paid by the industry to promote alcohol,”the doctor added.
Signs of alcohol dependence
Speaking about signs of alcohol dependence, Dr. Rajasuriya further said that one would start drinking daily if they are dependant. “People will drink larger amounts of alcohol and when they don’t drink for a couple of days their hands will start shaking. When they are severely dependent they will have withdrawal symptoms.
Some other signs include the following:
- Inability to quit drinking or controlling the intake of liquor
- Spending a lot of time drinking and recovering
- Drinking more to get the same effect
- Feeling sick in your stomach, sweating, shakiness and anxiety
- Giving up other activities
- Drinking even if it harms your relationships
Role of parents
The younger generation is one category of the society that enjoys taking drinks. Since youth especially engage in risky behaviour, they mostly like to get the thrill they get out of drinking, driving and other risky activities. But in most instances these result in rather unfortunate incidents. When asked about the role played by parents in taking teenagers out of their drinking habit, Dr. Rajasuriya said that parents think it is easy to talk to them. “As much as it is important to teach the repercussions of consuming alcohol, it is also important to attack myths and beliefs. Sometimes parents also take drinks and cannot set an example to their children.
Parents should talk about alcoholism or alcohol dependence as a shameful habit. Teenagers have been tricked into belief that they are stimulated by alcohol. They also believe that a drink can keep them active. But it actually doesn’t happen that way. Some people believe that the stars affect their future, but it could also be a myth. But parents should make their children fear alcohol,” he added.
In his comments about the role of media, Dr. Rajasuriya further said that the media is on the payrole of the industry. “We see movies, tele dramas and even news items which portray alcohol as a ‘friend’. Alcohol is highlighted as a magical or wonderful solution when in despair or when you want to celebrate. For this industry, the media is an asset and they would do anything to convince journalists to write the good about alcohol. But the media can play a better role in highlighting the repercussions of consuming alcohol through effective media campaigns. In order to send out a stronger message the media has to play an unbiased role,” he added.
When asked about his stance on the recent Gazette notification to ban the sale of liquor to women, Dr. Rajasuriya said that although it was an archaic, Victorian law, it has served its purpose. “By lifting this ban, it provides an opportunity for an abusive husband to send his wife to a liquor shop and purchase liquor for him. This happened with cigarettes. We have seen women coming up to us and selling shampoo in supermarkets. This will be seen in the case of liquor as well,”said Dr. Rajasuriya.
Interventions for alcohol dependence
In terms of alcohol dependence, various approaches could be made in the form of interventions. These interventions could be made at the workplace, during a crisis, with regard to a family and when dealing with youth. Workplace interventions are where the company would bring in policies to implement strict actions on those who are consuming alcohol. Encouraging people to stop consuming alcohol would benefit the business as well. It is always advisable to do this programme under the supervision of a specialist in the field and in the presence of company executives.
Crisis intervention is necessary to make individuals realize the extent of their actions and the damage that they are doing to those who know them. Here, the intervention must be performed as soon as possible before the addicts harm themselves or any third parties, such as friends or family members. These issues can be medical, legal or personal, and most of the time the addict will not even be aware of them.
On the other hand family intervention aims to convince an individual that they need treatment in the softest possible manner while still placing them in a situation where they are forced to review their past actions and behavior. In this scenario, family members and friends should meet together and discuss how they can best reach out to a loved one who is abusing drugs or alcohol. Emotions such as anger and disappointment should be eliminated during the actual intervention session.
Youth interventions too are very similar to family interventions designed specifically for the needs of young people. It is important to contact a professional as they would best know how to deal with substance abuse in youth. One tricky aspect to youth interventions is that habits which may be linked to drug abuse in adults, such as moodiness, lying, and solitude, can be fairly normal for a teenager. In this case, it is essential that parents get real proof of their child’s addiction before organizing an intervention, as a wrong guess can leave teens with feelings of anger and betrayal which will then alienate them from their parents.