Our services include psychiatric, medical and psycho-social approaches to treating these conditions
- Dr Mahesh Rajasuriya -
Alcohol is described as an ‘easy way out’ and ‘a solution to life’s problems’. While these are a few of the many reasons why it is being consumed in huge quantities, those consuming alcohol are unaware of its repercussions on the long term. Alcohol doesn’t just affect your internal organs but carries many psycho-social impacts as well. In an attempt to give an insight to its drawbacks, Consultant Psychiatrist, Senior lecturer in Psychiatry at University of Colombo and Director at Centre for Combating Tobacco (CCT), Dr. Mahesh Rajasuriya emphasized on the darker side of consuming alcohol.
Alcohol does quite a lot of harm to brain cells. It’s known as a Central Nervous System (CNS) depressant as it hinders the functions of the brain. People will feel sleepy and complex body movements such as driving a vehicle would be difficult
Ethyl alcohol is one type of alcohol and also is ethanol says Dr. Mahesh. “Hence there’s a variety of them.“When one says they had some alcohol, they have literally been consuming these chemical compounds. Ethyl alcohol is harmful to all organs in the body. There are immediate as well as long term effects. Alcohol does quite a lot of harm to brain cells and this is one of its immediate effects. Therefore it’s known as a Central Nervous System (CNS) depressant as it hinders the functions of the brain. As a result people will feel sleepy and complex body movements such as driving a vehicle would be difficult. Those with an excess of ethyl alcohol in their body would also find it difficult to breathe.”
“On the long term, many organs would be affected and one of the main concerns is that it would increase risks of developing cancer mainly in the liver. Non-communicable diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol and other conditions would also be visible in people who consume a lot of alcohol. If a person already has these conditions, chances are that there will be more complexities than before. Gastritis is another condition that will be evident in people who take drinks more often. A person’s appearance will also change and hence will look rather deformed,” Dr. Mahesh said.
Organs would be affected and one of the main concerns is that it would increase risks of developing cancer mainly in the liver. Diabetes, high blood pressure, cholesterol and other conditions would also be visible in people who consume a lot of alcohol
Alcohol doesn’t only affect one’s internal organs but it also brings about various psycho-social impacts. “One of the main implications is that the person will be trapped in a particular lifestyle,” Dr. Mahesh elaborates. “Therefore he or she will need alcohol when going on a trip or when at a party. In turn their lifestyles are quite monotonous and they lack variety. Their personality will also deteriorate; therefore if a person was punctual, reliable and responsible; once they get addicted to alcohol, these qualities will fade away. This could lead to many other secondary effects such as loss of a job and loss of loved ones. Due to alcohol, there will be a financial impact as well since alcohol is quite expensive. This is mainly due to branding. When a person cannot carry out his responsibilities at their workplace, then he will not earn much either.”
Dr. Mahesh further said due to the consumption of alcohol, your loved ones will be greatly affected. “This includes your family, children, friends and colleagues. As I mentioned before, a person consuming alcohol would have a repetitive lifestyle. As a result, your loved ones would also have a tendency to have a similar lifestyle. For example, if the father always goes on trips and consumes alcohol, then the children will also follow his footsteps. Then due to the deterioration of the personality, the family will once again be affected. Therefore this person will bring shame to the family and will not be as disciplined as he was before. Also due to the financial impact the father may not be able to fund for children’s education or buy household amenities etc. Due to alcoholism this person may fall sick and then again he will have a poor income.”
Alcohol dependence is another issue that arises due to excessive consumption of alcohol. But according to Dr. Mahesh, this is not seen in the majority of those who consume alcohol. Alcohol dependence happens when one person consumes a significant amount of alcohol daily for a long period of time. “One of the main features in alcohol dependency is that people develop a tolerance towards it,” Dr. Mahesh elaborates. “Therefore it doesn’t become a CNS depressant if consumed in small amounts. The second main characteristic is that this person would develop withdrawal effects. Therefore if these people stop taking alcohol for six, 12 or 24 hours, they will develop symptoms such as insomnia and shivering. If these symptoms are not treated on time, the person will become unconscious. A person might even die in such an instance.”
As a result, your loved ones would also have a tendency to have a similar lifestyle. For example, if the father always goes on trips and consumes alcohol, then the children will also follow his footsteps
The attempt to reduce the consumption of alcohol among individuals should be a collective effort. This could also be done targeting those who have developed alcohol use disorders helping them to stay away from alcohol. But according to Dr. Mahesh it would be more effective if the entire population is being taken into consideration with a view to reduce overall alcohol consumption. “As a means of treatment there are various ways in which people with alcohol use disorders could be treated. These include medical and psychosocial treatments among others. As a psychiatrist working at the University Psychiatry Unit at the National Hospital of Sri Lanka, I have to mention the counselling and psychiatry services at the Colombo National Hospital. Here we conduct a clinic, which addresses alcohol related issues every Thursday from 2.00pm onwards at Room No. 36 in the OPD Section of the National Hospital. We are also conducting a world-class research at this clinic and anybody who wishes to obtain treatments for those with alcohol dependence and harmful use are more than welcome to participate. This research, titled ETAT-RCT, has three treatment groups, one of which patients are randomised into.”
In his concluding remarks Dr. Mahesh said through this research and clinic they provide many kinds of treatment. “These include psychiatric treatment where we introduce the patient to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), Family therapy, Motivational Enhancement Therapy and certain types of medication. After a person visits this clinic, he and she would be examined after the end of six months and 12 months. During these assessments, we check the person’s behaviour, attitudes and impact of alcohol use via certain blood tests. We will keep in touch with the family members and will remind them to follow up.”