Alcohol is a habit forming substance. When a person starts drinking, it slowly becomes a habit which is difficult to quit. Drinking alcohol does not produce any benefit for the person who drinks it except a temporary feeling of euphoria and being free of inhibitions. On the other side it produces many harmful effects on the person’s health, family as well as to the community.
Historical evidences suggest that alcohol consumption has been an acknowledged practice of different civilization. There are also evidences that alcohol has been a source of medication and ritualistic entity in certain religious ceremonies. The type of alcoholic beverage, the quantity of its consumption, the pattern of drinking and the frequency of its use are constantly evolving. However, the fact of the matter is that alcohol is everywhere today.
Research has contributed our understanding of the relation of drinking to specific disorders, and has shown that the relation between alcohol consumption and health outcomes is complex and multidimensional. India is one of the populous countries where there is an increase in the average volume of drinking. Cultural differences apparently influence the pattern of alcohol consumption. Certain religious groups tempt to consume less where as certain other group consume alcohol more. Whatever is the case, alcohol is linked to certain categories of disease and its burden is predicted to increase.
Occasional drinking or social drinking is common with some people or certain family or community. However, alcoholism is becoming a way of life these days in some parts of the country, especially amongst the younger age group. The trend now a days is that the common purpose of consuming alcohol is to get drunk. Increased alcohol consumption is accompanied by enhanced social, psychological and physical problems and heavy daily drinking is usually associated with other life or health issues. These developments have raised concerns about the health and the social consequences of excessive drinking.
Alcoholic or alcohol dependent?
A person is called to be dependent on alcohol when there is compulsion to drink or there are unpleasant symptoms on withdrawal that is relieved by further drinking. Many a times, the alcohol dependent persons abstain from work, cause financial difficulties to them and family and create law and order problems like violence and traffic offenses.
Alcohol dependent persons have a craving expressed in the form of strong desire or a compulsion to drink. The person may have a loss of control or inability to limit his or her drinking on any given occasion. Such people increase the frequency of drinking alcohol, they usually give priority to drinking over other activities and their tolerance of effects of alcohol is increased. After a period of heavy drinking and on withdrawal, they will show symptoms such a nausea, sweating, shakiness and anxiety. The person may also show the need to drink greater amounts of alcohol in order to “get high”.
Social problems related to alcoholism
Usually, the alcohol dependent people abstain from work, cause financial difficulties to them and family and create law and order problems like violence and traffic offenses.
Health issues related to alcoholism?
Acute effects of alcoholism are emotional outbursts, decreased memory & concentration, poor judgment, decreased reflexes, decreased sexual response, warm, flushed, reddish skin and so on.
The most common long term effect of alcohol use is that the person will become less productive to his work or he may have impaired performance. This will cost very much to society in terms of the persons output.
Alcohol affects all body systems, but Liver disorders are the most common hazard of alcohol drinking. Inflammation of liver, chronic indigestion and fatty liver are the effects of prolonged drinking. Habitual drinking by people with diabetes or hypertension may lead to complications like liver failure, kidney diseases, loss of appetite, poor judgment and cardiovascular diseases. In about 80 % persons with liver disorders, if they continue drinking, it may progress to cirrhosis, which is likely to threaten life. Alcohol consumption increases risk of cancer of oral cavity, esophagus, and liver.
Effect of alcohol in pregnancy
Alcohol is rapidly absorbed from stomach, small intestine, and colon and is capable of readily crossing placenta, to reach the fetus. In pregnant women, this lead to a condition called Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), wherein there will be growth retardation, facial malformations, small head, greatly reduce intelligence of the new born. Such children will become a burden on the family for the rest of his life and is common preventable problem.
Symptoms of alcohol withdrawal may appear anywhere from six hours to a few days after the last drink. These usually include at least two of the following:
Management of Alcohol withdrawal
People at risk of severe withdrawal are managed by doctors with help of benzodiazepines which are gradually tapered off to minimize withdrawal. This process is called detoxification and should be done only under supervision of a medical practitioner. Many people require nutritional supplements and treatment of alcohol related medical complications.
Motivational Enhancement Therapy (a form of talk therapy), group therapy or self help are effective ways to manage alcohol dependence. The person may be given nutritional supplements enriched with vitamins, yoga, exercise, counseling, spiritual discourses during this period may be needed depending up on the persons orientation and likings.
People who are driving vehicles, women who are pregnant, people with diseases like hepatitis, cirrhosis, peptic ulcer and who take certain drugs like anti histamines or anti-diabetics or any sedative should completely avoid alcohol.
Test for alcohol dependence
There are hundreds of alcohol screening tests, including some elaborate ones with up to 100 questions. Short screening tests with only a few questions have been developed to encourage diagnosis alcoholism. One such easy test to screening alcohol dependence is the Tweak Test The word Tweak is derived from the first letters of five questions asked for screening the person: These are
T stands for Tolerance: How many drinks can you hold > 6 drinks indicates tolerance.
W stands for Worried: Have close friends or relatives worried or complained about your drinking in the past year?
E sands for Eye openers: Do you sometimes take a drink in the morning when you first get up?
A stands for Amnesia: Has a friend or family member ever told you about things you said or did while you were drinking that you could not remember?
K stands for Kut down: Do you sometimes feel the need to cut down on your drinking?
TWEAK test is a great tool for medical professionals looking to find evidence of problem behaviours. If the score is over 2, you should either try to stop drinking on your own, or get some help in doing so.
Apart from the treatment with Homeopathic remedies, there is a need for supportive measures to detoxify the effects of alcohol. The body needs a healthy diet to make up deficiencies. The person needs to take food containing more vitamins, bioflavonoid, iron, manganese, potassium certain amino acid found in dairy products, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
During the withdrawal treatment phase, benzodiazepines may be necessary during initial days after stopping drinking.
Regular intake of the nutrients rich in vitamin, minerals and protein is advised even for moderate social drinkers.
There are important home remedies that help the effects of alcoholism. Some that may help you to quit alcohol and lead a happy and healthy life are:
The following lifestyle changes will help in quitting alcohol habit.
(iv) Avoid the company of people with drinking habits.
(v) Use relaxation techniques like meditation.
(vi) Always think of the positive benefits of not drinking and the negative consequences of resuming drinking.
This content is validated by Directorate General of Health Services, MoHFW , GOI