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Posted: Thursday, 27 September 2018 12:18

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WHO claims 1 in 20 Deaths in the World caused by Alcohol

Sep 27: According to World Health Organization (WHO) report released last Friday, over 3 million people died in 2016 due to drinking too much alcohol, thus causing one in 20 deaths globally through harmful drinking, with men being 75% of the victims and despite this, alcohol consumption is expected to rise during the next 10 years but the report is silent about the harmful effects of drug abuse, especially in driving accidents

About 2.3 million of those dead due to alcohol misuse were men in 2016, making it around 80% of men dying due to alcohol. An estimated 237 million men and 46 million women are known to be problem drinkers or alcohol abusers in the world. About 2.3 billions imbibe alcohol the equivalent of 2 glasses of wines (150 mL), spirits (80 mL), or a large bottle of beer (750 mL) a day. But 20-39 year olds are represented disproportionately with 13.5 per cent of all deaths in this age group attributable to alcohol, instead of 5% for all age groups.

Surprisingly the highest prevalence is in Europe and the Americas, and alcohol-use disorders are more common in wealthier countries, though many Asian and Africa countries also have big problems- and India cannot be excluded. In fact, the Report which comes out every 4 years, notes that “socio-economic status” is a key vulnerability factor.

Of all deaths due to alcohol, 28 % were due to injuries, such as traffic accidents, self-harm and interpersonal violence, 21 % due to digestive disorders, and 19 % due to heart attacks and strokes. The rest are from infectious diseases, cancers, mental disorders and other health conditions.

Despite a drop of 10% in consumption in Europe since 2010, it has the highest per capita alcohol consumption in the world especially Southeast Asia, the Western Pacific and the Americas.

Indian bureaucrats and politicians would be pleased to note that the report validates what they have been doing regularly- increasing taxes on alcohol seemingly to reduce consumption. WHO claims that almost all countries have excise duties on alcohol but less than half of them use other pricing strategies such as banning below-cost sales or bulk buy discounts.

“It’s time to step up action to prevent this serious threat to the development of healthy societies says, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general of WHO in its report. “Far too many people, their families and communities suffer the consequences of the harmful use of alcohol,” he says.

Despite Europe’s higher consumption rates, Africa bears the heaviest burden of disease and injury attributed to alcohol. If drinkers became careful and avoided drinking excess, alcohol sales would drop by 38%

The economic development from a poorer society might have potential in the longer term to mitigate alcohol-related harm, but the WHO warns the more immediate effect is to cause higher alcohol consumption and the harm caused as the availability of alcoholic beverages increases.

WHO has called for measures that include raising taxes and providing more support services to counter the impact, particularly in less economically developed countries. “Proven, cost-effective actions include increasing taxes on alcoholic drinks, bans or restrictions on alcohol advertising, and restricting the physical availability of alcohol’ are some of the measures suggested.

DUI  (alcohol) or DUI (Drugs)

Driving under Influence usually means driving illegally under the influence of alcohol or drugs but it is not easy to catch the drivers intoxicated due to drugs. Indian police has barely learnt how to catch alcohol abusers in the Indian cities but they are lost as to how to catch them, according to media.  

Interestingly, drugs can be checked only through blood samples and are usually the focus only when the driver is found in possession of the drugs making it difficult for the police to catch the erring drivers. Drugs reduce motor activities of the driver and slow down the motion-at times even the legal use of drugs against prescription will make the driver drowsy and the risk of accident can reportedly go up by up to 5 times, according to World Health Organisation. But the police show helplessness in such cases.

During the coming years, the problem will become more acute and the police would have to devise techniques to catch those under the influence of drugs, even as the window to test drug contents is very small; drugs get absorbed in the blood stream very fast.

Subhash Arora

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