With millions suffering from alcohol-related diseases,it has become second to tobacco in negatively impacting public health
When it comes to Public Health impact,alcohol is closely following the footsteps of big tobacco as shown by a recent publication in The Lancet journal and a WHO report. There are about two billion people worldwide who consume alcohol and 76.3 million suffer from nearly 60 types of alcohol related diseases and injury. Also,alcohol causes 1.8 million deaths (3.2 per cent of the total).
“Being doctors,we are witness to the ill effects of alcohol,” says Dr Pankaj Chaturvedi,associate professor,Head and Neck Department,Tata Memorial Hospital. “As a routine practice,we counsel patients to quit alcohol to remain healthy. There are few questions that are invariably shot by the patients in response to our advice Why do movies show actors promoting this habit as ‘cool’? Why don’t alcohol bottles come with any warning?” he adds.
Chaturvedi,who has also initiated the group ‘Voice Against Tobacco’ that includes patients suffering from oral cancer,says that it is high time to apply the lessons learnt from tobacco control. “A comprehensive alcohol control law should be formulated for the nation,” he says.
Alcohol is one of the leading risk factors for disease burden in low mortality developing countries and the third largest risk factor in developed countries. It is responsible for the loss of 58.3 million (four per cent of total) of Disability-Adjusted Life Years mainly on account of the neuropsychiatric conditions. Though alcohol is claimed to exert some beneficial effects (cardiovascular,cholelethiasis and diabetes),the recent WHO report concluded that there are more life years lost due to alcohol consumption than deaths prevented. The WHO report offers an evidence based summary of the health and social consequences of alcohol use and patterns worldwide. It is causally related to cancers of the mouth,oropharynx,liver,oesophagus and breast. It causes dependence syndrome,cirrhosis,pancreatitis (acute and chronic),gastritis,polyneuropathy,hemorrhagic stroke,psychoses,epileptic seizures and other mental conditions.
Alcohol use,like passive smoking,not only harms the user but also seriously affects others. Its consumption leads to actions that result in unintentional injury and deaths such as traffic accidents,fall,and occupational injury. These alone account for about one third of the 1.8 million deaths. Also,alcohol is causally associated with violent crime including homicide. Similar to tobacco,consumption during pregnancy is related to various risks to the foetus. “Alcohol usage is associated with many negative consequences both for the drinkers family and community. Just like tobacco,these negative economic consequences are more pronounced in impoverished nations,” Dr Chaturvedi adds.
“Considering the international ramifications of the alcohol trade and its rapid growth,it is time for an international treaty similar to FCTC that focuses only on Alcohol control,” he insists.