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ALCOHOLISM and DRUG ABUSE

Cover Story

, by ARSHAD SHAIKH

Alcoholism is a broad term for problems with alcohol, and is generally used to mean compulsive and uncontrolled consumption of alcoholic beverages, usually to the detriment of the drinker’s health, personal relationships, and social standing. It is medically considered a disease, specifically an addictive illness, and in psychiatry several other terms are used, specifically “alcohol abuse” and “alcohol dependence”.

 

 

 

Drug addiction, is a drug user’s compulsive need to use controlled substances in order to function normally. When such substances are unobtainable, the user suffers from substance withdrawal. Mood-altering and psychoactive substances are not the only types of drug abuse. Using illicit drugs – narcotics, stimulants, depressants (sedatives), hallucinogens, cannabis, even glues and paints, are also considered to be classified as drug/substance abuse. Drug abuse often includes problems with impulse control and impulsive behaviour.

 

 

Globally, it is estimated that in 2010 between 153 million and 300 million people aged 15-64 (3.4-6.6 per cent of the world’s population in that age group) had used an illicit substance at least once in the previous year. The extent of illicit drug use has thus remained stable, but the estimated 15.5 million-38.6 million problem drug users (almost 12 per cent of illicit drug users), including those with drug dependence and drug-use disorders, remain a particular concern. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), drug abuse costs the United States over $600 billion annually in health care treatments, lost productivity, and crime. Injecting drug use is reported in 148 countries, of which 120 report HIV infection among this population.

 

 

What may start as acceptable social drinking may soon become addictive and turn to alcoholism. Alcoholism is characterised by an increased tolerance of and physical dependence on alcohol, affecting an individual’s ability to control alcohol consumption safely. These characteristics are believed to play a role in impeding an alcoholic’s ability to stop drinking. Similarly, what may start as mere smoking for fun, imitating elders, showing off or because of peer pressure may soon turn the person to be more adventurous and try something which will give him/her the unimagined and the ultimate high. Once the substance is consumed, it becomes a habit and then a permanent addiction for which he/she is prepared to do anything.

 

 

 

Excessive alcohol use has immediate effects that increase the risk of many harmful health conditions including but not limited to unintentional injuries, including traffic injuries, falls, drowning, burns, and unintentional firearm injuries, violence, including intimate partner violence and child maltreatment.  Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases, neurological impairments and a host of social problems.

 

 

The global alcoholic drinks industry is expected to exceed $1 trillion in 2014. Market volume is predicted to reach almost 210 billion litres in 2014, a 10% increase in five years. The EU represents almost 57% of the world alcoholic drinks market. The average Indian today takes his or her first sip of alcohol at the age of 19 compared to 28 in the 1990s. Alcohol industry in India is growing at 11% per annum. During the year 2006-2007, the combined earnings of states from alcohol were estimated at nearly Rs 30,000 crore accounting for over 11.5 per cent of the tax revenues. Liquor was the second largest contributor to the states’ aggregate revenue kitty after sales tax (Rs 1,20,709.15 crore). The reliance on alcohol for revenue generation is a nation-wide phenomenon.

 

 

 

UNDOC and IMF estimate profits derived from illicit drug trafficking worldwide at about $600 billion, or 7.6% of global trade. Up to 1.5 trillion dollars in drug money is laundered through legal enterprises, accounting for 5% of global GDP. Criminal organisations get 70% of their revenue from illicit drug trafficking. The profit margin for drug dealing ranges from 300% to 2,000% tempting them to get involved in the drug trade to obtain the maximum possible profits in the shortest possible time.

 

 

 

Beer advertisements are a significant predictor of an adolescent’s knowledge, preference, and loyalty for beer brands, as well as current drinking behaviour and intentions to drink. Television advertising changes attitudes about drinking and it is accepted that after watching the TV youth have more positive feelings about drinking and their own likelihood to drink increases substantially. In the US alone the alcohol industry spends $2 billion per year on all media advertising.

 

 

 

While some countries like China, Iran, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and Malaysia have immediate death penalty for possession and trading of drugs, in stark contrast there are some countries like Holland and Portugal where it is legal to possess and consume them.  A survey conducted in 2003-2004 by Narcotics Control Bureau found that India has at least four million drug addicts. There are other reports which say the number is now 7.5 crore or more. The most common drugs used in India are cannabis, hashish, opium and heroin.

 

 

 

There is a growing body of scientific evidence that alcoholism has a genetic component, but the actual gene that may cause it has yet to be identified. Studies of laboratory animals as well as human test subjects indicate that genetic factors play a major role in the development of alcoholism, but just how much a factor remains undetermined. If that is the case then all the more reason to ensure that alcohol be out of reach of the vulnerable else you must be prepared to digest statements as “it’s not my fault, it’s in my genes!”

 

 

The Prophet of Islam Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be to him) said:   “Alcohol is the mother of all evils and it is the most shameful of evils.”  (Sunan Ibn-I-Majah ). The Qur’ān warns the believers: “O ye who believe, intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones and (divination by) arrows are an abomination of Satan’s handiwork, eschew such (abomination) that ye may prosper.”[Al-Quran 5:90]. By ensuring total prohibition Islam thus cuts at the root of this heinous evil responsible for so much death and destruction of mankind.

 

 

It is clear that the demand for alcohol and drugs is on the rise. Despite all efforts to curb it by law and educate people about its ill-effects the results are not very encouraging. What then is the solution? It has to be holistic in approach and yet practical and worth implementing. The answer is to make man realise his true position in this world. That he is the vicegerent of God in this universe who will be accountable for all his acts in this world. Only the fear of God and accountability in the Hereafter can motivate a person to mend ways and follow the right track. Mere stringent punishment and education is not enough.



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