'Deaddiction is a process not an event; it has hiccups, but it is vital for addicts to win back their lives'

‘Meri Pyaari Zindagi’ is a collaborative effort between Gaon Connection and the World Health Organization which throws the spotlight on alcoholism. In the concluding segment healthcare workers, and psychiatrists speak on de addiction and what it takes for the addict to steer clear of alcohol hereafter.

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Deaddiction is a process not an event; it has hiccups, but it is vital for addicts to win back their lives

On the face of it, a gulp of beer or a sip of whiskey might seem to be a simple act of enjoying life in all its colours but ever wondered why and how some people fall prey to the lurking danger of alcohol addiction?

When Gaon Connection posed this question to experts on deaddiction, it was learnt that a troika of biology, psychology and sociology is collectively responsible for alcoholism. The experts unanimously stated that de-addiction is not a single event but a multi-staged process which needs patience.

Concluding the series titled Meri Pyaari Zindagi, an awareness campaign launched jointly by the World Health Organisation Regional Office for South-East Asia (SEARO) and Gaon Connection, is a short film in which medical professionals and psychiatrists speak of alcoholism and how to prevent it, as well as the deaddiction procedure

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"Alcohol addiction begins with a dopamine rush. Dopamine is a chemical which gives a happy sensation to the brain and it is naturally produced in the body when we do something which satisfies our reward mechanism. Exercise, yoga, dance and listening to music are the kinds of activities that release dopamine in our bodies," Rashmi Shukla, assistant professor at the department of psychiatry at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Raebarelli told Gaon Connection.

"Alcohol has a tendency to disturb the dopamine production inside our bodies and a person who consumes alcohol regularly begins to use it to find happiness which he would otherwise attain from healthier activities,"she added.

Triple edged sword, five layered cuts

Amit Arya, additional professor at Lucknow-based King George's Medical University's department of psychiatry said that the tendency of alcohol to enslave a person's conscience and drive him or her towards addiction stems from its ability to operate at three levels — psychological, biological and sociological.

"Alcohol not only damages health but also scars the psyche of an addict which eventually has a sociological impact. The only way to gauge if a person is addicted and needs medical aid is to look out for five implications of his or her dependence on alcohol — physical harm, psychological harm, familial or social harm, legal harm and fifthly financial or occupational harm," the doctor said.

"If these signs manifest themselves in a person, it is a sure shot warning sign that alcohol has taken over the person's conscience and medical aid should be provided at the earliest," he added.

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A curable mental disorder

Adarsh Tripathi, additional professor at KGMU's department of psychiatry told Gaon Connection that alcoholism is more of a mental disorder and it is completely curable provided the patient cooperates and has a strong will to quit drinking.

"Rehabilitation centres and medicinal treatment is at times crucial for a person who is addicted to alcohol to come out of this injurious condition. The government rehab centres are equipped with the facilities to ensure that the patient gets proper care and doesn't face abuse or discrimination," Tripathi said.

He also pointed out that at times the urge to drink is too strong to be dealt with only counselling. "In such conditions, we have medications which curb the urge of a patient to resort to drinking," the doctor explained.

When asked about the possibility of relapse by former addicts, the doctor stated that a continuous treatment is crucial to nullify the possibility of relapse.

Adding to the discourse, Rashmi Shukla said that behavioural therapy and motivation are vital to ensure that the patient doesn't resume drinking after a gap.

"Even when the patient is detoxified and stabilised, the treatment isn't over. Activities like group counselling and motivation are important to ensure long term riddance from alcohol. Group counselling of alcohol addicts ensures that these patients relate with others and feel that they are not the only ones going through this suffering," Shukla said.

Alcohol consumption on the rise

According to the WHO's Global status report on alcohol and health 2018, total alcohol per capita consumption in the world's population over 15 years of age rose from 5.5 litres of pure alcohol in 2005 to 6.4 litres in 2010 and was still at the level of 6.4 litres in 2016.

Whereas in the WHO African Region, the Region of the Americas and the Eastern Mediterranean Region, alcohol per capita consumption remained stable, in the European Region it decreased from 12.3 litres in 2005 to 9.8 litres in 2016. The increase in per capita alcohol consumption is observed in the WHO Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions,where India is one of the countries.

Alcohol per capita consumption increased in the WHO Western Pacific and South-East Asia regions. These regions include the highly populated countries of China and India, which account for the increases (China: 4.1 litres, 7.1 litres and 7.2 litres in 2005, 2010 and 2016 respectively; India: 2.4 litres, 4.3 litres and 5.7 litres in 2005, 2010 and 2016 respectively).

According to WHO's 2018 report, by 2025, total alcohol per capita consumption in persons aged 15 years and older is projected to increase in the Americas, South-East Asia and the Western Pacific.

The report warns that "the highest increase is expected in the South-East Asia Region, with an increase of 2.2 litres alone in India which represents a large proportion of the total population in this region."

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