The dangers of excessive alcohol consumption
Excessive alcohol consumption and under-age drinking are common issues, which almost all countries globally continue to struggle with. The urgent need to raise awareness about the evils of alcohol consumption has been brought up by most National and International bodies during their annual meetings. The World Medical Association recently during its General Assembly launched a declaration, which focuses on reducing excessive alcohol consumption and framing new policies for harm reduction.
Alcohol consumption is a critical challenge that contributes to various social and economic problems. It is the cause of death of over 2.5 million individuals every year (almost 4% of all deaths worldwide), and the third leading risk factor for poor health globally, accounting for 5.5% of disability-adjusted life years lost.
The WMA Statement stresses on the following:
· Chalking out various effective alcohol harm-reduction policies and measures that will target overall alcohol consumption by imposing some legal and regulatory measures
· Innovating new health and social policy interventions that will target high-risk drinkers and other vulnerable groups and the resulting harms
· Strengthening weak alcohol policies and prevention programmes that are ineffective at protecting health and safety, and preventing harm
· Bringing in international public health advocacy and partnerships to strengthen and support the ability of governments and civil society worldwide to commit to, and deliver on, reducing the harmful use of alcohol
· Educating and encouraging health professionals in preventing, treating and mitigating alcohol-related harm, using effective preventive and therapeutic interventions
The World Medical Association has taken a leadership role to encourage and support the development and implementation of evidence-based national alcohol policies by promoting and facilitating partnerships, information exchange and health policy capacity building.
In addition to this, WMA insisted on bringing a transformation in the reform related to alcohol in the countries. These include:
· Increase alcohol prices, through volumetric taxation of products based on their alcohol strength, and other proven pricing mechanisms, to reduce alcohol consumption
· Regulate access and availability of alcohol by limiting the hours and days of sale, the number and location of alcohol outlets and licensed premises, and the imposition of a minimum legal drinking age
· Governments should tax and control the production and consumption of alcohol, with licensing that emphasizes public health and safety and empowers licensing authorities to control the total availability of alcohol in their jurisdictions
· Public authorities must strengthen the prohibition of selling to minors and must systematically request proof of age before alcohol can be purchased in shops or bars
· Practicing alcohol marketing in a restricted way, so as to prevent the early adoption of drinking by young people and to minimise their alcohol consumption
· Imposing regulatory measures ranging from wholesale bans and restrictions on measures that promote excessive consumption, to restrictions on the placement and content of alcohol advertising that is attractive to young people
· Increase public awareness of harmful alcohol consumption through product labeling and public awareness campaigns. Practicing social marketing campaigns to educate the public about harmful alcohol use. Encouraging drink driving policies and regulating health-warning labels on alcohol products, mandated by an independent authorized body
· Key drink-driving deterrents should be implemented like strictly enforced legal maximum blood alcohol concentration for drivers of no more than 50mg/100ml, supported by social marketing campaigns and the power of authorities to impose immediate sanctions
The problem of excessive alcohol consumption is plaguing the entire country and if appropriate measures are not implemented, the number of deaths caused due to alcohol related causes will continue to rise at a high pace. In a country like India, which is home to 1.27 billion people and records one of the highest drinking and driving deaths yearly, stringent laws and checks are a must.