Even trying to drink in moderation is difficult given the addictive power of the drug

Nov. 13, 2011, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol.: 05 No.-09 Nov. 11-2011 (Kartik 25,2068)<br>

Alcohol abuse is tremendous in our country, and one of the reasons is that it is easily available in many shops. Checking whether or not shops have license or not to sell alcohol happens only sporadically in our country; and you can be sure when they do check, there is selective application of the law. Not everyone is checked, and even when there is a check made, there are clear cut guidelines for escaping the penalty. Many people after a hard days work may feel a need to drink alcohol. But are there any suggestions for drinking sensibly?

Many people including doctors do not know what in terms of quantity  comprises a single drink. In order to know what is alcohol abuse, it is important to know how a drink is defined. We can broadly categorize drinks in three groups: beer, spirits  ( whisky, rum, vodka, gin) and wine. The regular alcohol content is about 5 % in beer, 40 % in spirits and 12 % in wine.About 350 ml of beer ( one regular can), about 150 ml of wine ( about two thirds of a regular wine glass, not “bhari”), and 45 ml of spirits ( not a “Patiala” peg)  each comprise one drink.

Based on these figures, a healthy man without any contraindications to alcohol drinking may have 2 drinks per day and for a healthy, non pregnant woman it is one drink per day. Or the quantity should not be more than 14 drinks per week for men and 7 drinks per week for women. (Because women metabolize alcohol differently, the guidelines differ for them.) Anything more than this is potentially alcohol abuse which may lead to problems. What about all the news about alcohol being good for you?

Drinking like most things in life is a two edged sword. There is some good evidence to show that moderate alcohol consumption may be cardioprotective. There is no question the “ananda” factor in any party is enhanced with alcohol. This is easy to note when you invite people and check the turnout between an invitation that reads drinks and dinner or just dinner.All the people that drink are certainly not alcoholics. But there is no question the potential abuse for alcohol is great. Homicides, liver diseases, cancer, strokes, some heart diseases are all problems well associated with alcohol.

During Dasain and Tihar hospital admission always rise for gastrointestinal bleeding. One of the ill effects of alcohol( and you don’t have to an alcoholic for this) is that it causes stomach irritation and sometimes ulcer formation which leads to intestinal bleeding. This is a life threatening problem as people can bleed to death so they need urgent therapy which may include blood transfusion. 

Even trying to drink in moderation is difficult given the addictive power of the drug. Importantly, being able to “hold your drink” is no protection against the ill effects of alcohol.

People who are teetotallers should certainly not start drinking now based on what they have read in the papers about alcohol being good for you. By the same token, healthy adults who drink according to the above guidelines and have no contraindications need not necessarily stop drinking because their mother in law does not like them to drink.



Buddha Basnyat.jpg

Buddha Basnyat MD

Buddha Basnyat, MD, MSc, FACP, FRCP, Director of the Oxford University Clinical Research Unit-Patan Academy of Health Sciences, Kathmandu.

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