Bengaluru: Alcohol addiction is soaring with more youngsters falling prey. Despite the minimum legal age for drinking being 21 years, a major population of the youth is getting addicted to alcohol. The easy availability of liquor, access to alcohol at home, peer pressure and associated lifestyle have contributed to underaged youngsters hitting the bottle. A study also states that excessive drinking in adolescence may have an effect on short-term memory.
“Ease of availability of alcohol in open counters with no proper rules and regulations by the government is the reason for such addiction among youth,” said Nagasimha G. Rao of the Child Rights Trust.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 30 percent of India’s population consumes alcohol regularly.
Explaining its effects on health, Dr Rajeev Sinha, Liver and HPB Surgeon, Narayana Health City, said, “The effects of alcohol on an individual could be short and long term. Short-term effect is a result of binge drinking which leads to blackouts and temporary memory loss. Long-term effects are physiological changes in the brain and atrophy which in turn leads to dementia. In addition, it leads to a significant damage to the brain, like tremors, instability and memory loss.”
He said that Narayana Health sees at least 50 cases in a month and they have carried out transplants for patients as young as 25 years old.
As per a recent amendment to the Juvenile Justice Bill 2015, sale of liquor to minors is a criminal offence punishable with a seven-year jail term. Also, in 2015 the drinking age was raised from 18 years to 21 years under the Karnataka Excise Licences Rules, 1967. Ninge Gowda, owner of Tejas Bar, said, “There are minors who come asking for alcohol in the evenings and Sundays. But we don’t sell it as we can make out that they are minors. But they go to other stores who sell it despite the ban.”
Dr Shalini Joshi, Senior Consultant – Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital, said, “Youngsters are fast shedding their inhibition for alcohol and making it a lifestyle choice. This results in serious health issues, including liver problem and high blood pressure. There are numerous bars, pubs and night clubs that serve alcohol without checking IDs.”
Experts said drinking has now become a habit and there is peer pressure on youngsters to take it up at a very early age. The ban should be implemented strictly, otherwise this will continue, warned Mr Rao.