Alcohol Abuse In Indian Women: Is It A Young, Urban Phenomenon?


The debate about the pros and cons of alcohol consumption is hotly challenged all over the world. And the outlook in India mostly isn’t in shades of gray, but often black and white.

Alcohol consumption in any amount was considered a taboo, especially by Indian women. But history has taught us that making something taboo only makes the forbidden fruit more tempting. India is no different.

Alcoholism-in-Women

A recent article in DNA said that,” Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) India has seen a sharp increase in the number of women-most of them in their twenties – attending it’s meetings. Apart from Mumbai, such women-only AA meetings are also being held in Delhi, Pune, Bangalore and Chandigarh, which is another indicator of the fact that more and more women are seeking help”.

Research on drinking patterns among women generally shows that women drink less than men, but not anymore. As modernization has entered the era, women have started drinking equally and maybe even more than their male counterparts.

The social stigma surrounding women drinking is changing and women are going out more and more. Although one may see this as a good thing and consider drinking as a great social catalyst, the concern here is the rapid change in the trends and patterns of alcohol use among Indian women.

A restroom attendant at a five-star hotel reports sloshed teenagers in the ladies restroom, “falling all over each other, lying on the floor and getting sick”. Not a very good sign.

“Our research shows that people in the age group of 18 to 24 years are the largest consumers of beer, and are driving its growth,” affirms Kalyan Ganguly, CEO and president of the breweries division of the Bangalore-based UB Group, which runs 12 breweries today, up from eight just 10 years ago.

And half of this young population consists of girls. This is troubling to say the least. Blame it on rising stress levels, peer pressure or “western influence”, the signs cannot be denied.

A study of drinking habits conducted in Bangalore city reported that a fifth of young people who frequented pubs on weekends were girls aged between 13-19 years. In what could be a sign of changing lifestyles, more and more women are seeking help for problems related to alcohol consumption.

“The situation is alarming,” says Manoj Devanand, the co-founder of the Miracle Foundation in Bangalore, India’s only addiction centre catering for women. “In 2010 there was a 21 per cent jump in cases of alcoholism among young women.”

For those of you who are dismissing this as a limited upper urban class phenomenon, the reality is quite different. Their reasons to indulge in alcohol and their methods may differ, but Indian rural women too, indulge in cheap liquor.

Alcoholism is not just restricted to these two extremes of our society; women belonging to the middle-class are embracing alcohol as never before. The days of women feeling exasperated about the drinking habits of the men in the family are almost gone. Now, any social gathering is incomplete without the flow of liquor.

“Time has changed”, says Mrs.Pai, a career consultant living in Mumbai,” the taboo is non-existent; families stock liquor, drink together and serve happily to guests. Gone are the days when life had a pure air about it. Unfortunately, drinking has become a status symbol and major lifestyle trend today. ”

Apart from the obvious health hazards that alcoholism causes to people, women particularly need to take extra care as the physiological effects of alcohol is different on their body as compared to men.

In the haze of alcohol, inhibition levels are also dropping dangerously low. Booze-induced unprotected sexual flings with strangers are on the rise.

It is disturbing to know that a study by Bangalore-based Freedom Foundation on the number of alcohol-related HIV cases in the city found that 63 of the 90 patients covered had contracted the infection within a year of becoming alcoholic. These included several women.

In this land of Gandhi, the social high-spirit nirvana is starkly visible. One must say though, that alcohol is largely declassing people and breaking down gender barrier as maid servants, house-owners and teenage girls alike are seen queuing up at liquor stores!

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