Unlike in the West, documentation on the overall effects of alcohol, has been poor in India. Its increasing availability and use in the last decade has also brought myriad problems affecting both the individual and society. Efforts to tackle the problem have been piecemeal and fragmented resulting in lack of direction and focus.

Health Consequences

  • Despite the use of alcohol and its increasing consumption over decades, the health consequences of alcohol have not been comprehensively documented in India due to the absence of good reporting systems and surveillance procedures. The available evidence is from individual studies in isolated areas based on the specific interests of the researchers. However, more certain evidence is gradually emerging.
  • It is clearly known that alcohol contributes to more than 60 different health conditions in any given society. The combined impact has not been clearly assessed.
  • Based on the available data, it can be estimated that alcohol contributes to a substantial proportion of mortality, the precise estimates of which are not clearly known (approximately 15% – 20% of premature mortality in men). The previous estimates of mortality attributed to alcohol are probably underestimates due to inadequate reporting systems.
  • Alcohol users have a higher incidence of mortality, hospitalization and disabilities due to injuries. Nearly one third of nighttime road traffic injuries and deaths can be attributed to alcohol use. Suicides have been linked to alcohol consumption (both by indirect and direct effects) and contributes to nearly one fourth of total events. About one fourth of violence, abuse against women and children has been linked to chronic alcohol use.
  • Limited studies conducted on Stroke in India have established the role of alcohol as a causative factor. Among the hospitalized stroke patients, long-term alcohol use has been recorded in 25% of total subjects.
  • The linkages of alcohol use to specific types of cancer in the Indian region have been well- established. Combined with tobacco consumption, in various forms, alcohol use has been linked to cancer of the respiratory tract, gastro-intestinal system and other conditions.
  • A significant relationship has been established between alcohol use, risky sexual behavior and increased risk of HIV-AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases as sex associated with alcohol is more often associated with no protection and multiple sex partners.
  • Nearly half of the deaths due to liver cirrhosis has been linked to chronic alcohol use as suggested by hospital-based studies.
  • Alcohol has an intimate relationship with nutrition-related disorders at both ends of the spectrum for under nutrition and obesity through multiple mechanisms.
  • Apart from the linkage of alcohol to certain neuropsychiatric conditions such as delirium tremens and alcohol hallucinations, it is also a co-morbid condition with several other psychiatric illnesses including, schizophrenia.
  • Alcohol dependents constitute a major burden in majority of the health care settings at secondary and tertiary levels.
  • The health effects of alcohol on women are gradually beginning to emerge with growing alcohol consumption among women.