Alcohol is fueling an alarming rise in suicide deaths in India amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Date from the National Crime Records Bureau show that,
- Suicide deaths caused by alcohol and other drug use problems have increased by 17% in 2020 compared to the previous year.
- Suicides due to alcohol and other drug use problems account for 6% (9,169) of the total suicide deaths (150,000) in the country. This is a rise from the 5.6% last year.
- One suicide death is caused every hour due to alcohol or other drug use problems.
- Maharashtra and Karnataka states account for over 43% of suicides due to alcohol and other drug use problems.
- Between 2015 and 2020, nearly 40,000 deaths by suicide were caused due to alcohol and other drugs.
- Suicides due to alcohol and other drugs have even rising since 2015.
- The percentage alcohol and other drugs accounted for in total suicides have also been rising from the 2.7% in 2015 to the current 6%.
Psychiatrists and psychologists say that underlying mental conditions amplified by alcohol and other drugs can lead to suicide deaths. Depression and alcohol or other drug use problems can be co-morbid conditions leading to suicide. Long-term alcohol or other drug use can also lead to substance-induced psychosis, which in turn can lead to suicide.
Big Alcohol pursues profits, no matter the harm
The alcohol industry has been lobbying aggressively for increasing alcohol availability, especially through pushing for online alcohol retail and on-demand delivery, despite the heavy cost of alcohol to Indian people. Home delivery of alcohol would increase alcohol availability and increase the burden of alcohol in India.
Big Alcohol unleashed a well-planned lobby campaign pressuring state governments to legalize home delivery of alcohol. This has been a systematic campaign which led some states to trial various online sales methods, including a token system. The lockdowns halted some of these trials.
Currently, India does not have a national alcohol control policy. Instead alcohol policy solutions depend on state governments. As Movendi International previously reported, Indian state governments are subject to an unhealthy dependence on alcohol industry revenue. This means state governments do not usually implement evidence-based public health alcohol policy measures. This dependence is exploited by the alcohol industry to aggressively lobby for industry favorable policies.
In countries such as Australia where alcohol delivery is allowed, the alcohol industry is performing poorly regarding compliance with age limits for alcohol purchases. Concerning on-demand delivery alcohol industry operators routinely fail to ensure that no minors and already intoxicated people are given alcohol.
If India were to allow alcohol delivery the harm would be grave. Already, alcohol’s death toll in India in 2017 was over 580,000, according to the Global Burden of Disease Study. Increased availability through alcohol delivery would drive up alcohol use and related harm and thus would lead to more lives being lost.