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Alcoholism, social problems and inefficient state policy


Alcoholism is a social problem. Its roots must be sought not only in the imperfection of medical therapies for the treatment of patients, but above all in the inefficiency of state’s social policy and the inconsistency of legislation.

By Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh

According to several university surveys, about 11 million children under the age of 18 live with an alcoholic parent. Living with an alcoholic parent is a situation that results in lifelong complications like a higher risk for developing alcohol or substance use disorders. Alcoholism is a condition that develops over time as someone continues to abuse alcohol. The result of alcoholism is the inability to control the urge to drink alcohol. While alcoholism has a significant effect on children it also strains intimate relationships with partners or spouses. Alcohol is not the sole factor but it’s reported that alcohol is involved in 55% of domestic abuse situations. Additionally, alcohol affects one’s ability to maintain steady work, ensure stability, security, or care for themselves or others in their household adequately. All of these factors strain families.

Alcoholism is a colloquial term that refers to the different types of alcohol use disorders. Alcohol use disorders range from mild to severe and include alcohol abuse, alcohol dependence, and alcohol addiction. Alcoholism is a serious disorder that affects anyone regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, and background. Additionally, alcoholism has the potential to hurt many aspects of life. Aspects of life include security/safety, personal relationships, physical health, and mental health. So what is alcoholism? Ultimately, it’s an addiction to abusing alcohol. Within the household, alcoholism affects the relationships between parents, children, siblings, and spouses. Children of alcoholics are at an increased risk of developing PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). A significant number of children may be expected to act as a caretaker for intoxicated parents. While not all alcoholics are or will be physically violent, alcohol and anger can cause several potentially dangerous situations that may lead to an increased risk for physical or verbal abuse. Additionally, there is a risk that children may blame themselves or be blamed for their parent’s condition.

For the spouses or partners of alcoholics, there is also an increased risk of experiencing or developing trauma. Often times, spouses or partners feel responsible for their partner’s drinking problem. In more severe cases where domestic abuse or violence is involved, partners may hide their abuse from those around them. Typically pressure on the sober partners to support the family increases. Pressure may be social, emotionally or even financially. Additionally, there is an increased risk for other marital problems like fighting, infidelity, physical or verbal abuses, sexual abuse, unplanned pregnancies, divorce and codependency. Alcoholism impacts every family in a unique way. While some signs of alcoholism are obvious, others are not. Alcoholism has several effects on the family. Different members of the family being alcoholics will often cause different problems. For example, alcoholic parents make life difficult for children but alcoholic children make life difficult for the parents. Alcoholism affects families in damaged relationship, developmental issues, and domestic abuse. Alcoholic parents and children may drain family finance and physical as well as mental health of family members will decline.

Children and partners may feel responsible for a parent, spouse, partner, or even child who is suffering from alcoholism. This has the potential to cause feelings of regret, resentment, loss of trust, codependency, emotional issues, and trauma. The experiences that family members have when living with someone who is suffering from alcoholism can put increased stress on the relationship at hand, or even end the relationship. Children who grow up in a household where one or both parents are suffering from alcoholism face an increased risk of developing trauma disorders. These include being forced to mature, emotional or social problems, aggression, and increased risk for substance abuse or hyperactivity. These children may also feel as though their sole role in the household is to act as a caretaker, or that they are responsible for taking care of other (possibly younger) siblings in the household. All of these aspects lead to a lack of healthy coping mechanisms or a feeling of loss. Children with developmental issues or disabilities have a higher risk for substance abuse. Unfortunately, the risk increases when a parent is suffering from alcoholism. Additionally, there may be feelings of resentment towards the child on the part of the parent, regardless of whether or not the developmental issues are a direct result of their actions. When a mother drinks during pregnancy, there is a high risk for the child being born with or developing developmental issues such as fetal alcohol syndrome. Children with fetal alcohol syndrome often require a higher level of attention and assistance throughout their life and may struggle with physical or mental ailments or disabilities. For these children, living with a parent who is suffering from alcoholism may result in their basic or additional needs not being met adequately. Domestic abuse is a pattern of behavior where one partner attempts to gain power or maintain control over the other. Abuse is often physical, sexual, verbal, social, or financial. It’s crucial to acknowledge that domestic abuse occurs in any relationship, whether or not one or both partners are suffering from any type of alcohol or substance abuse. There is no concrete evidence that suggests alcoholism directly causes or results in domestic abuse. Additionally, alcoholism is never the sole cause of a domestic abuse situation as it is often a prolonged pattern of behaviors. If you are struggling with domestic abuse, please seek help or assistance immediately. The National Crisis Hotline is 8793088814.

It’s also reported that in roughly 55% of domestic abuse cases, the perpetrator has consumed alcohol before the assault. While not definitive, those who are suffering from an alcohol use disorder are often more prone to anger, memory issues, and lack of judgment which may lead to cases of domestic abuse. There are higher odds for abuse in a relationship if one or both partners are dependent on alcohol. Women who are abused are 15 times more likely to develop an alcohol use disorder in response to patterns of abuse perpetrated against them. Alcoholism, like other substance use disorders, is an expensive habit to maintain. Alcohol prices, coupled with the increased risk of job instability that many alcoholics face, puts a financial strain on households. Alcoholism often refers to anything over 8 drinks a week, or 3 drinks a day, for women or 15 drinks a week, 4 drinks a day, for men. Depending on what type of alcohol someone is drinking, moderate estimates range between Rs.400-1000 per month being spent on alcohol. As mentioned, many alcoholics face additional struggles such as job instability. With this, there may be strained finances, housing instability, or basic needs being neglected as a result of the disorder. In severe cases, alcoholism can result in several additional expenses. It’s often hard to recover from the financial problems of alcohol because of the career instability alcoholism creates. Alcoholism results in a significant number of medical problems including anemia, cirrhosis, cancer, seizures, and high blood pressure. All of these conditions result in an increased need for treatment and medical bills. These costs further the potential financial strain someone experiences when abusing alcohol. Cirrhosis, scarring of the liver and other types of liver damage are major concerns for those who are suffering from alcoholism. Those who are being treated for pre-existing or new medical issues with medications may have added complications due to drug interactions with alcohol. If you’re taking medication read the information available. Also, consult with a healthcare professional to see the potential side effects and dangers of mixing the medication with alcohol. Unfortunately, many interactions between alcohol and medication are fatal.  While less often discussed, alcoholism is often a comorbid disorder and may be used as a coping mechanism for the unpleasant side effects of untreated psychiatric conditions such as unresolved trauma, PTSD, depression, or anxiety. In cases where alcoholism causes someone to neglect their responsibilities, duties, or basic needs, medical and psychiatric concerns compound to create more complex problems. These problems often seem daunting or impossible to manage.

Alcoholism is a social problem so its roots must be sought not only in the imperfection of medical therapies for the treatment of patients, but above all in the inefficiency of state social policy and the inconsistency of legislation The most effective are the following governmental policies: reducing the number of places of sale of alcohol; increasing of prices on alcoholic beverages; regulation of sale hours of alcoholic beverages; increasing the age of alcohol purchase allowance. These policies will be effective, given the widespread promotion of healthy lifestyle, intolerance of excessive alcohol consumption, compliance with the laws entrusted to the entities in charge of controlling functions, the inevitability of liability for violation of anti-alcohol legislation in the form of fines and revocation of licenses.

(Writer can be reached at [email protected])

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