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25 May 2024, Edition - 3238, Saturday

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Young aplenty taking to the bottle

Subhashini R


It is always fun when friends get together and reminiscence old times. On one of such day, a friend was animatedly discussing how even teens and adolescents in her college were very open about their drinking, partying and drug habits and how it has become a practice that is no secret even to teachers.

When the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham) conducted a survey about underage drinking, they were met with a shocking figure of 45 per cent. This is more than 2,000 children in major cities like Chennai, Indore, Chandigarh, Hyderabad, Goa and Kochi. To add to the woes, it was also found that those between 13 and 16 drink excessively and it is often five to six times a month.

A teacher and school head told Covai Post that it is hereditary, a habit cultivated watching their father drinking at home, asking the child to bring the bottle, side dishes and even pour a drink. This gives the child a feeling that ‘it is okay to drink’.

B. Raghuveeran who is also a trained counsellor, cited the case of one of his students. The boy, academically challenged was constantly humiliated and compared with his bright sister. This led him to the company of dropouts as friends, urging him to drink to forget his problems. He was in a popular locality in Chennai.

“He turned alcoholic and had to change seven schools in a year after he was sent out because of this habit,” the headmaster said. Fortunately, the boy was rehabilitated. When it comes to children from better off families, social drinking during New Year or holiday parties is when they get the first taste of liquor. The more the friends, the more the occasions for drinking, he said. Movies where alcohol is viewed as a medium for fun are also a bad influence, Raghuveeran points out.

Dr. Anita Rao of TTK Hospitals which has a rehabilitation facility in Chennai expressed her concern about the rising number of girls taking to the bottle, though the ratio compared to boys is 1:2. This is owing to lack of parental control and pride over their child’s ability to drink, sahe says, adding that this rate will go up.

“The younger you are when you start taking alcohol, the more are your chances of being alcoholic. It is proved that alcoholism is a brain disease where genetic background is also a causative factor,” she says.

Around 10 to 20 per cent of social drinkers are bound to become alcoholics. If alcohol affects the decision-making years of 13-23, it can lead to anti-social and psychological issues like violence and, paranoia, she says.

While the law is strict, society and its perspective shape how we look at underage drinking.

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