Spread awareness about alcoholism in schools. It is never too soon to sensitise kids about its dangers, say those who have been closely associated with the problem.

More than a 100 under-age kids were caught drinking and smoking at a pub in Gurgaon, near Delhi, recently. The pub was allegedly booked by a school student for the evening and its owner and manager were hauled up for entertaining the minor. But news reports suggest that these parties are routine where children from affluent homes and studying in reputed schools freely smoke and drink. Delhi and Gurgaon may be far away, but it is not inconceivable that children in Tamil Nadu are doing the same.

Drinking has become acceptable in many conservative homes; adults send their children to liquor shops to buy their daily tipple; affluence, little parental control and broken homes are some of the other issues that lead young people to liquor. Parents, teachers and Governmental agencies need to address the problem before it gets out of hand. Studies suggest that Asians are more prone to alcoholism. Drinking reduces inhibitions. It becomes easier to break the law. Directly or indirectly, it leads to crimes against women and traffic accidents.

K. Srinivas

Recovering alcoholic

Liquor, by law, cannot be sold to the under-aged. But does anyone care? We as a society are de-sensitised. Those who sell liquor are unscrupulous. What do they care if children are buying alcohol? I was hooked when I was 19. It was rebellion and peer pressure. For the first few years, it even worked for me. It provided a boost to my relationships and in my business, but after that, it was downhill all the way. No one told me that it was okay to say NO. I now speak to students in schools about what alcohol addiction can do to a person.

Dr. C. Ramasubramanian (CRS)

Founder, Chellamuthu Trust and Research Foundation, Madurai, which works with mental health issues and rehabilitation

Alcoholism is a social problem. Pinning the blame on the individual, the parent or the school is not the answer. Coordination between the education department, the health department and the police would be one effective way of curbing alcoholism in young people. Addictions are treatable, curable and preventable IF identified early. Along with students, even parents and teachers should be sensitised to the issue. They are the most important people in a child’s life.

K.S.P. Janardhan Babu

Director-programme, Chellamuthu Trust

Every school ought to have a counsellor who the parents and the students can approach for help and guidance. Attitudes should change. Alcoholism is a trap. Peer pressure and an overdose of western culture that doesn’t sit well in our kind of lives, along with lack of role models and absence of love at home drive children to alcohol and narcotics.

Seshadri Venkatesan

Director-operations, National Adventure and Leadership School, the Nilgiris

NALS holds regular outdoor workshops for corporates, schools and colleges. It has also conducted adventure rejuvenation programme for alcoholics. I never lose the opportunity to tell kids to say NO to alcohol, tobacco and drugs. And, surprisingly, they listen closely when we tell them about its bad effects. Recently, some kids who had come to an adventure camp went back to their school and took a pledge to abstain from alcohol, smoking and narcotics. If they are told about the dangers early enough and motivated to stay away from drink, tobacco and drugs, it will definitely have an impact.

The dangers

Lack of awareness: About how dangerous alcohol addiction can be

Easy accessibility to alcohol: There are liquor shops everywhere, many of them in the neighbourhood of schools (a ridiculous rule that makes it okay for a TASMAC shop to be within a couple of hundred meters from an educational institution)

Fashion statement: Cinema and advertisements have made it fashionable to be seen with a drink. It is seen as a status symbol. It gets worse when celebrities and sporting idols endorse alcohol.

Low threshold of psychological tolerance: When adults at home reach out for a drink in order to ‘relax’ or ‘de-stress,’ children think it is acceptable to do the same.

Change in the social fabric: Adults drink freely in front of their children. So, there is a social sanction to it.

Unfavourable environment: Alcoholic parents at home.

Peer influence: Teenagers find it particularly difficult to say ‘no’ to a drink when forced by their friends.

Instant gratification: Youngsters are easily bored and seek constant thrills.

Parental neglect: Parents invest a lot of money in their children but not the time. They feel that their job is done once the child has been admitted to a ‘good’ school.