Alcohol and tobacco consumption are high among the youth. As media partner for the Youth Health Mela, The Hindu NXg focusses on substance abuse in the last of the series on health and lifestyle.

Alcohol

The consequences of alcoholism and substance abuse today are significantly different from what it was earlier. It is not just a moral issue or a personal decision but a serious health issue threatening the future of millions of youngsters.

The repercussions

Apart from the long list of more than 60 diseases that alcohol consumption directly contributes to, alcohol abuse contributes in a big way to problems like accidents on the road or at the workplace and to the prevalence of HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and sexually transmitted diseases. It also is a barrier to treatment of TB and HIV.

The way alcohol is marketed attracts youth. Naturally, youth and even adolescents who like to experiment and experience fall a prey to the market driven hype. Peer pressure adds to these numbers.

But an extensive study by a panel of health institutions under AIIMS across Indian cities has revealed that even small dosages of alcohol consumption can be harmful and that even moderate drinking can increase the risk of coronary heart disease by 60 per cent.

Another recent preliminary study done by the Department of Community Medicine, Madras Medical College, in about 50 schools in Chennai, found that 11 per cent of students in the 14-16 age group drink alcohol. Certainly, a decision to avoid alcohol is not just a moral decision but a prudent personal one based on risk of consequences to health.

20 per cent of women reported domestic violence (NIMHANS – WHO study)

94.5 per cent of women identified their husband's alcohol consumption as a risk factor in incidents of domestic violence. (NIMHANS – WHO Study)

40 per cent of road accidents were alcohol related (alcohol & drug Information Centre (ADIC)-India)

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Tobacco

It does'nt take rocket science to figure out that smoking is a health hazard. Yet India has the distinction of being the world's second largest tobacco consuming nation.

Tobacco is the single greatest cause of preventable death; it kills 560 people every hour. In India one person dies every 40 seconds. And more than 600,000 people — more than a quarter of them children — who will die from exposure to second-hand smoke. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), tobacco kills more people annually than AIDS, alcohol, other addictions (drugs) and accidents put together. And this figure is expected to rise.

Fifty per cent of cancer deaths, a majority of the cardio-vascular and lung disorders and other related diseases are attributed to tobacco consumption. Smoking doubles cancer risk, triples the odds of dying from tuberculosis or other respiratory disease for women, and more than doubles the risk for men. Cardiovascular risks are also 60 to 70 percent higher among smoking men and women compared to non smokers.

Nicotine reaches the brain within 10 seconds after the smoke is inhaled and can be found in all parts of the body including breast milk.

Every 40 seconds one person dies as a result of tobacco in India. Each person would have died on an average 22.5 years early.

Each cigarette takes away five minutes of your life.

Tobacco smoke contains a deadly mix of more than 7,000 chemicals. Hundreds are toxic. About 70 can cause cancer. Here are some of the chemicals.

Courtesy: Cancer Institute, Chennai

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Cancer-Causing Chemicals

Formaldehyde: Used to embalm dead bodies

Benzene: Found in gasoline

Polonium 210: Radioactive and very toxic

Vinyl chloride: Used to make pipes

Toxic Metals

Chromium: Used to make steel

Arsenic: Used in pesticides

Lead: Once used in paint

Cadmium: Used to make batteries

Poison Gases

Carbon monoxide: Found in car exhausts

Hydrogen cyanide: Used in chemical weapons

Ammonia: Used in household cleaners

Butane: Used in lighter fluid

Toluene: Found in paint thinners

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