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“Alcohol consumption rate growing at 8 per cent every year”

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PRESENTING A BOUQUET: Actor Y. Gee. Mahendra felicitating Dr. Lakshmi Vijaykumar, HoD and consultant psychiatrist, VHS, at the 17th anniversary celebrations at the Rajaji De-addiction centre in Chennai on Sunday. Dr. N.S. Murali, honorary secretary, VHS, is in the picture.
PRESENTING A BOUQUET: Actor Y. Gee. Mahendra felicitating Dr. Lakshmi Vijaykumar, HoD and consultant psychiatrist, VHS, at the 17th anniversary celebrations at the Rajaji De-addiction centre in Chennai on Sunday. Dr. N.S. Murali, honorary secretary, VHS, is in the picture.

Special Correspondent

CHENNAI: Dealing with problems caused by alcoholism costs three times more than the amount of revenue the government gets from liquor sales, according to Lakshmi Vijaykumar, head of the department of psychiatry at the Voluntary Health Services.

“So many families have been ruined, bodies and minds spoilt. It causes socio-economic problems, debts and depression,” said Dr. Vijaykumar at the 17th anniversary celebrations of the Rajaji Centre for De-addiction at VHS on Sunday. “No government is willing to stop it because they get revenue from it, but the costs are higher.”

Each of the former addicts gathered at the centre, receiving prizes for having managed to stay away from alcohol for anywhere between one and 19 years, could testify to the crippling personal costs of addiction. Actor Y. Gee. Mahendra provided anecdotal evidence of the price that even the rich and famous pay. He told of his conversation with a well-known Tamil film actor who had recently died and who had been an alcoholic throughout the peak years of his career. “He told me that he could not remember anything of the best part of his life. It is only through the praises of others, the TV films that he knew about his own achievements. The only times he could remember were the last few years when he was living through the health problems caused by his drinking habit,” said Mr. Mahendra.

“Whether GDP rate grows or not, the alcohol consumption rate has been growing at 8 per cent every year,” said Dr. Vijaykumar, adding that the age of first exposure to alcohol has dropped to just 15 or 16. An added concern is that rising numbers of women are becoming addicted. “Yes, women should fight for equality, but not in this area. Let women correct the men, not strive to be like them,” said donor Chitra Ramani.

Another donor, writer S. Sivasankari urged each of the recovering addicts and their families to contribute in order to build a vocational training centre for the de-addiction programme by next March.

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