In just over a decade (2005-2016), per capita alcohol consumption in India more than doubled from 2.4 litres to 5.7 litres, a new study by the World Health organization has found. The total per capita alcohol consumption is likely to increase in half of the WHO regions by 2015, with the largest increase predicted for South East Asia Region. Given India represents a large chunk of the total population in this WHO region, it is likely that it will also account for a significant volume—an estimated increase of 2.2 litres—of the overall increase in consumption in the region. The harmful use of alcohol is a primary causal factor in more than 200 diseases, the WHO report states. There are also significant social costs, in terms of violence against women, and economic costs, in terms of public healthcare burden arising out of alcohol dependence, lost productivity, etc.
Given India’s federal governance structure, part of the problem is that there are no central measures to curb alcohol abuse. While the legal of age of drinking in most states is 25, in some for certain drinks, the legal age is 18, meaning that much of a lead in addiction development. Some states tax alcohol more than others in a bid to curb consumption, while some, like Bihar and Kerala, have experimented with prohibition. But, these have mostly been counter-productive, encouraging boot-legging and substitution with narcotic and psychotropic substances. The states must work on developing better awareness programmes and more de-addiction centres—given the paucity of de-addiction centres, many addicts and their families are simply left to their fate.