Saturday, December 17, 2011

Drinking and driving

Alcohol and driving don’t mix. In a flashback to Alex’s drug influenced joyride in A Clockwork Orange, a Pune youth bumped into four people at different points on his late night drive through the city. When chased and caught he was found to be under the influence of alcohol.

In this post we take a look at the effects of alcohol on driving. We have already discussed some of the long term effects that necessitate imposing legal age limits for alcohol consumption in order to mitigate its neurotoxic effects on the developing brain.

30mg% is the legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit for driving. Limits are a safety requirement to counter the adverse effects of alcohol on driving ability. The 30mg% level is often panned as being too low. Most countries have settled at a 50mg% threshold, some at 20mg%, others (considered very liberal) at 80mg%. Lets take a look at the effects on driving at these various blood alcohol concentrations (CDC 2011).

BACEffect on driving
20mg%Visual deficits (problems with tracking of a moving object), Decline in multitasking ability (talking to a passenger while driving)
50mg%Reduced coordination, difficulty steering, increased reaction time for braking by more than a second (Siliquini 2011)
80mg%Problems with concentration, short term memory loss, reduced information processing capacity, impaired perception

How long after drinking alcohol is it safe to drive?
You need to wait at least as many hours as the ‘chota pegs’ (1oz or 30ml) you consumed. Alcohol is digested by the liver. The liver has a fixed capacity to metabolise about 8gms of alcohol in an hour. This is the amount of alcohol in 30ml of whisky, vodka, rum or gin. The equivalent dose is 250ml of beer or a glass (150ml) of wine. Each of these is considered as a ‘unit’ of alcohol.  However, consuming any quantity of alcohol within 6 hours prior to driving is associated with a doubling of the risk for a road traffic accident (Di Bartolomeo 2009). This effect of alcohol is present even at intake of 1-2 units which works out to a BAC of approximately 50mg%.

Blood alcohol levels as low as 20mg% impair driving ability under test conditions in a simulator. At 50mg% the impairments more than double the risk of an accident. The present 30mg% level may be legal but it remains impairing. Better to have a ‘designated driver’ - the person who does not drink for that particular evening. In case you want to we have already studied how to refuse alcohol.
DONT drink alcohol and drive
  1. Anthony Burgess. A Clockwork Orange. 1962. (Various publishers including Penguin)
  2. CDC. Accessed 15-Dec-2011.
  3. Stefano Di Bartolomeo Francesca Valent, Rodolfo Sbrojavacca, Riccardo Marchetti and Fabio Barbone. A case-crossover study of alcohol consumption, meals and the risk of road traffic crashes. BMC Public Health 2009, 9:316 doi:10.1186/1471-2458-9-316
  4. Roberta Siliquini, Fabrizio Bert, Francisco Alonso, Paola Berchialla, Alessandra Colombo, Axel Druart, Marcin Kedzia, Valeria Siliquini, Daniel Vankov, Anita Villerusa, Lamberto Manzoli and TEN-D Group (TEN-D by Night Group). Correlation between driving-related skill and alcohol use in young-adults from six European countries: the TEN-D by Night Project. BMC Public Health 2011, 11:526 doi:10.1186/1471-2458-11-526.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Hope for dementia caregivers - ARDSI Conference Pune 2011

dementia caregivers training

Training for caregivers of persons with Alzheimer's disease helps address the distressing behaviours that arise in the affected person. Caregiver training also promotes wellness in caregivers by giving them the skills to  handle the relentless stress. Unfortunately most caregivers are unaware of the need or the availability of resources. The Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (ARDSI) held its 16th conference in Nov 2011 at Pune. This significant event marked Pune’s arrival on the national dementia caregiver stage. Pune is now the 16th Indian city with an ARDSI chapter of its own. How does this help people with dementia (PwD) and their caregivers? The ARDSI Pune chapter “develops, coordinates and renders services in the field of dementia care, support, and training”.

The training aspect is particularly interesting. Conversations with caregivers at the clinic usually swing around to the day-to-day nitty-gritty of dealing with dementia, the impaired activities of daily living (ADLs) - keeping the person engaged, getting them to bathe, preventing them from wandering. Members of other fully functioning chapters whom I met at the conference animatedly discussed the caregiver training workshops and courses they held on a regular basis. These local courses are exactly what the doctor ordered - education for understanding and hands-on caregiver training.

The Dementia India Report 2010 was extensively quoted by many of the conference speakers. This document has dementia related statistics specifically for India and its states, and is an essential resource to leverage for obtain funds for dementia related activities. It also has details of services available for people with dementia - unfortunately data on support groups is as yet not available.

Caregiver training is a thrust area in dementia management. The 10/66 Dementia Research Group has developed a training package with a set of manuals, detailed instructions and a training video for caregivers and caregiver training. These are available for anyone to download after providing an email id. They provide a template that can be used by any individual or organisation involved in caring for persons with dementia.

The ARDSI conducts two geriatric care training courses; a six month certificate course and a one year post-graduate diploma course at its centre in Cochin. The number of persons with dementia in India is assessed to be 3.7 million in 2010. The ARDSI and similar courses will provide a pool of trained workers to care for the needs of people with dementia and their caregivers. This pool of personnel is not just on paper. The conference was over-booked. Extra seating had to be provided to accommodate the 100+ last minute attendees in the 400 seater main auditorium. Most of them were trainee social workers entering the field in time to meet the growing demand for their services.

  1. 10/66 Dementia Research Group. Resources for caregivers and caregiver trainers
  2. Alzheimer’s and Related Disorders Society of India (2010). The Dementia India Report: prevalence, impact, costs and services for Dementia. (Eds) Shaji KS, Jotheeswaran AT, Girish N, Srikala Bharath, Amit Dias, Meera Pattabiraman and Mathew Varghese. ARDSI, New Delhi. ISBN: 978-81-920341-0-2