Thursday, January 24, 2013

Irresponsible Drinking & Regulation

irresponsible drinking
Irresponsible drinking requires regulation to modulate its potential for harm. There are specific neurotoxic effects of alcohol drinking. The responsible individual needs to learn personal skills to refuse alcohol drinking when required to do so. The potential harm to society with irresponsible drinking and driving necessitates regulation at a societal level.

Regulating irresponsible drinking

Alcohol drinking and driving in Pune over New  Year's eve was markedly reduced as compared to last year. This year 145 drunk driving arrests were made as against 252 last year. This reduction was despite an increase in the total number of  arrests made in Pune for irresponsible drinking and driving in 2012 as compared to the previous year. The heightened deployment of police personnel manning 30 prominent points of the Pune roads on New Year's eve was apparently deterrent enough.

Alcohol drinking and liquor sales were down by 20-30% in September 2012 following a police raid on an unlicensed rural Pune nightspot. The uproar by its patrons and subsequent police action on liquor retailers and other restaurants resulted in the Pune District Wine Traders Association lamenting the impact of plunging alcohol sales at premium outlets and lounge bars.

Is regulation effective?

The effects of regulating alcohol drinking have been specifically studied.
  • In Kentucky — the birthplace of bourbon whiskey and the home of many distilleries — dry districts had less alcohol-related auto accidents and drunk driving arrests. This should cheer the citizens of Chandrapur which will be the third district in Maharashtra state to go dry in a bid to curb irresponsible drinking.
  • In Alaska, isolated villages that prohibited alcohol had lower rates of serious injury resulting from assault, and motor vehicle collisions. A local police presence in these dry villages further reduced the incidence of assault
Regulation of alcohol drinking is effective and necessary. It provides a deterrence to irresponsible drinking and illegal distribution of alcohol. Alcoholism treatment financially benefits the family. Regulating alcohol drinking works to benefit society.

  1. Darryl S. Wood, Paul J. Gruenewal. Local alcohol prohibition, police presence and serious injury in isolated Alaska Native villages. Article first published online: 27 FEB 2006 DOI: 10.1111/j.1360-0443.2006.01347.x
  2. Wilson RW, Niva G, Nicholson T. Prohibition revisited: county alcohol control consequences. J Ky Med Assoc. 1993 Jan;91(1):9-12.

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.