18 October 2010
By Priya M Menon
Peer pressure, plenty of pocket money and absentee parents mean the drinking age is dropping
More than 32% of the teens surveyed said they drink when they are upset, 18% said they drink alone, 15% said they drink when they are bored, and 46% said they drink to ‘get high’, according to the survey conducted by Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (Assocham).
Students said they spend 3,500 to 4,500 a year on alcohol, more their combined spending on beverages, movie tickets or books. And 45% said their parents do not know where they go in their spare time, and don’t impose any restrictions.
Dr SV Srikanteswar, consultant psychiatrist, National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences, Bangalore, says they have seen a rise in teenage drinking in the past five years. "We get six to eight cases a month, of which two or three are girls. Parents don’t notice it initially, only when teachers complain about poor grades or there are behavioural changes, do they approach us," he says.
The survey covered more than 2,000 teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 in major cities, including Mumbai, Goa, Kochi, Chennai, Hyderabad, Indore, Patna, Pune, Delhi, Chandigarh and Dehradun. Conducted from July to September, the study observed that consumption of liquor is higher in Delhi and Mumbai, followed by Chandigarh and Hyderabad.
Dr Shanthi Ranganathan, founder, TTK Hospital, Chennai, which has been running de–addiction programmes since 1980, says they are seeing younger people with alcohol dependency. "Earlier, we had people in the 40 to 45 age group. Now we have people under 30 coming to us. We are also seeing more mothers accompanying them; earlier it was mostly wives who came along," she says. Often, when Dr Shanthi and her team trace the case history, they discover that many had their first drink at 16 or 17, usually after the class XII exams to celebrate.
The study findings show that peer pressure is one of the main reasons for early drinking. "The data we collected shows that more young Indians are drinking due to peer pressure, easy spending power and access to alcohol," says DS Rawat, secretary–general, Assocham.
Most teenagers view drinking as a fun pastime, one that replaces lack of after–school activities. Teenage boys are more likely than girls to have had a drink. Alcohol use is also greater among older teens than younger ones (46% vs. 12%).
"Many experts believe alcohol consumption among teens in going up, even in the absence of hardcore scientific data," says Dr Rajat Ray, professor and head, department of psychiatry, All India Institute of Medical Sciences, Delhi.
The survey also indicates that 70% of teens consume alcohol during farewell parties, New Year, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, birthdays and other occasions. One in 10 binge drink or c o n s u m e five or more drinks at a time. Dr Shanthi says 10% to 15% of those who start drinking at the age of 16 run the risk of becoming addicts.
The study says usage of alcohol has resulted in deliberate self–harm, high–risk sexual behaviour, liver disease and duodenal ulcers. Other consequences include academic problems, poor health, mental health problems, accidents and addiction. Talking to your child about responsible drinking could prevent consumption, says the study. "In many cases, there is also a history of family problems or addiction," says Dr Srikanteswar. "Parents need to keep lines of communication open and educate children about ill–effects of drinking."
Most teens between the ages of 15 and 19 in different cities, who took part in the Assocham study, admit to drinking regularly. Boys are more likely than girls to have had a drink Have tried alcohol 65% Have not tried alcohol 20% Have drunk fruit–flavoured alcoholic beverages 45% Reasons: Lack of supervision | Peer pressure | Depression | Easy access to alcohol | Family or academic problems | Stress and poor coping skills
Students spend 3,500 to 4,500 a year on alcohol, more than their combined spending on beverages, movie tickets or books 45% of teens say parents do not know where they go in their spare time, and do not impose any restrictions on them