Beware of excessive binge drinking | Sunday Observer
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Beware of excessive binge drinking

19 December, 2021

The rumours that the ban on sale of alcohol may be lifted for the festive season due to demands from the tourist industry, has drawn protests from the clergy , health officials as well as a cross section of anti-alcohol activists . As no firm decision on this matter has still been taken, the Sunday Observer sought the views of Emeritus Professor of Forensic Medicine and Toxicology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo Dr Ravindra Fernando who has long spearheaded the campaign to make Sri Lanka an alcohol free country as a former member of the National Drugs Control Board.

Did he think any decision to allow alcohol to be sold by registered dealers approved by the Excise Dept. for the festive season a wise move?

His reply was an emphatic No. “Not one day or even one hour”.

Asked why he said, “It can lead to binge drinking with people stocking up for after the season as well. Excessive alcohol use has immediate effects that increase the risk of many harmful health conditions. These are most often the result of binge drinking.”

To our query on the harmful health effects it had on our bodies and the related diseases it could cause he said, “There are short term and long terms health effects. High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems are caused by chronic alcohol drinking. Alcohol can cause cancer of the breast, mouth, throat, esophagus, voice box, liver, colon, and rectum. By weakening of the immune system, alcohol increases the chances of getting sick. There can be learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school performance in children. It can also cause miscarriage and stillbirth or fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) among pregnant women” he warned.

He said that the effects were not always visible. “Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety, can be a result of alcohol. Social problems, including family problems, job-related problems, and unemployment are the other results of alcohol. ”

Alcohol use disorders and alcohol dependence is long term effect of alcohol, he said.

Commenting on the recent surge in injuries reported by the accident service he said many of them were associated with alcohol usage. “Injuries, such as motor vehicle crashes, falls, drowning, and burns are common in alcohol drinkers. Violence, including homicide, suicide, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence, risky sexual behaviour, including unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners, are common among alcoholics. These behaviours can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV. “, he said.

Asked to explain some of the symptoms of excessive alcohol to look out for , he said,

“Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic liver disease, especially cirrhosis. Cirrhosis is a late-stage liver disease in which healthy liver tissue is replaced with scar tissue and the liver is permanently damaged. Scar tissue keeps your liver from working properly. The liver is very resilient and capable of regenerating itself. Each time your liver filters alcohol, some of the liver cells die. The liver can develop new cells, but prolonged alcohol misuse (drinking too much) over many years can reduce its ability to regenerate. “

On early warning signs he said, “Watch out for fatigue, easily bleeding or bruising, loss of appetite, nausea, swelling in your legs, feet or ankles (oedema), weight loss, itchy skin and yellow discoloration in the skin and eyes (jaundice).”

In his message to all those tempted to indulge in alcohol and drive on the streets, he urged them “ Do not drink and drive this festive season. . Besides being arrested by the Police and charged, you may meet with serious or even fatal accidents while putting others’ lives in danger. ”