Dr Kedar Padte
From Mahabharata to the Bible, Sydney to Lima, or Arctic to Antarctica, alcohol has its place. It is not surprising that alcohol is stored openly in over 90 per cent homes in Europe, and now in over 30 per cent homes across India.
Over 90 per cent parties across the globe, and almost 99 per cent of candle light dinners in plush restaurants start with alcohol.
Banning alcohol would be as easy as banning breath. Given the circumstances, it’s important for pre-teens and teenaged individuals to know a bit about alcohol than the per cent content mentioned on the bottle.
Liqueurs, alcopops, caffeinated alcoholic beverages and fruit laden alcoholic drinks are now freely available.
Distilled drinks such as whiskey, rum, brandy or arrack have a very high content of alcohol as pure alcohol (ethanol) per volume. As such it is important to know the content for it may be dangerous to consume a drink of one type from other.
At most teenage cocktail parties in pubs and metropolitan night outs, there are multiple variants of alcohol used and at times a teenager may go overboard into a life threatening situation without having the knowledge or intention of doing so.
A cocktail expert generally uses gin, whiskey, tequila, rum, vodka, brandy, aperitifs, amari, sparkling wine and variety of juices from lime to ginger and at times pepper and chillies.
Sweeteners, syrups and mint mask the taste of alcohol completely. As such a novice may end up having four or five large pegs and lose consciousness.
So what is the percentage of alcohol that may be safe? Various countries have rules and regulations which do not permit the young to consume alcohol. Though the age ranges from 16 to 24 years across the world, most countries have an age limit of 18 years.
Children party at home with alcohol when parents are out till late. Alcohol abuse amongst children (including girls) has been noted between 9 years and 16 years of age.
Alcohol is metabolised in the liver and eliminated to less than half in about four hours. A blood level of less than 0.05 per cent is considered safe for driving in many countries.
Once the level in blood reaches 0.1 per cent one’s inhibitions are released and the behaviour becomes unruly.
Between 0.1 per cent and 0.15 per cent the person may lose contact with their surrounding and can behave in an extremely clumsy manner with slurred speech and uncontrolled actions.
If in a group or party a number of people have reached this stage physical and sexual assaults are common. Sadly the person assaulted is perhaps the least drunk or even sober.
Though it is the fairer sex that is known to be commonly assaulted, reports of male sexual assaults are also coming up.
With 0.3 per cent alcohol in the blood, a person is close to losing consciousness, anything beyond this level will mean early coma, and 0.75 per cent or more will mean death.
The amount of alcohol in alcoholic beverage units is ‘% above’ (per cent of alcohol by volume) in England, volume % or % volume (volume per cent) in Europe and proof (% ABV x 2) used in the US for example 40% ABV whiskey is 80 proof.
Here are a few positives about alcohol. Some scientists believe that a little alcohol around dinner time is good for you. A small amount every day such as half a drink for women and half drink for men induces good sleep. It can be raise HDL cholestrol that protects the heart and can reduce incidence of diabetes by increasing insulin sensitivity.
Party as you may friends but take a break once you gather speed. Ensure that you party not more than once in a fortnight. Be wise not to cross three large drinks on any given day (100 ml of pure alcohol).
Be vigilant and if you notice anyone losing control drive him or her home (even forcibly) if need be.
(Columnist is a well-known gynaecologist practising in Panaji. Send in your queries to email@example.com)