Lowering the minimum age for drinking or purchasing alcohol to 25 is certainly welcome, yet I feel that the time has come for a complete ban on the sale and purchase of liquor as in some of our states.
Our experience at the Muktangan De-addiction Centre in Pune shows that the age of consumption has come down to 13-14 years. The number of female addicts, too, has increased. The laws about consumption, sale and purchase of alcohol are already in place in the state and the question is about proper implementation by the government.
Even earlier, the law stated that anyone below 25 years of age cannot drink or purchase alcohol. It’s only now that the government has realised the gravity of the situation. However, it’s not clear how it plans to implement it.
There are many challenges involved, as attraction for alcohol is high between 18 and 25 years of age. The government should encourage discussions and invite suggestions from lawyers, de-addiction activists, psychologists and others to draw an action plan to dissuade the young from consuming liquor.
Punishment cannot be a solution. Awareness is more important. Between 14 and 25 years of age, peer pressure is far higher, as also the exposure and attraction to addictions. There is no burden of any responsibility and young students are highly susceptible to falling prey to alcohol.
Our experience at Muktangan also shows that it is difficult for those who get addicted at this age to give up alcohol in later years. Also, those below 25 years of age are reluctant to go for de-addiction. Treatment should be made compulsory for those below 25 years of age who are addicted. Comparatively, those who develop the addiction in middle age voluntarily come for de-addiction.
It is important to catch them young. Young minds are impressionable. During our programmes for school children, we found that even children of 10-12 years know all about alcohol, drugs, etc. Proper modules to create awareness and educational programmes can be developed for youngsters.
Laws and punishments surely help to restrain certain behaviours, but we need to get to the root of the problem.
— A trained clinical psychologist, Mukta Puntambekar is project director at the well-known Muktangan De-addiction Centre, Pune.