Alcoholic Anonymous is holding an international convention from 12th to 14th November at Ravindra Bhawan Margao to celebrate 75 years of its existence worldwide.
Alcoholic Anonymous is an organization that is not affiliated to any denomination or establishment but is an independent organization created to help those who have a problem with drinking alcohol. “We do not brand anybody nor do we ask any questions but are there to help anybody who wants help with his drinking problem,” said S K Bhalla Chairman of Alcoholics Anonymous (India).
He also pointed out that AA does not put any restrictions or any code on those joining them but only take the word of the member to be the truth. “If he joined us saying that he is an alcoholic and we believed him then we believe him when he says that he is sober too,” he said.
However, he admitted that alcoholics who turn to sobriety do slip and often also relapse. While slip is having a drink once a relapse would be going back to having drinks.
Dr Ashish Deshpande, a psychiatrist and Class ‘A’ Trustee of Alcoholic Anonymous (India) explained that alcoholism is a exposure dependent polygenic disease that involves multiple genes which is also genetic and can blow up as and when there is an exposure to alcohol. “While there are higher chances of an alcoholic’s child becoming a alcoholic it need not necessarily be the norm,” he clarified.
Alcoholics, he said display certain patterns of drinking like lack of control over the frequency and quantity of alcohol consumption, impulsive behavior and subsequent guilt. “Change in personality, irresponsible behavior, deterioration of functional ability and biological changes like getting the shivers are consequences of alcoholism,” he said.
Quoting a study undertaken in Goa by Dr. Gladstone D’Costa along with others that was published in 2006, he said a little over 45 per cent of Goans were alcohol consumers. Worldwide, the general accepted norm is that 5 to 8 per cent of the consumers run the risk of turning alcoholic. “However given the fact that alcohol consumption is accepted by the Goan society and also as alcohol is cheaper here, the chances of 10 per cent of the consumers turning alcoholic is quite high,” he said opining that it would be safe to presume that one lakh of Goans are alcoholics.
He explained that 40 per cent of the neurons in the brain have to be stimulated to feel the high of alcohol consumption and further said that receptors that are formed from consuming alcohol determine the consumption patterns.
While in some cases, if the person stops consumption of alcohol, the receptors are thrown out, in some they persist and they increase with every subsequent consumption of alcohol and that is how the disease takes over, he said.
When Alcohol Anonymous started 75 years back, it was the medical fraternity that helped them as the care centres were managed by nuns they too supported their activities. However, the Church came out strongly in support of the Alcoholic Anonymous and in Europe and India churches were asked to help Alcoholic Anonymous to start their activities whenever they approached. That is the reason why many of the Alcoholic Anonymous groups meet in church or church owned premises in Goa, though it does not inhibit people of other religion to attend these meetings, said Dr. Deshpande.
Incidentally, there are around 70 registered Alcoholic Anonymous groups in Goa of which 65 are functional.