Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Experts report sharp rise in alcohol-related mental disorders

Alcohol-related mental health disorders are on the rise, experts warn. The number of patients admitted to Yangon Mental Health Hospital has risen more than 60 percent – from 1600 to 2600 a year – since 2008, says the hospital’s medical superintendent Dr Kyaw Soe.

And already this year the hospital has received about 2500 patients, he said. “The number increased by about 1000 patients during these past five years,” he said.

Problems associated with heavy drinking include dependence, withdrawal symptoms, derangement, depression, brain damage and serious memory loss.

Some experts say alcohol-related disorders are rising because people have easier access to booze.

“In our society, social drinking seems to have become normal. This, I think, could develop into daily drinking and drinking-related problems,” Dr Soe Min, a senior consultant psychiatrist, told The Myanmar Times.

“Some people drink alcohol if they have social stress or other problems. This also could develop [into problem] drinking.”

A 2009 WHO survey of the risk factors for chronic diseases in Myanmar showed that about 12.9pc of the population drink alcohol, including 31.2pc of men and 1.5pc of women. Among the drinkers, about 15.7pc consumed alcohol on a daily basis and 35.9pc drank alcohol less than once a month.

The survey was conducted on more than 7000 people between 15 and 64 years of age, and represents an increase on 2005, when the WHO put the percentage of drinkers in Myanmar at 7.2-7.4pc of men and 4.4pc of women.

Experts said that because of this growing consumption they anticipate further increases in alcohol-related mental disorders in coming years.

“For this year until the end of August, we have nearly 2500 patients with alcohol-related disorders. We think this rate will break the previous year’s record,” said Dr Kyaw Soe.

“We receive at least 300 alcohol-related patients per month,” he said. “Patients with alcohol-related disorders are much more numerous than other patients with mental disorders.”

Calling for an immediate response to the problem, Dr Soe Min said, “The best way to prevent these problems is to abstain from alcohol. Drinkers should monitor themselves for the onset of problems so that they can detect it early and seek treatment.”

Preventing alcohol-related problems is a multi-sectoral task, he said.

“The authorities should monitor the situation and take action on alcohol imports, production, selling and increased taxation,” he said.

“Health education programs are also important to prevent people from heavy drinking, to have early detection and treatment, and to provide effective mental health care.”