Surrey, Vancouver, April 07, 2012
There is an old saying that excess of everything is bad. This is very true in case of alcohol. Taken in moderation, it can be of some benefit. For example, red wine, taken in moderation, is reported to be helpful for the heart. A recent study indicates that moderate drinking may be helpful to our heart in some ways. However, it may not be so good for the brain. MRI scans of the brains of a number of participants found a significant negative linear relationship between alcohol and total cerebral brain volume. It inferred that lower brain volumes increase the risk of dementia as well as problems with thinking skills, learning and memory.
Alcohol abuse is prevalent in every nation and cultural group. It transcends all social, cultural, ethnic, religious and geographical jurisdictions. No body is immune to it. As a matter of fact, it affects every segment of society equally. Excessive use of alcohol can have tragic consequences. Recent examples of tragedies in both the Indo-Canadian community as well as the community at-large are testament to the dire consequences of this malady.
The Indo-Canadian community in general and the Punjabis in particular have made tremendous progress here during the past hundred plus years. As the Punjabi community has grown in Canada so have the problems afflicting it. Alcoholism related problems seem to be one of the major concerns of the community. This issue was highlighted in a recent study conducted in Metro Toronto, which, like Metro Vancouver, has some of the largest Indo-Canadian/Punjabi populations.
The study conducted in the Peel region of Metro Toronto was entitled: Attitude to Drinking in the Punjabi Community. The study was adapted from: Culture Counts: Best Practices in Community Education in Mental Health and Addiction within Ethnoracial/Ethnocultural Communities.It was initiated by the Center for Addiction and Mental Health.
This study comes up with some very interesting findings. It goes on to state that in the Punjabi community, mostly among men, alcohol has been widely accepted as an entertainment medium. Furthermore, the Punjabi culture views serving alcohol as a sign of respect and that alcohol is good for ones health. The study goes on to state that problems at home, isolation, and loneliness are the main factors that lead to excessive alcohol consumption by men. Women, whose husbands drink excessively, feel helpless. Family disruption was identified as a major consequence of alcohol use/abuse. The study went onto state that “there is no acceptable level of drinking” and that “the host’s obligation is to force guests to drink.”
No doubt this study touches a raw nerve of the Punjabi community in Canada. There seems to be too much generalization. Like every other community, it is likely that only a small segment of the Punjabi community may fit this description. A large number of Punjabis don’t drink at all. Moreover, those who do drink, drink responsibly. Thus, these inferences may not be a true reflection of the Punjabi community. Nevertheless, it is hard to deny that alcoholism is a problem in every community including Indo-Canadians/Punjabis. All of us, regardless of our cultural heritage, need to work hard in addressing this issue. We need to create more awareness about the severe damage alcohol use/abuse inflicts on families. Women and children are often the collateral damage in this process. It is an issue that affects us all in one-way or another. This is a challenge for us all. As a community, we need to advocate for more services and resources in helping people with addiction to alcohol. At the same time, we need to reach out and encourage problem drinkers to seek help.
Fortunately, during the past few years, a number of community organizations have stepped up to the plate to provide services in Punjabi especially in the area of counseling in a variety of areas including addiction to alcohol and drugs. As such, there is no need to suffer in silence. For example, in Richmond, Richmond Addiction Services(604-270-9220) would be more than pleased to assist those who need their help. Similarly, there are services available in other communities.
(Balwant Sanghera is a retired School Psychologist and Community Activist)