Motivational interviewing, detoxification, counselling, and family support are some of the better treatment means for alcohol abuse and dependence.

Psychiatrist with Jigme Dorji Wangchuck National Referral Hospital (JDWNRH), Dr Chencho Dorji, said that alcohol was one of the most problematic issues that health workers deal with everyday. “Alcohol abuse impacts all aspects of a person’s life – health, social, financial, legal and occupational.”

Dr Chencho Dorji said that when a person prioritises drinking over other activities, he or she is an alcohol dependent. “When an alcohol depedent dosen’t drink, withdrawal symptoms show. It usually shows after six hours from the last drink.” Withdrawal, he said, is more dangerous than intoxication.

Talking about psychosocial effects of alcoholism, Dr Chencho Dorji said that alcohol is socially accepted in the country and is consumed for recreational and social purposes.

He said that conducting motivational interview by expressing empathy instead of scolding the patient could help manage alcohol problems. “Health workers are trained to offer detoxification, but people are not aware of it. As health workers, we should not be judgemental although we need to warn patients.”

Dr Chencho Dorji said that counselling and self-help groups could also help keep people sober.

However, it was observed that not many people were able to provide continued support to patients. “Family is the backbone of social support and health workers could always mobilise support,” he said, and added that health workers could work with family employing different approaches by incorporating scientific methods for effective outcome.

According to Annual Health Bulletin (2017), in 2012, 140 deaths were recorded due to alcohol. Last year, 190 died due to alcohol. In Bhutan, alcohol is the number one cause of death.

Dr Chencho Dorji said that if more patients could avail of health and counselling services, alcohol liver diseases could be prevented, reducing the number of deaths due to alcohol.

Rinchen Zangmo