Say NO – Bolo NA
Highlights of interview of Mukta Puntambekar: Addictions among women
Webinar started with a crisp introduction by Rtn. Surekha Deshpande of the speaker Ms. Mukta Puntambekar, Director of Muktangan Rehabilitation Centre. The speaker is a gold medalist Clinical Psychologist with many awards to her name, handling many responsibilities and is also a marathon runner. She was interviewed by First Lady Yogashree Phadke with thoughtful questions on the unusual topic. A number of questions also came from students of Maharshi Karve Institute’s School of Fashion Technology and two other colleges who were our partners in the episode.
The first question concerned how and why of addictions among women, even though the need for rehabilitation is widespread among men. The speaker explained that cases of alcohol addiction in women started increasing around 2004. It has grown so much that Muktangan had to set up a separate centre ‘Nishigandh’ for women to ensure their isolation, detoxification and de-addiction counseling. Major reason for increase is the growing social acceptance of drinking and smoking by women. In the past unhappy women could vent out their unhappiness by crying, now many of them want to avoid being seen as weak and turn to alcohol, sleeping pills or drugs. Added to this are peer pressures and myths about alcohol. It is further aggravated by social drinking, causing 25% drinkers to become alcoholics. Although addiction is not hereditary, depression and anxiety are. Effect of alcohol is temporary relief or confidence boost followed by negatives such as hangover, harm to liver, kidneys and brain as well as social and financial problems for the family.
When asked which types of addictions are more common among women, the speaker said that they are almost the same for men and women. Most common addiction is of tobacco in its various forms. Its ill effects are severe, ranging from cough or loss of appetite to many types of cancers. Alcohol has physiological as well as social and financial ill effects. Use of narcotics such as ‘weed’ (Cannabis – Bhang, Ganja) is growing too and its addiction has disastrous effect on physical and neurological health. Women are not only themselves susceptible to gynecological problems due to addictions; their unborn babies are also harmed. Younger generation is also getting addicted to Internet and Mobile phones, which cause another set of problems.
There is no doubt that Prevention is Better than Cure. But if someone is on the wrong path, how can we detect if the person is becoming addicted? First to know is the person herself who realizes that the substance consumption quantity and frequency is increasing. However, when interacting with others, such victims are generally in denial. Other clue about addiction is when youngsters who use addictive substances with their friends’ groups, begin to consume them when they are alone. Other clear signs of substance dependence include untidiness, depressed eyes, disturbed sleep, weight loss or gain, body smell etc. and tendency to be remain alone at home. The speaker cautioned against confronting, blaming or being aggressive to such persons. To succeed, we have to help them by being Honest Open-minded Willing (HOW). Besides family, peer help is very useful for youngsters. Controlling the urge at the start is possible by diversion such as eating something. Another useful trick is to pledge ‘One-day Goal’ – ‘I will not drink TODAY’ A small promise of this type is easier to keep than making a lifelong commitment.
What is done at Muktangan to help the addiction patients? Contrary to Western practice of providing all comforts and facilities to patients, at Muktangan they are required to do work like cooking or cleaning. Patients’ families are kept closely involved in the rehabilitation process; they don’t disown the patient. That results in much better recovery rates than in the West. A social change visible now is that women addicts face fewer stigmas and get better family support than in the past, so helping is easier
Her ‘Take Home’ advice was ‘Start a hobby or exercise. Such actions generate Endorphin – The Happiness Chemical – in the brain and eliminate the need for intoxicants’
Contributed by Rtn. Dileep Paranjpye