D. Jayakumar, hepatologist and consultant gastroenterologist at the NIMS Institute of Liver Studies on the city outskirts, told reporters that easy availability and increasing social acceptance of alcohol among all groups, including women and children, has led to increased liquor consumption as well as liver disorders in Kerala.
'As Kerala has the highest rate of consumption of alcohol in the country, alcoholic or alcohol-induced liver diseases like alcoholic fatty liver, alcoholic hepatitis and alcoholic cirrhosis are on the rise.
'However, non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is also increasing here,' said Jayakumar.
According to the website of the state-owned Kerala State Beverages Corporation, the sole wholesalers of liquor in the state, in 2001 there were around one crore cases of liquor and beer sold when Kerala's population stood at 3.18 crore. In 2011, the sales shot up to 2.5 crore cases, while the Kerala population reached 3.38 crore.
'The state's per capita consumption of alcohol in 1991 was 3.1 litres, which has now crossed 10 litres. In 1986, the average age of a first time drinker was 19 and it came down to 17 years in 1991 and further came down to an alarming 14 years, in 2007,' said Jayakumar.
NIMS Hospital has now launched a massive campaign aimed to create understanding about all disorders, including those connected to alcohol-related hepatitis. This will be implemented in association with government and non-government agencies.
'Liver disorders, chronic liver diseases and its end result - cirrhosis in particular - are on the rise in Kerala. Awareness among the general population about the causes of liver disorders and how it could be prevented is less,' said Jayakumar.
'This results in the uncontrolled rise of incidents of cirrhosis, a threat that is looming large and a reality in the next decade or two. It becomes mandatory on the part of our healthcare policymakers to intervene urgently to contain the condition,' added Jayakumar.