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Caregivers and Their Support

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Caregivers are individuals who carry the responsibility for physical and emotional needs of another who is incapable of self-care. Addiction to Alcohol is a major risk to an individual and society but and the maximum strain of the disorder is borne by the family. The importance of care increases in patients with mental illnesses where family stands to top the list. This stands true in India because of numerous reasons like the convention of interdependence, the dependence on the family, and the inadequate number of mental health experts.

Alcohol use disorder is a major problem in most countries at both social and personal threats. According to Global Status Report on Alcohol, Alcohol dependence accounts for 1.4 per cent of the global disease burden. A nationwide Indian study on alcohol and by Sarkar et al. estimated the prevalence of alcohol use as 21.4%. Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test (AUDIT) conducted in south India showed 14.2% of hazardous alcohol use.

A study from South India in tertiary care hospital at a rural district showed 17.6% of patients who were admitted had hazardous alcohol use. Alcohol dependence is a “family disease.” Dependence on alcohol affects the individual as well as those around them in terms of employment and social dysfunction, physical and emotional distress, and financial burden which has a serious impact on the lives of the significant others.

An earlier study from India comparing the family burden of patients with schizophrenia, alcohol dependence, and opioid dependence by using the Family Burden Interview Schedule (FBIS) showed moderate to severe burden in all the three groups under study. A study from Nepal among intravenous drug users and alcohol dependent patients found increased caregiver burden in both the groups; however the burden was more with intravenous drug users than alcohol dependent patients. The study also reported that the spouses of both alcohol dependent patients and also intravenous drug abusers exhibited more tolerance and less perceived burden towards the substance use when compared to the other family members like parents, children, and siblings.

A study from Chandigarh which assessed the family burden using FBIS in 120 subjects of alcohol and/or opioid caregivers had severe burden. Although such studies have been conducted in the Northern part of India, the number of such studies is limited in Southern India and central India. Alcohol is one of the commonest substances being misused. It becomes important to understand the burden on caregivers.

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