Air India Pee Gate Incident, mental health expert says “Avoid Drinking on Flights”
The ‘pee gate’ incident took place in November involving a man who allegedly urinated on an elderly woman while he was intoxicated on a flight from New York to Delhi. Such unfortunate occurrences bring into light the problems associated with inflight alcohol consumption as well as the alcohol serving policy in flights.
According to Dr. Kedar Tilwe, a consultant psychiatrist at Fortis Hospital, abstaining from alcohol entirely is the best way to prevent such incidents. Excessive alcohol impairs brain function by slowing down the areas that control balance, memory, speech, and judgement. If alcohol is used to relieve anxiety during flights, he went on to clarify that relaxing techniques or taking medications are also options. He added that it is ultimately up to individuals to refrain from excessive drinking and respect other people's personal space.
Dr Tilwe also emphasised the damaging effects of alcohol on mental health. Anxiety, depression aggression, and loneliness can be concomitant with long-term alcohol use.
Immediate Impact of Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol consumption interferes with the functioning of the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for judgement and decision-making.
Further, it also impacts motor coordination and causes sedation by acting on neurotransmitter GABA. Alcohol, even in small amounts can affect the neurotransmitter glutamate which is responsible for creating new memories.
Blackout is another common immediate effect of alcohol consumption. Blackouts prevent recalling the events that occurred during the period of intoxication by affecting the functioning of the hippocampus which plays a major role in learning and memory.
Alcohol disturbs electrolyte balance due to the diuretic effect of increasing urine volume. This also leads to dehydration which contributes to the hangover symptoms like thirst, fatigue, and headache.
The temporary alteration of brain function increases the risk of accidents, falls, and other injuries. The hampered judgement, motor coordination, and decision-making can trigger antisocial and violent behaviour. It may also trigger low mood and negative feelings like sadness, anger, or anxiety.
Simple tips to reduce alcohol consumption
1) Educate yourself about its damaging effects
Understand the effects of alcohol usage on your physical and mental health, and educate yourself and your loved ones about these effects. Besides immediate effects, long-term alcohol use has the potential to cause heart diseases, fatty liver, cancer, ulcers, and impairment in personal and occupational life.
2) Write down your limits and keep a weekly tracker
Jot down your personal limits on weekly consumption of alcohol. Set a goal and monitor your progress on a tracker. Keeping track of each day for a month will help you stay motivated to achieve your goal.
3) Replace the craving with fruit juice or healthy tea
If you start to crave alcohol, replace it right away with a glass of vegetable juice or a cup of herbal tea flavoured with cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, lemon, and mint leaves.
4) Couple deep breathing with affirmations multiple times a day
Practise mindfulness for few minutes through deep breathing and mentally repeating affirmations like “I am strong”, “I have courage and strength to stick to my goal”, or any other mantra you resonate with.
5) Engage in physical activities
Take part in activities that channel the body's energy in the appropriate way, such as sports and hobbies. When you work up a sweat, your brain produces chemicals that make you feel content and happy.
6) Avoid triggers
The desire to drink alcohol might be sparked by particular circumstances and people. External locus of control makes it difficult to avoid alcohol. Establishing sound limits will help you learn to say "no" to friends and colleagues. Another example would be not keeping alcohol in your home or choosing a different route home that does not pass a liquor store.
7) Seek help
If day-to-day functioning is bearing a significant impact, talk to a mental health professional and seek therapy sessions.