Background: Areca nut is the fourth most commonly used psychoactive substance worldwide after tobacco, alcohol and caffeine. In India, it is perceived in various ways, ranging from a ‘fruit of divine origin’ in Hindu religious ceremonies to a mouth freshener. Areca nut use both on its own and with tobacco additives is addictive. The aim of this study was to understand the pattern of areca nut consumption, to determine the Knowledge, Attitude and Practices (KAP) among areca nut users and the dependency associated with areca nut use.
Methods: A cross sectional study was conducted in Guwahati, Assam using a self-administered questionnaire eliciting the pattern of areca nut consumption, KAP among users and understanding their dependency using Betel Quid Dependence Scale. The chewers of areca nut alone with or without betel quid, gutkha and tobacco participated in the study. Areca nut users were selected using purposive sampling method from the vendor shops of all the four assembly areas of the city. Their participation was voluntary and free not to answer or quit the survey. The data was analysed using SPSS software.
Results: A total of 500 participants were approached in all four areas, 479 completed the survey (response rate 95%). The people who participated in the study were mostly male with an average age of 40 years, educated to secondary level or higher, married and self-employed. Betel quid with tamul was the most prevalent form of areca nut chewing in both men and women. About 441 (92%) participants experienced pleasure when chewing areca nut and 327 (68%) chewed it to relieve stress. Only 86 (18%) of subjects had ever tried to quit chewing areca nut and 387 (81%) thought that it was highly addictive. The results revealed relatively high levels of endorsement for ‘physical and psychological urgent need’ (mean = 43%) and ‘increasing dose’ (mean = 50%), whereas endorsement level for ‘maladaptive use’ was low (mean = 16%).
Conclusion: Areca nut use (tamul) is of major concern in India and many Southeast Asian countries and its use has been increasing across the globe. The evidence suggests a dependence similar to tobacco use and policy makers need to refine its strategy for control of its use by engaging with multiple stakeholders and adapting it to local context with surveillance and cessation guidelines in order to address this issue.