Alcoholism


The issue of alcohol and the massive damaging effects it is having on individuals and communities has once again been brought to the fore. It was reported in the media that, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), alcohol kills a whopping three million people worldwide each year — more than AIDS, violence and road accidents combined. It was stated that men are particularly at risk.
WHO’s Global status report on alcohol and health 2018, published recently, presents a comprehensive picture of alcohol consumption and the disease burden attributable to alcohol worldwide. It also describes what countries are doing to reduce this burden. And for those that are lagging, it explains what could be done to discourage the use of alcohol and possibly reduce the huge negative impact it is having on countries.
According to the WHO, alcohol causes more than one in 20 deaths globally each year, including drunk driving, alcohol-induced violence and abuse and a multitude of diseases and disorders. Men account for more than three quarters of alcohol-related deaths.
The report explains that alcohol drinking is linked to more than 200 health conditions, including liver cirrhosis and some cancers. Alcohol abuse also makes people more susceptible to infectious diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV and pneumonia.
For young people, the numbers are even more alarming, with a full 13.5 per cent of all deaths among 20-29-year-olds considered to be alcohol-related, the study found. In comparison, HIV/AIDS was responsible for 1.8 per cent of global deaths in 2016, road injuries accounted for 2.5 per cent and violence for 0.8 per cent. Globally, an estimated 237 million men and 46 million women suffer from alcohol use disorders, WHO said.
Here in Guyana, there are many social ills affecting citizens, and alcohol abuse is seen one of the contributing factors. According to the WHO, the alcohol death rate for Guyana is 5.95 per 100,000 (globally ranked 70). This is still quite high and urgent action must be taken to further reduce this figure.
Due to poor lifestyle choices such as; alcohol abuse, tobacco use, unhealthy diets, and physical inactivity, NCDs have resulted in large numbers of our young people dying. Another significant number have also fallen ill and therefore cannot contribute to their families or the development of their communities in any way.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus was quoted in the media as saying that far too many people, their families and communities suffer the consequences of the harmful use of alcohol through violence, injuries, mental health problems and diseases like cancer and stroke.
According to The Caribbean Voice, an organisation that has been engaged in research etc in this field, alcohol is a trigger for abuse, especially gender based, child and sexual abuse. It explains that some abusers rely on substance use (and abuse) as an excuse for becoming violent – alcohol allows the abuser to justify his abusive behaviour as a result of the alcohol. Alcohol affects the user’s ability to perceive, integrate and process information. Further, the organisation points to other substantial costs to society include property damage, job loss and health service costs.
WHO is urging countries to do more to counter harmful drinking and to reach a goal of cutting global consumption by 10 percent between 2010 and 2025. It is also urging countries to tax alcohol and ban advertising of such beverages to reduce consumption. However, this is not enough, there is need to push for a change in attitude and lifestyle changes in general, especially amongst the younger segment of our population.
While the Government must play a crucial role in designing the relevant programmes and policies and putting in place the necessary legislative framework and other support mechanisms aimed at addressing the harmful use of alcohol, this burden must also be shared by other stakeholders too; such as religious groups, the private sector and other Non-Governmental Organisations (NGO) etc.
It is hoped that the Government here, international development partners and other stakeholders will use this most recent WHO report on alcohol as a wakeup call to take urgent action aimed at addressing the harmful use of alcohol in this country.
(Guyana Times editorial of November 17, 2018)

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About caribvoice

Free lance journalist, educator and community activist. Guyana born New York based.
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