A culture of drinking?

Alcohol abuse is developing as a major public-health problem, even as we continue to have many discussions on alcoholism and the negative effects it has on individuals and society as a whole.
Alcohol use, and more so alcohol abuse, has always been prevalent in Guyana, but in recent years it has moved to a glorification level. A quick perusal locally reveals that many alcohol-promoting advertisements now feature young people enjoying themselves and having a good time.
According to a global study released in 2022 in the journal Lancet, no amount of alcohol is healthy if you are younger than 40, mostly due to alcohol-related deaths by vehicular accidents, injury and murder.
If we were to be honest and truly explore our local scenario, it would not be difficult to uncover the level at which alcohol has contributed to vehicular accidents, domestic violence, and manslaughter and murder statistics.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol consumption contributes to three million deaths each year globally, as well as to the disability and poor health of millions of people. Overall, harmful use of alcohol is responsible for 5.1% of the global burden of disease.
WHO’s Global Status Reports on Alcohol and Health have, over the years, presented a comprehensive picture of alcohol consumption and the disease burden attributable to alcohol worldwide.
In the past, several letters to the Editor of this newspaper had expressed concerns about alcohol being promoted by some chutney singers in their songs. A few years back, Guyanese were being bombarded with “rum songs” which featured characters who resort to rum drinking to ‘end’ their sorrows. Some of those songs are still being featured at concerts and parties across the country.
One letter writer proffered that alcohol is considered to be a “downer” type of drug, so it should not be consumed if one is in a depressed state of mind. In essence, drinking while in a depressed state would certainly contribute to feelings of more depression, and cause more harm than good.
The negative effects of drinking too much alcohol can be divided into short-term and long-term. The short-term effects of drinking too much alcohol are loss of judgment, loss of coordination, blurred vision, slurring of speech, and loss of balance. These negative effects can cause one to make bad decisions while being under the influence. The long-term effects include loss of brain cells, liver failure, stomach ulcers, high blood pressure, certain types of cancer, epilepsy, nerve damage, and heart failure. If the abuse of alcohol does not cause immediate problems, then excessive use over a period of time can cause major problems down the line.
Further, alcoholism contributes to a range of social problems, for example domestic and other forms of violence in our society.
In addition, research shows that alcoholism contributes to suicide, which has been, and continues to be, a major social problem in Guyana.
The effects of alcohol abuse are well known. Citizens should therefore be encouraged to use better judgment in every situation in the interest of one’s self, family and community, and ignore the messages that encourage rum drinking. While it is not our intention to place the blame of all our problems on alcohol, one cannot dispute the fact it is indeed a contributory factor to some of the social ills we face in our country today. There is therefore urgent need for all stakeholders to redouble their efforts and step up the campaign to spread more awareness and education about the dangers of alcohol abuse.
Achieving a reduction in the harmful use of alcohol is included in the SDG 2030 agenda, and according to the WHO, this requires “concerted action by countries, effective global governance, and appropriate engagement of all relevant stakeholders. By working together effectively, the negative health and social consequences of alcohol can be reduced.”
While the Government must play a crucial role in designing the relevant programmes and policies and legislative framework and other support mechanisms aimed at addressing the harmful use of alcohol, this burden must also be shared by everyone.