We are currently in the height of the festive season and, as expected, there would be merry-making at the various workplaces, at people’s homes, or other social gatherings. Due to the numerous parties, it is also a time when some persons would increase their level of alcohol intake. Like in everything else though, it is always wise for one to exercise good judgement when he/she is indulging since there can be serious consequences for behaving irresponsibly.
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. WHO’s Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health 2018 presents a comprehensive picture of alcohol consumption and the disease burden attributable to alcohol worldwide. According to the WHO, the alcohol death rate for Guyana is 5.95 per 100,000 (globally ranked 70).
Even more worrying is that just recently at an event, Pan American Health Organisation/ World Health Organisation (PAHO/WHO) Resident Representative in Guyana, Dr William Adu-Krow disclosed startling statistics about the prevalence of children using alcohol on a regular basis here. He pointed to a recent survey which revealed that of the scores of 14-year-old students interviewed, 39.2 per cent of them reported that he/she consumed at least one alcoholic beverage within a 30-day period.
A whopping 79 per cent of the students who participated in the survey stated that they had consumed their first alcoholic beverage before the age of 14. Additionally, the survey shows that even among adults, the statistics focused on alcohol consumption are soaring 36 per cent.
The negative effects of drinking too much alcohol can be divided into short-term and long-term effects. The short-term effects of drinking too much alcohol are loss of judgement, 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, and 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, there has been an increase in cases of domestic and other forms of violence in our society. Official statistics show that one in four Guyanese women have been physically abused in a relationship. In addition, alcoholism contributes to suicide, which has been and continues to be a major social problem in Guyana. Official statistics show that suicide deaths average between 150 and 200 annually.
Also, one cannot ignore the countless number of road deaths in recent months. The newspapers’ pages are splashed almost daily with reports of fatalities and injuries due to reckless and irresponsible behaviour of motorists, some of this is due to driving under the influence of alcohol.
The effects of alcohol abuse are well known. Citizens should, therefore, be encouraged to make a better judgement in every situation in the interest of one’s self, family and community. While it is not our intention to place the blame on 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.
We urge all stakeholders to redouble their efforts and step up the campaign to spread more awareness and education about the dangers of alcohol abuse. While the Government must play a crucial role in designing the relevant programmes and policies and putting in place the necessary legislative framework 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 (NGOs), etc. The statistics referred to above are very alarming and should be used as a wake-up call for the authorities to take the appropriate action.