Experts give reasons for excessive alcohol uptake 

SOCIAL experts have attributed an increase to excessive alcohol consumption to mental health problems and social pressure amongst consumers especially youths in the country.

Social pressures are the combined pressures that face an individual in everyday life such as peer pressure, academic pressures and socioeconomic pressure.

They said many consumers are self-driven to take alcohol under the motive of being relieved from lifetime stress and depression although as the time goes they find themselves addicted.

The reaction comes in the wake of  World Health Organisation (WHO)’s report tilted World Health Statistics 2023: Monitoring Health for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that ranked Tanzania as the third country in terms of alcohol consumption in Africa, just behind Seychelles (the second) and Uganda which is the first.

According to WHO, the country has an average of 10.4 litres of alcohol consumed by a Tanzanian annually.

Sociologist and Social Development Analyst, Hamiduni Maliseli told the ‘Sunday News’ yesterday that preventing  excessive drinking in the society must start by addressing factors or issues that cause stress in individuals.

He, therefore, suggested for day to day societal mental health counselling by psychologists as the best intervention.

He said excessive alcohol consumption has many negative consequences on social welfare development, including family breakdown, loss of jobs, conflicts and loss of self-esteem, saying, all at big picture, slow down development of an individual, society and the nation at large.

“Excessive alcohol consumption has been derailing people from realising their goals as it prompts them to be less productive, including losing self-control. In most cases they end up nowhere,” said Mr Maliseli.

According to him, at family level, excessive alcohol consumption causes parents to fail to fulfil their family obligations such as providing for the basic needs and child upbringing.

Expert points long-term health risks, saying over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems including high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems. He said it can also cause health problems including cancer of breast, mouth, throat, oesophagus, voice box, liver, colon, and rectum.

He said excessive alcohol drinking also has negative impact to the country’s economy since, in most cases, the addicted persons become dependants and prone to indulging in bad sexual behaviours such as prostitution.

Furthermore, he said the need for refreshments and peer pressure contribute to excessive drinking to some individuals. Peer pressure or influence is when one does something because they want to feel accepted and valued by their friends, a practice that is rampant among youths.

Psychologist and Mental Health Expert, Leons Maziku from the Saint Augustine University of Tanzania (SAUT) said being productive and efficient in socioeconomic activities depends on the mental health of an individual.

According to the psychologist, depression causes some individuals to indulge in excessive alcohol drinking, as they think the practice is the shortcut to solving problems they face. He said failure to achieve goals, including lack or inadequate problem solving skills cause depression in individuals.

“Some people engage in excessive alcohol drinking in their attempt to turn a blind eye to their problems, a strategy that works for a short period of time,” he said.

Mr Maziku called for professional counselling and guidance starting from family level to the national level, saying presence of counsellors and psychologists from grass root level can save many people from becoming victims of excessive drinking.

He also said the nation should invest in problem solving skills, a strategy that can save individuals from falling victims of depression, a problem that pushes many into excessive alcohol consumption.

Mr Maziku called for collective efforts from all stakeholders including media through conducting sensitisation programmes on the effects of excessive alcohol drinking, including enlightening the public on how to manage stress and depression.

However, an economist, Dr Isaac Safari said given the fact that an increase in number of alcohol producing industries in the country contributes to high revenue collection, including offering employment opportunities, efforts must also be made to encourage the public to drink responsibly.

He called for the government and other stakeholders to provide education to the public pertaining to responsible drinking.

Equally, Dr Sanga Monali, who is a Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Golden Youth Organisation (GYO), an organisation dealing with health education, said excessive drinking is amongst major factors that fuel the prevalence of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs) including diabetes, cancers, stroke and hypertension.

The WHO findings reveal that about three million deaths worldwide result from the harmful use of alcohol, equivalent to 5.3 per cent of all global deaths, annually.

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