Estimated reading time: 17 minute(s)
Alcohol consumption is a serious public health challenge worldwide, including Nigeria. Although the level of alcohol consumption differs widely around the world, the burden of disease and death remains significant in most regions with Europe and America having the highest alcohol attributable fractions at 6.5% and 5.6%, respectively.
Recent evidence also indicates that alcohol consumption is now the world’s third largest risk factor for disease and disability; almost 4% of all deaths globally are attributed to alcohol.
However, alcohol is the most commonly used psychoactive drug in both young people and adults in Nigeria. Some of the factors contributing to alcohol consumption among Nigerians include the absence of alcohol policies, easy access to alcoholic drinks, and lack of implementation of a minimum drinking age by both the government and the brewers.
It’s worthy of note that, the real-world impact of alcohol abuse reaches far beyond the financial costs. When a loved one has a problem with alcohol, it can affect their marriage and their extended family. There’s also the larger impact on the community, schools, the workplace, the healthcare system and on society as a whole.
In most parts of Nigeria, there’s very little control over the sale and distribution of alcohol. It’s available in small and portable packaging and people of any age can buy it. It’s not uncommon for bars to be situated near schools.
According to the World Health Organisation, Nigeria ranks second on the list of African countries for heavy episodic drinking.
Scholarly sources have backed this claim. But reports on the prevalence of alcohol use among the Nigerian university student population show conflicting results.
They are difficult to compare because the studies have used different methods and samples, at different locations and times. They have also looked at the contribution of different psychological factors. This makes it harder to use the studies to guide interventions to combat harmful drinking.
The rate of alcohol use significantly differed across geographical locations. Alcohol use was more predominant among students in the North East and South South region. The least alcohol consumption was reported in the North West and South West. A probable explanation for this difference is socio-cultural and religious factors and ease of access to alcohol. Alcohol is prohibited in the core part of the North West on Islamic religious grounds, but is generally culturally acceptable and available in the South South region.
In Nigeria, the world’s most populous black nation, more than half of the young people are involved in one drug or drink, either of which is uncensored, uncertified and unclean. These drugs and drinks, which purport to enhance sexual prowess or libido do not pass through the crucible of approval of government agencies, tasked with regulating such intakes. They are sold in very small but effective quantities and such aphrodisiacs could contain just anything.
There are such drugs and drinks like adonko bitters, yoyo bitters, baby oku, (hot baby), jakpata, (“tear pant”) jikelumo, (” horse power”) mkpuru mmiri (blue ice) as well as those that abuse tramadol, codeine, etc. There are also those who inhale the gaseous emissions from toilet dumps. What all of these ubiquitous drugs and drinks have in common is their unverified claims to enhance sexual prowess.
Sadly, nobody has bothered to investigate the health implications of the continued use of such drugs and drinks. The government regulatory agencies seem to be overwhelmed by the sheer pervasiveness of this malaise. Their recent tokenism of banning the ones sold in sachets is actually unenforceable and laughable.
Not too long ago, the Borno State governor, whose background is the academia, had to declare a kind of emergency in the health sector, when he realised that so many young people in the state, were coming down with kidney problems. Setting up a kidney Specialist Hospital was wise decision but we must go further to interrogate why so many young people are experiencing such malaise: intake of aphrodisiacs.
This is actually an emergency, akin to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To nib this impending danger in the bud, Nigerian authority must ensure that health services are central to tackling harm at the individual level among those with alcohol-use disorders and other health conditions caused by harmful use of alcohol. Health services should provide prevention and treatment interventions to individuals and families at risk of, or affected by, alcohol-use disorders and associated conditions.
Another important role of health services and health professionals is to inform societies about the public health and social consequences of harmful use of alcohol, support communities in their efforts to reduce the harmful use of alcohol, and to advocate effective societal responses. Health services should reach out to, mobilise and involve a broad range of players outside the health sector. Health services response should be sufficiently strengthened and funded in a way that is commensurate with the magnitude of the public health problems caused by harmful use of alcohol.
It will be recalled that the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control [NAFDAC] said last year that it will totally ban the production of alcoholic drink in sachets. Its Director-General, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, said that banning the product would come in phases.
Adeyeye said that alcohol drink in sachet would be phased out by 2023 ending or first week of 2024 when it would no longer exist in the society.
Adeyeye had earlier expressed worry over the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages in sachets and small volume glass and Poly-Ethylene Terephthalate (PET) bottles.
She also decried the negative effects of irresponsible alcohol consumption on public health and on the safety and the security of the public.
Adeyeye said with the support of the Federal Ministry of Health, the concern also relates to the fact that alcohol “is also a toxic and psychoactive substance with dependence producing properties.”
According to her, uncontrolled access and availability of high concentration alcohol in sachet and small volume PET or glass bottles have been put forward as a factor contributing to substance and alcohol abuse in Nigeria with its negative impact on the society.
She said the WHO reports that alcohol consumption contributes to three million deaths each year globally as well as to the disabilities and poor health of millions of people.
Estimated reading time: 1 minute(s)
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