Guyana: Addressing Scourge Of Alcohol Harm
Advocates across the Caribbean are raising their voices for their countries to start acting on pervasive alcohol harm. In public rallies, letters to the editors of major news outlets and civil society gatherings, advocates are making the case for better alcohol regulation, following the model of tobacco control, and for a “No Alcohol Day”.
Pervasive alcohol harm
Evidence shows that on average, Guyanese consumed more than eight liters of pure alcohol in 2010 compared to the global figure of 6.2 liters, according to the World Health Organization. In addition, new container sizes encourage even greater consumption as instead of a 12 oz, there are now 32, 40 and 60 oz containers of beers. Furthermore, communities unintentionally promote youth alcohol use by allowing alcohol sponsorship at youth-related events.
Data from the Guyana physical activity survey shows alcohol consumption is on the rise among young people:
- 2.1% of youth are consuming alcohol regularly;
- 32% of youth are consuming alcohol occasionally;
- 79% of school children have their first alcoholic drink before age 14.
Early onset of alcohol use is a tremendous problem. Research shows that youths who start using alcohol before the age of 15 are four times more likely to develop alcohol dependence and two and a half times more likely to become alcohol abusers than those who wait until the age of 21.
Other substantial costs to society include property damage, job loss and health service costs. Alcohol … has many potential consequences including accidental falls, burns, drowning, brain damage, impaired driving resulting in accidents, deaths and injuries, poor school performance, work productivity loss, sexual assault, truancy, violence, vandalism, homicides, suicides, lower inhibitions, increased impulsivity, risky sexual behaviour, early initiation of sexual behaviour, multiple sexual partners, pregnancy and STDs.”
Solutions promoted by stakeholders
Guyana has seen the need to treat this phenomenon with a public health approach and as such has been focusing on the initiation of strategic plans for prevention, early intervention, treatment, rehabilitation and social reintegration,” said TCV’s Training Director, Leslyn Holder.
The solutions that experts are promoting comprise the following:
- Review and update the National Drug Strategies and implement early intervention and prevent/reduce alcohol abuse and its concomitants;
- Strengthen/improve data collection and evidence generation and encourage international/local cooperation to share evidence-based practices;
- Stringently enforce the laws, especially as they relate to the minimum age alcohol purchase, driving under the influence, opening and closing times of rum shops and beer gardens;
- Increase taxes on all alcohol-based products (except for medicinal purposes);
- Legislate, as in the tobacco industry, for warnings to be prominently placed on alcoholic products about dangers to health;
- Put in place laws to prevent the advertising or selling of alcoholic beverages during school activities and youth activities where minors predominate;
- Government must strengthen the inter-institutional coordination and collaboration between the Ministry of Health and other government agencies, as well as with various stakeholders including NGOs, FBOs, CBOs and must also allocate adequate resources and finances to increase capacity building within the health and other relevant sectors to address alcohol use/abuse, related disorders and consequential rehabilitation.