Beware of risks linked to alcohol consumption

What you need to know:

  • We however, must hasten to add that alcohol has been a cause for many an imbiber’s miseries, some of them tragic, when taken in access.

Alcohol consumption is said to be as old as the history of man; it has been lauded for its capacity to allow the imbiber to relax when everything else seemed to lack effect.

We however, must hasten to add that alcohol has been a cause for many an imbiber’s miseries, some of them tragic, when taken in access.

For many people, it is part of social, business and family life, an enjoyable and traditional accompaniment to food and celebrations. In many Tanzanian communities, alcohol is tied to traditional ceremonies including dowry payment, wedding and libation in respect to ancestors. In most yesteryear communities, only elders were allowed to partake of it, hence the moniker, “food for the elderly”.

Medical science has a lot to say about alcohol, for while doctors have long recognised the harm of too much alcohol, the same has been used medicinally for centuries. Medical history shows it was once the only antiseptic and anaesthetic in the surgeon’s kit.

Researchers have found that drinking alcohol regularly, more so in small amounts, reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease—the most common cause of death in the industrialised world. A medical writer notes: “If Americans suddenly stopped drinking, thousands more deaths from heart disease would occur each year.” It is widely acknowledged that moderate alcohol intake also helps reduce the risk of some other disorders, including Type 2 diabetes, gallstones and peripheral artery disease and, perhaps, even dementia.

‘Expert’ advice

The key word from those who give “expert” advice on the good side of alcohol is “moderation”. How much is moderate? It has been proven that a majority of drinkers take alcohol with the express purpose of “getting high”, a euphemism for getting drunk. Alcohol consumption has been the cause of many road accidents, thanks to what is termed “drunk driving”.

It is no wonder that the ban effected last March by the Tanzanian government on gin packaged and sold cheaply in sachets known in Kiswahili as “viroba”, which was popular with public service vehicles drivers, has contributed to a drastic drop in bodaboda accidents.

Now amounts aside, there is the issue of quality of the alcohol, something linked to the mode of brewing, quality checks, hygiene and standards. While it is easy to set standards and quality of mainstream industrial alcoholic products, that is virtually impossible when it comes to brews processed locally.

A study released about a week ago, whose findings were published in the latest edition of the ‘Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs’, researchers call for interventions to control the consumption of local brews, some of which are said to contain high levels of ethanol, a dangerous alcoholic substance. We agree with them.

While local brews have generally been associated with low income earners, changing economic circumstances are forcing even members of the erstwhile middle income Tanzanians to join the common mwananchi at “pombe” shops.

It can only be hoped that recent price reduction affecting several mainstream brands of beer will in itself check the partaking of some dangerous local brews. All in all, however, we must beware of alcohol taking, irrespective of the type, for latent danger lies in its indulgence—more so if the word “moderation” doesn’t exist in the partaker’s vocabulary.