Alcohol abuse is destroying Kenyan families, and it is time to fight back

Two weeks ago, the Nation published an article on suicide, the second highest killer among 15 to 29-year-olds, titled ‘It’s time we woke up to reality of rising suicide among youth.’

Regrettably, the harmful use of alcohol accounts for 3.3 million deaths globally, 320,000 of these being 15 to 29 year-olds.

Alcohol abuse is also the third leading risk factor for poor health globally.

Unfortunately, the media depicts alcohol abuse as a laughing matter, often with footage of people falling over themselves or being extremely incoherent.

As a society, we are also guilty of feeding off this humour and progress it to social media, where numerous memes and GIFs emerge. Alcoholism is sadly not considered a matter of grave concern.

The younger generation further contributes to this blasé public attitude towards alcohol abuse by glorifying being drunk to the point of blackout.


Any period of memory loss, especially from chronic ingestion of alcohol, is not worth celebrating.

This period of amnesia has seen a number of people fall victim of both physical and sexual abuse.

Even more worrying, families have been left tormented for days, looking for their loved one who suffered alcoholic palimpsest on the highway or a ditch. 

Perhaps we as a society are responsible for this attitude by perpetually being surrounded by alcohol abuse without realising it to appropriately address it.

Alcohol abuse is described by the World Health Organisation as a maladaptive pattern of use indicated by continued drinking of alcohol despite knowledge of having a recurrent social, occupational, psychological or physical problem caused by the alcohol.


Alcohol dependence that gestates from alcohol abuse is described as a person having impaired control of psychoactive alcohol use, and continues to take the alcohol despite knowing the adverse consequences.

To lose control of yourself ending up in salience a slave to alcohol is far from a laughing matter.

One of the most dangerous direct physical health consequences of alcohol abuse is disabilities.

This can be attributed to drunk driving, which leads to road accidents, leaving the user and or their passengers marred for life.

Illnesses such as liver cirrhosis, heart diseases and even cancers are other health disabilities.

Often these conditions put a strain on public health, with the family of the user being the most aggrieved. Even worse, all of the above have resulted in death.

The serious dangers posed to health by alcohol abuse, also known as beta alcoholism, makes public awareness on the issue a matter of paramount importance.


In the 1990s, the campaign on HIV/Aids was loud. Everywhere you turned in most public places was a poster or a sign warning you ‘Anybody can get AIDS. Take care’.

A similar public campaign strategy should be adopted by the national and county governments to combat alcohol abuse in the country.

With the support of national leadership and a staunch commitment to tackle the issue, less public resources will eventually be spent treating the consequential long term illnesses.

Additionally, public education on alcohol is needed in our society. As adults, we should be conscientious about our health and check our alcohol intake.

However, if the ministry of Health does not publicise and remind us what the allowed daily units are, we will remain ignorant to our alcohol intake and the harm we may be causing ourselves.

In the United Kingdom, for example, men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units a week on a regular basis.


14 units is the equivalent of six pints of beer or 10 small glasses of wine. Knowing the allowed units will go a long way in helping us stay in control of our drinking.

Of course despite all the education and public awareness, it remains on the individual to make a firm commitment to keep their drinking in check.

Nevertheless, we will live more conscientiously knowing most of the general public is informed on the effects of alcohol abuse.

Sadly for those who have become alcohol dependants, we should not write them off from society either when sobriety can be achieved with a helping hand.

Therapeutic communities to rehabilitate alcohol dependants should be available in every county. In the unfortunate case where the person relapses, let us still offer support and aid in relapse prevention.

Alcohol abuse is leading to premature deaths. Urgent action is needed from all of us especially our leaders to tackle this issue of public interest, before any more lives are lost.

The writer works with international businesses on commercial litigation. [email protected]

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