My Fellow Nigerians: Alcohol is Killing You
An article encouraging Nigerians to reduce or eliminate their alcohol consumption might quite literally be the hardest thing I have ever done.
I have never been drunk. Absolutely Never!
The gasp when I tell people this is often swiftly followed by an invitation to get drunk that very day and to tell me how I have wasted my youth and missed out.
Alcohol simply makes me sleepy; I suppose that is my own version of tipsy, but usually after 2 glasses of anything sweet — because really what is there to love in alcohol if it’s not sweet? — (Vodka lover’s all over the world are currently rolling their eyes at me) I just want to go to bed.
I am an occasional (read social) drinker and turns out scientists all over the world agree with me that this is a wise choice. Researchers are now saying that any amount of alcohol can be and is dangerous to our health. Yes, not even your glass of red wine is safe.
To many Nigerians especially, these researchers will be termed fools. Nigeria, as of 2018, is the fourth leading African country in alcohol consumption. I can already see the twitter jokes. You dare not tell a Nigerian your wedding or event will be “dry” if you do not want the venue to be empty.
All kidding aside though, given how often we hear of alcohol related deaths, Nigerians and indeed the entire populace need to reconsider our relationships with alcohol. Here are some reasons — although not an exhaustive list — why I am asking us to begin drinking less.
Drinking’s association with mental health
Research shows that “Problem drinking is closely associated with violence, trauma and poverty which are some of the most significant factors in harming mental health”. About 40% of Nigerians are said to be living in poverty and with high levels of violence and its associated trauma, it could be said that there is an obvious association with increased drinking and the resulting or preceding mental health problems in the country — as one in 4 people in Nigeria (50 million people) have a mental health problem.
Drinking’s association with cancer
Studies have shown that alcohol consumption is associated with the increased risk of developing up to 11 cancers such as breast, colorectal, head, neck, and liver cancer. Not surprisingly to me, males were found to be more likely to be diagnosed with alcohol related cancers.
Drinking’s association with overall health
Any amount of drinking is said to harm the brain according to a study done by researchers at Oxford university. Drinking is also a major contributing factor in many health injuries, communicable diseases, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, dental health, and digestive problems to name a few.
Drinking’s association with gambling
Increased alcohol consumption is prevalent among those who gamble and is associated with how severe their gambling disorder is. In my last article, I mentioned that Nigeria has a very serious gambling problem. An increasing gambling addiction could therefore be because of an already established high alcohol consumption rate.
Assess Your Alcohol Use
Using this simple formula, you can determine your risk of excessive drinking and developing any of the alcohol related problems above.
For Men: 4 points or higher is considered hazardous drinking while for Women: 3 points or more is considered hazardous drinking.
- How often do you have a drink containing alcohol?
- Never = 0 points
- Monthly or less = 1 point
- 2–4 times a month = 2 points
- 2–3 times a week = 3 points
- 4 or more times a week = 4 points
2. How many standard drinks containing alcohol do you have on a typical day?
- 1 or 2 = 0 points
- 3 to 4 = 1 point
- 5 to 6 = 2 points
- 7 to 9 = 3 points
- 10 or more = 4 points
3. How often do you have six or more drinks on one occasion?
- Never = 0 points
- Less than monthly = 1 point
- Monthly = 2 points
- Weekly = 3 points
- Daily or almost daily = 4 points
If your score is above a 3 or a 4, this is the sign you have been waiting for — its time to reduce your amount of drinking. Full Disclosure — my score is 2.
And in case I have not yet conceived you as to why you should drink less, here are 5 additional benefits.
- Heal your liver and heart
- Maintain healthy weight or lose weight
- Improve your sleep quality and increase your energy
- Boost your immune system and improve your digestion
- Save some money
Finally, learn to say no. Peer pressure is one of the biggest drivers of alcohol consumption (and the bright colors of drinks for me). The less you drink, the lower your risk of developing problems, the healthier you become and the longer you live.