Alcohol and Other Substance Use and Health

Day 1: Alcohol & other substance use and health

Globally, harmful use of alcohol kills about 3 million people every year: 2.3 million men and 0.7 million women

Worldwide, deaths from harmful alcohol use are mostly due to injuries, digestive diseases, cardiovascular diseases, infectious diseases and cancers

Death from alcohol use is higher than that caused by diseases such as tuberculosis, HIV/AIDS and diabetes.

Tobacco use is the leading cause of preventable death. Tobacco use kills more than 8 million people annually.

Tobacco smoking is a leading risk factor for various diseases such as cardiovascular diseases, chronic respiratory diseases and cancers.

The use of alcohol and other substances reduces productivity. This means that it reduces the ability of a person to engage meaningfully and contribute to the society in various spheres including school, work, family, recreation and other social activities.

 Day 2: Alcohol and other substance use is expensive and impoverishes the families:

  • People spend more money on hospital visits for a number of health conditions e.g. gastritis (‘stomach ulcers’), injuries, infections etc. when they use substances such as alcohol. Alcohol is linked to injuries, cancers as well as digestive, cardiovascular and infectious diseases.
  • At the same time, because of frequent hospitalizations and health seeking, financial income is often lost because people using alcohol and other substances are not able to engage in income generating activities
  • Treatment for alcohol and other substance addiction is expensive and strips families off the little financial resources they often have. In Kenya, a 3 month in-patient rehabilitation treatment costs about Ksh. 100,000.
  • Time and money that could have been spent on education, food and other income generating activities, is diverted to health care.
  • Death of a breadwinner from alcohol use can impoverish families

Day 3: Alcohol and other substance use and road traffic accidents:

  • Drinking alcohol and driving is dangerous. Alcohol affects attention, concentration, coordination and reaction time, all of which affect safe driving.
  • Drinking alcohol and driving increases the risk of road traffic accidents by up to 200 times
  • Driving while under the influence of alcohol and other substances like cannabis and miraa also has consequences for passengers, pedestrians and other drivers on the road, who may become innocent victims of substance-affected driving.
  • Drinking and walking by the road is harmful. Up to 60% of pedestrians involved in road crashes have been reported as being under the influence of alcohol

 Day 4: Adolescents and alcohol and other substance use

7% of primary school pupils in Kenya have ever used alcohol at least once in their lifetime

One in five in primary school pupils Kenya has ever used at least one substance in Kenya.

The average age of onset of substance use among pupils in Kenya is 11 years.

Early onset substance use particularly among adolescents has severe consequences.  Their immature brains are more vulnerable to the effects of substance use:

  • adolescents who use alcohol and substances have a greater risk of progression to addiction
  • adolescents who use alcohol and substances have a higher risk of mental disorders
  • adolescents who use alcohol and substances have a higher likelihood of engaging in risky sexual behaviour and not completing school

Day 5: Busting myths on alcohol and other substance use:

Myth: A little alcohol use is ok and is allowed in my culture

Fact: A recent study shows that any level of alcohol use has harmful health consequences

 Myth: I will not have friends if I stop drinking alcohol or using substances

Fact: more than 80% of adults worldwide have never used any substance. This means that many people do not use substances, and one can make new social connections from non-using persons

Myth: Drinking alcohol is a cure for the common cold

Fact: Alcohol impairs one’s immunity and increases the risk of lung and throat infections as well as cancers

 Myth: If I take cannabis, I will be more energetic and productive at school or in my work

Fact: Cannabis impairs attention, concentration and ability to focus resulting in impaired productivity both at school and at work

Myth: Khat is not a substance of abuse and has no negative health consequences

Fact: khat contains stimulants that cause euphoria when used, and irritability and poor appetite when its effects wane. Khat use has been linked to severe mental health consequences and oral cancers among its users in Kenya.

Day 6: Treatment and prevention of alcohol and other substance use:

The most important way to prevent yourself from experiencing the harmful effects of alcohol and other substances is to avoid use in the first place.

Sometimes mental health conditions like depression and anxiety predispose one to alcohol and other substance use in an attempt to self-medicate. Make sure to see a mental health professional to receive help if you feel deeply and consistently sad or anxious.

For those already involved in alcohol and other substance and wish to quit, you can receive treatment from a number of sources:

  1. The Moi Teaching & Referral Alcohol & Drug Abuse Rehabilitation Unit (In-patient and out-patient services) (0715789054)
  2. Community Alcohol Support Groups in western Kenya (0721722956)
  3. NACADA 24 hour toll free hotline: 1192
  4. NACADA website for a list of accredited rehabilitation facilities:
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