There is nothing new about the drinking of alcohol in Nigeria – traditionally, people here have consumed locally brewed wine since records began. However, in recent years the country has witnessed huge changes in the way alcohol is consumed- some of which are extremely
detrimental to health.
In days gone by different communities tended to use alcohol in a ceremonial function, so it was featured in events such as weddings, festivals, enthronements and funerals, with locally brewed Palm wine a popular choice. In areas where the consumption of alcohol was permitted at all, it was restricted to men – youths and women were not allowed to drink. People tended not to drink to excess as this was frowned upon in the community.
Alcohol in Nigeria today
Today, largely due to the influx of Western culture on Nigeria, there has been a dramatic change in the way people consume alcohol. No longer are beverages being restricted to local brews and political or religious ceremonies; alcohol consumption is widespread, occurring every day and night throughout bars, clubs and restaurants.
One of the more troubling aspects of wide-spread drinking is the level being consumed. Youths in particular tend to view alcohol as a competition – the person who drinks the most wins. This binge drinking culture is prevalent throughout the cities of Nigeria. In fact, it is this new trend of consumption that contributes to the incredibly high level of alcoholism in the country. A report by Toroyan in 2009 found that Nigeria consumed 10.57 litres per person across its population. In 2006, Nigeria was listed among the top 30 countries in the world with the highest per capita consumption of alcohol.
Young people, who were once permitted to drink only a small amount when guided by their elders, now drink to excess with their peers. On top of this there is a trend of consuming alcohol in public places, leading to dangerous and anti-social behaviour, as well as the long-term negative effects on health.
Alcohol: the dangers to health
Whether you or someone close to you has a problem with alcohol it can cause issues. These problems can put personal and professional relationships under a great deal of stress. It may be difficult to work effectively, you might find yourself struggling financially, and you or your loved one might not be able to stop drinking on their own. Alcohol is addictive; when it has been used for a long period of time the brain is affected so drinkers can find it incredibly difficult to stop without rehabilitation or support. They may feel intense cravings for alcohol meaning they feel they can’t function without it. If you have reached this
stage, or fear that you are on the road to alcoholism, it is time to seek help or alcohol addictionrecovery.
Alcohol can cause a variety of dangers to you and your health, as well as the people around you. As drinking problems become more prevalent in Nigeria, healthcare workers are seeing an increase in the number of people suffering from the health issues caused by excessive alcohol consumption, including:
-Cancer of the mouth, neck and throat
-High blood pressure
-Irregular heat beat
-Breast cancer in women
How much is too much?
Ideally, drink should be limited to no more than 4 units a day for men or 3 units a day for women. Drinking very heavily even once or twice a week – binge drinking – is deemed as extremely dangerous for your health and well-being. The more you drink, the more at risk you are from these health problems and illnesses, and the more of an impact alcohol will have on you socially.
Safe drinking habits
If you can control your drinking don’t let it get out of hand. That means forming healthier drinking habits as soon as you can. Remember, if you have children this is even more important as they’ll learn their drinking habits from you, as they watch you in the home.
1. Drink moderately – not to the point of drunkenness or beyond. Limiting alcohol to a drink at meal times and on special occasions is a good start.
2. Choose lower alcohol beer or wine
3. Don’t drink and drive or operate heavy machinery
4. Teach children and young people about the potential dangers of drinking alcohol.
It is possible to drink alcohol in moderation without forming unhealthy or damaging habits. If you are concerned about the amount you or a loved one is drinking, contact your doctor.