Full Disclosure
August 31, 2007

Impact of alcohol abuse on our youth

It was very interesting to listen to the discussions in our villages and towns, particularly among our youth, when recently there was a scarcity of Sunset strong rum on the local market. Many persons for the very first time had the opportunity to find out for themselves, free of cost, without expert consultation of any sort, that their thirst for alcohol had reached the levels of addiction.{{more}} Since then, I have taken a closer look at the issue, and resolved within myself that there appears to be a certain trend that is becoming very apparent, in that we are noticing increasingly that the persons behind the “bottles”, or “glasses” as the case may be, are persons within their youthful years. It is clear that alcohol is in the spotlight, featuring preeminently at events ranging from christening parties at birth to wakes and other post burial activities.

It is without doubt that moderate alcohol use in most of the Caribbean islands is normal, whether it is for use in culinary arts or for social purposes. On the other hand, alcohol abuse or dependence has become not simply a health problem, but a very real societal concern with a wide range of negative dimensions. Are our people entertaining a lifestyle of alcohol abuse from an uninformed position? Our people appear to at least have a working knowledge of the negative effects of alcohol abuse on the central nervous system and brain functions, which include concerns of impacts on perception, thinking, and coordination. It is a well established fact that alcohol abuse impairs judgment, reduces inhibitions, and increases aggression in most cases. Are there any real linkages that can be made between an increase in violence and excessive drinking? Are alcohol abusers more prone to fall victims to sexually transmitted diseases? These questions may readily be answered in the affirmative, since we know that those who abuse alcohol are more likely than others to engage in high risk and thoughtless behaviors.

Our society is constantly the subject of change. Due to the changes in our society, we will be called upon from time to time to exercise higher levels of prudence and wisdom in our every action. If one is to focus on the impact of alcohol abuse on our youth who are under the age of eighteen, the revelation will create necessary alarm. As a nation, do we see the need for a greater sense of urgency if we are to arrest and address the problem? Many may pull the blame card quickly. Who should be blamed? Is it our parents who are not setting an example when they send their children to purchase alcohol? Is it that we need a well policed system to ensure that our children are not allowed to make a decision that can cause them their lives?

It is in this light that we must launch a campaign to appeal to persons to refrain from selling alcohol to minors. Every Vincentian child has a right to be protected from harm. So, too, must all responsible adults ensure that they do not allow their duty of care which they owe to our youth to go silently into the night. Alcohol abuse must not be allowed to find a haven in our blessed land. Any society that excuses such an activity will eventually fall victim to it. Therefore, our emphasis must be focused on protecting our national youth product from every potentially harmful act.

Most of our children and youth who have engaged in drinking had their first drink at home. It goes back to the early experiences of seeing a parent drinking and forming opinions, attitudes and perceptions towards alcohol. I have witnessed recently a teenage mother feeding her baby with beer at an outdoor function. Here resides a social complication which implies a failure to adequately fulfill an expected social role. Society is so structured that parents will be the primary source of socialization to ensure that our children conform to morals and values. Is alcohol abuse now a part of our youth culture?

As a society, we must begin to work now to avoid the further breakdown of the remaining social structures around us. As a society we must be on a mission to save our youth. The availability of alcohol must be reduced in the homes and elsewhere. The most documented principle in alcohol abuse prevention is based on the ways and means by which alcohol can be made unreachable. Communities can make alcohol less available by promoting responsible adult behavior and holding adults accountable when they provide alcohol to minors. If alcohol abuse among our youth is slowly becoming a social norm, then it must be vehemently challenged. In order to attain any level of success we must be consistent in this effort in order to reinforce the message that alcohol abuse by our young brothers and sisters is unhealthy and unacceptable.