For many Guyanese, knocking back a few cold beers or Guinness or, if the weekend is long enough, bottles of vodka or brown rum is a regular pastime. It is not uncommon to see Guyanese chilling with friends at a bar after work to have a few drinks. It’s what we do to “release the stress” and “decompress” as some say. We drink, we laugh and enjoy our friends’ company.

But when does consuming alcohol become a problem? Typically, it’s when we begin to lose control of ourselves, we become aggressive and we ignore our better judgment. This is when we should realise that there’s a problem.

The problem of alcohol abuse and addiction is a global one and in Guyana the number of persons being arrested for drunk driving, aggressive and violent behaviour and deaths as a result of alcohol is alarming.

So what is alcoholism? It is an addiction to alcohol. This means that the alcoholic is unable to go a day without a drink, spends a sizeable portion of their salary on booze and feels that their problems cannot be solved without resorting to it.

Effects: Alcohol has more negative effects than

positive ones in that it has caused people to do unspeakable things to themselves and others around them. What is worse is that alcohol is a legal drug that is easily accessible to anyone in our society. People no longer recognise the difference between recreational drinking and alcoholism. We justify the need to drink because we’ve “had a hard day” or we just need to “relax.”Every “body” is different and this means that alcohol affects each of us differently. Where two beers may make one person drunk, it may take another two cases to have the same effect on someone else. This is to say that once we know what our limit is, we should know when to say “no more.” By doing this, we are not only showing respect and consideration for ourselves but for those around us.

Knowing when to stop: While there is nothing wrong with having a few drinks, we must know our limits. We have to learn to be respectful of ourselves and those around us. If you know you’re going to have a night out, take a taxi or get a designated driver. This does not mean that you’re allowed to get drunk and make a fool of yourself but that you’re being a responsible human being. 

Alcohol as a pathology: Just like any other drug, alcohol can become highly addictive. The question of whether the addiction is physiological or psychological is up for debate but once dependency is created, it is not so easy to give up on the drink. It is important to remember that people who are addicted to alcohol may not easily recognise their addiction and may need help. 

Getting help: If you know of someone who may be addicted to alcohol then seek professional help for that person. Let them know that you care and that you want the best for them. Family support in this regard is key to helping the affected person. In Guyana, there are two centres that cater to persons with addictions: The Phoenix Rehabilitation Centre and the Salvation Army. There are also self-help groups where persons can share their experiences with others who are also suffering from the same addiction. You can get more information about these groups from your local health care facility.

Alicia Roopnaraine is a Psychologist at the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation’s Psychiatric Department and also sees patients privately. You can send questions, comments or schedule a private consultation at [email protected]

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