Big difference between drink and drunkeness

It appears our country is dying a sad little death, not from the rising crime that has kept us engaged in rapt attention; not from political squabbling, bumptiousness and Government ineptness which we so often complain about; not from deviant youth who we contend have lost their way.

Our country is sprawling in a sad and sorrowful slide towards a drunken stupor right before our very eyes; and few seem to notice.

The latest Barbados Health Of The Nation Survey, the results of which were published last week, tells quite a damning story. The survey found that about one in seven people over the age of 25 engaged in binge drinking.

Delivering the Core Findings 2015 Policy Brief from the survey, Chief Medical Officer Dr Joy St John spoke about horror stories from mass crowd events that were triggered by drunkenness.

Chief Medical Officer Dr Joy St John.
Chief Medical Officer Dr Joy St John.

“You have people coming in and they don’t know who they are; they don’t know what they are doing; and they are sick; and some of that then leads into the violence that has been creeping into our events,” Dr St John said.

The introduction of violence to our public events for any reason whatsoever must be an area of concern for us all, and action must be taken to control troublemakers.

But drinking to the point where you no longer know who you are and can no longer tell what you’re doing is a most troubling manner that calls for urgent and major help.

But who is listening? Who will help stop our young adults from turning themselves into instant old dotes? In fact, where is the critical opprobrium? Where is the outrage? Where is the discourse, even?

How is it that such a serious issue that impacts Barbadians of various castes can be ignored with such deliberate ease?

If the survey findings are disputable or the perceptions of those reports are misguided, then, by all means, let’s give them the scant attention they deserve. But the numbers produced by the survey don’t lie. And some of the comments on social media suggest the numbers are right on target.

Some of those comments clearly state drinking is an acceptable aspect of our culture. Drinking, yes; but dangerous and deadly drunkenness? If it is, it’s a culture that’s killing us rapidly and must be contained.

This is why our leaders must, as a matter of responsibility, act to get this drink problem under control. At the very least, there needs to be a discussion on the matter; it must be dealt with with the same urgency that is accorded the more politically expedient matters. Or is it that our traditional leaders do not deign
to address this issue because it’s not sexy enough?

Our political leaders froth rabidly about CLICO and Cahill, unemployment, leadership and rising prices, and a million other matters –– all important issues. Our religious leaders have an obsession with sex and infidelity, and readily vent their frustration and annoyance with gay relationships. But these issues will be of no consequence if our country is drinking itself to death; if our young adults in their most productive years are dying from gross intoxication or the actions brought on by drunkenness.

Equally troubling is what the research discovered about other areas of our health. It found that over six in ten women and one in five men have abdominal obesity; almost one in five adults has diabetes; one in every three women is on treatment for hypertension, and another 11 per cent are hypertensive but untreated, and one in every five men is on treatment for hypertension.

Excess alcohol intake in men, levels of physical inactivity, poor intake of fresh fruit and vegetables, and a high rate of obesity are affecting the vast majority of the adult population, the report said. If this isn’t frightening, nothing is.

Dr St John said it was important that Government, civil society and the private sector come together to help reduce the health risks. We agree wholeheartedly.

We already have a not so proud reputation for amputations; we already burden the Queen Elizabeth Hospital –– which itself is struggling just to keep itself on life support –– with a spate of patients needing emergency care from crime and accidents. Surely we can help ease the pressure by taking care of our own health.

It’s true that eating healthy here is costly –– it seems only a few can afford to –– and the mood in the country is bleak and the atmosphere feels oppressive, but it’s even costlier if we maintain our current habits. The cost in many cases is as high as our lives. We simply must become more abstemious

Yes, we might be the birthplace of rum, but we ought not make it the source of our death. Someone in power and authority must begin to show interest in what life is like for the nation’s health. Otherwise our proud nation will atrophy and die a sad little death.

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