At a party recently, I looked on in shock as a boy of about seven years drunk from his elder brother’s glass of wine at a table across me. After a few sips, he quickly poured some of the wine in his soda bottle and put the glass back.
From where he had gone, the brother, aged about 16, returned with a bottle of Smirnoff. He mixed it with a Mountain Dew soda and in a few seconds it was no more. He left again only to reappear with two bottles of Guinness and three other boys seemingly younger than him. They guzzled the drinks in a few minutes and resorted to sharing their Hugo Rose Wine bottle.
I was curious to know why these young souls were so into alcohol and I moved to their table. I asked them why they were taking drinks meant for adults and one of them boldly answered me: “We are adults already!” He sipped his booze!
The consumption of alcohol has become a custom among the young. Many consume the toxic substance as if they are taking in a soft drink.
Today, some parents share beer with their children thinking they are too young to become addicts. Other parents are too busy to monitor the movements of their children.
Carol Mulyowa, a counselor at Hope and Beyond Rehabilitation Center says young people are simply ignorant
“They don’t know how big the damage can be until they are addicted and brought here for help,” she says.
A report titled Under Age Consumption of Alcohol in Uganda, published in 2014 by the Uganda Alcohol Policy Alliance, states that 37 percent of Uganda’s young people start drinking between the age of 12-19.
It adds that 39 percent of heavy drinkers are introduced to alcohol by friends, 40 percent are due to peer pressure while 15 percent drink because it is a tradition.
The report adds that 37 percent of students have sex while drunk and 23.5 percent of students fail to use condoms because they are drunk – exposing themselves to sexually transmitted diseases.
Dr David Basangwa, the Executive Director of Butabika National Referral Hospital revealed recently that the majority of the patients admitted there are university and high school victims of alcohol and drug abuse.
The challenge is that what usually starts as a simple pass time ends up in addiction.
Moses Kiwanuka, not real name, for example, started drinking alcohol at the age of 17. He is now 38. Though he has not consulted a doctor over his alcohol consumption, he knows he is an addict.
“I am used to it. It raises my sexual desire and I end up sleeping with different women. I don’t like it but I cannot live without alcohol. I am nothing minus waragi,” he told me.
Globally, harmful use of alcohol kills 3.3 million people annually – some 5. 9 percent of all deaths, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Global Information Systems on Alcohol and Health (GISAH).