Alcoholism is a problem in Kenya. We are a drinking nation and not even ‘Mututho hours’ could slow us down. The National Transport and Safety Authority then came along blazing with ith alco-blows but that hasn’t been a deterrent either. News stories of people who have been adversely affected by alcohol abuse don’t help much as well
To alcoholics, those stories are nothing but statistics. “Saa yako ikifika utaenda tu. Pombe haiui watu. Ni pombe imeua kila mtu amewai kufa?, argues a friend who is friends with the bottle. (Alcohol does not kill, you die when your time comes. Is alcohol responsible for every death?)
In 2015, President Uhuru Kenyatta signed into law the Alcoholic Drinks Control Act Amendment recognizing alcoholism as a disease.
Although the legal drinking age is 18 years, surveys show Kenyans start drinking as early as 15 years of age. Some even start as early as the age of 12. In most cases, according to a 2015 survey by IPSOS, most underage drinkers are introduced to alcohol by relatives and friends.
That is the case of Achieng. She requested anonymity for the sake of her family and profession.From when she was of a tender age, her father would add alcohol to her drinks. Tea, water, and soft drinks name it. Nobody saw anything wrong with that. Nobody tried to stop him.
“By the time I was in primary school, I was already doing Napoleon, Marrycane, Sapphire and other drinks usually packaged in sachets,” she says in an interview with afromum.com
It slowly became a routine. She would hide alcohol in her bag and sneak it into school. Every evening after school, Achieng and her friends would hide in a spot and do a few drinks. She was smart enough to never got caught. “We soon graduated to going to night clubs,” she adds.
Achieng continued with alcohol abuse until 2011 when she met a guy at a party who she says transformed her life.
“His name is Ken. We kept in touch after the bash and he would talk to me about my problem. He never judged me. I became fond of him. Today he is my husband and the father of my children. I have never stopped telling him how much he changed my life.”
Achieng, however, says she doesn’t blame her dad for introducing her to alcohol.
Lucky to meet a savior
Most people struggling with alcoholism are not as lucky to meet a savior like Achieng did. Many are not even aware that they have a problem. “I can stop when I want” is the excuse most use to justify their reluctance to seek help.
The truth is that addiction is in most cases stronger than the will of the alcoholic to stop. In case you are or know of anyone struggling with alcoholism, there are centers where you can get professional help.
Asumbi Treatment and Rehabilitation Center in Karen and Kenyatta National Hospital- Patient Support Centre in Nairobi can help with your addiction. Fountain of Hope Addiction Treatment Centre, Teens Challenge, The Retreat, Wonderpeace Rehabilitation Centre are some of the best centers in Central Kenya.
Lamu Anti-Drugs, Mewa Rehabilitation Center and Coast Provincial General Hospital are in the coastal region. In Nyanza, there are Asumbi Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre (Homabay) and Anti-Abortion and Drug Abuse- Kenya (ADAK) in Nyamira. For the full list of rehabilitation centers in different regions in Kenya, click on this link.
Your choice of a help center will, however, depend on a number of considerations. What are the financial costs that you will incur? Do you prefer residential or outpatient treatment? Does the center only cater to a specific gender or group of individuals are some of the factors to consider?
You might also need to consider whether the institution offers after-care support. Remember to enquire whether the institution also has medical facilities to cater for other physical and mental problems besides the addiction.
You can also join a support group for people struggling with alcoholism.
Treatment for alcoholism
Treatment for alcohol addiction can involve a number of stages including;
- Withdrawal or detoxification to get the alcohol out of your system
Counseling to address emotional problems that drive the person to drink
Rehabilitation to equip the person with new skills and behaviors for coping without alcohol
Medical care for health problems arising from alcoholism
Medications such as Naltrexone, Acamprosate, and Disulfiram to help control addiction.
Naltrexone is only used after withdrawing from alcohol. It works by blocking brain receptors associated with ‘highness’ from alcohol. It helps to reduce the craving for imbibing in alcohol. Acamprosate is used to restore the brain’s original chemical state before alcohol dependence kicked in. Disulfiram, on the other hand, is used to discourage alcohol consumption as it causes discomfort whenever the individual indulges in alcohol.
“These drugs should only be taken upon prescription and supervision by a qualified medical personnel. They can sometimes lead to liver diseases, especially Naltrexone and Disulfiram. Overdosing on Acamprosate can lead to severe depression and thoughts of suicide,” Dr. David warns.