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Alcoholism in the Philippines


By Dr. Kaycee Reyes

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Do you drink to remember, or do you drink to forget? You may choose either one, but for majority of Filipinos, they drink regardless. It may be because of our culture having inherited from the Spanish, industrialization where more Filipinos in urban areas are subjected to daily stress, or the media portrayal of alcohol consumption as fun or cool. With all these factors and more, it is not surprising that consumption is only on the rise, and of course, alcohol-related diseases, deaths, and accidents as well.

According to the US National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the recommended level of alcohol consumption is one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men ages 21 to 65 years old. For those 65 years old and above, only one drink is recommended, if at all. Beyond this level, your health and the safety of others may be compromised. Alcohol is well-known to have negative health effects, from neuropsychiatric disorders, gastrointestinal diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular diseases. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol accounts for 60 types of diseases and 2.5 million deaths worldwide. Alcohol is classified into wine (from grapes), beer (malt beers), and spirits (from distilled beverages). Worldwide, European nations have the highest wine per capita consumption, the Americas consume the most beer per capita, and the Southeast Asian Region drinks the most spirits. WHO, however, also states that the lower the socioeconomic status of a person in a country, the higher the incidence of attributable disease burden from alcohol. This may be true, because in Southeast Asia, Filipinos are second heaviest drinkers next to Indonesia, such that as many as five million Filipinos drink almost every day. This is alarming, because not only is alcohol a major health problem, it is a social problem as well. Due to its intoxicating properties, excessive amounts can lead to violence, accidents, injury, suicidal tendencies, or disorder. An even growing cause of concern is the youth where at least 60 percent of Filipinos below 18 years old may have tried alcohol at least once. Because of alcohol’s addictive properties, those who start drinking at a young age are most likely to develop alcoholism later in life. Moreover, it exposes the youth to impulsive behavior that can lead them to try drugs, engage in unprotected sex, or display violent behavior. Performance in school may also be affected.

Given these statistics, the government currently has programs and a regulation for alcohol-related causes. The Department of Health has already launched a program to promote a healthy lifestyle that aims to curb or lessen non-communicable diseases. There has also been a regulation that gives law enforcers the right to penalize drivers who are proven to be driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. There have also been excise taxes imposed on alcoholic beverages to regulate the industry and somehow discourage consumption.

While it is great that the government has steps to curb alcohol consumption, it is not enough. There should also be more regulations imposed on alcohol manufacturers, bars, and the media, to control the production, distribution, and promotion of these goods. Education, especially among the youth, about the effects of alcohol should also be taught in schools, as teens are most likely to try them at this time. Moreover, families must also take initiative at home. Living a healthy lifestyle is always a good example for the youth that they may imitate as they grow older. Filipinos do not always seek help for their alcohol problems, so if you know someone who is alcoholic (someone who relies on alcohol or cannot stop drinking alcohol), please help him/her go to a rehabilitation center for help. If you are currently an alcohol drinker, control your consumption before it’s too late.

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