Sep 10, 2011 News
– Research shows
The harm associated with the consumption of alcohol, particularly among young people, is an area of growing concern and presents a major challenge to all levels of government, experts say.
Research indicates much alcohol use and associated harm in young people occurs in public drinking environments.
A systematic literature search identified studies that had explored associations between physical, staffing and social factors in drinking environments and increased alcohol use or alcohol-related harm.
Research further reveals that developing policies and initiatives that attempt to influence drinking behaviour is notoriously difficult, largely because the consumption of alcohol is both widely accepted as a significant part of Guyanese culture and at the same time responsible for a range of social and health-related problems.
Statistics also show that the drinking culture where most persons “drink to get drunk”, frequently at excessive and harmful levels, is associated with many forms of entertainment and participation in social events.
However, the evidence relating to the range of individual and social harms associated with alcohol misuse is strong. The consumption of alcohol, especially at high levels, is a significant risk factor for violence. Alcohol-related crime and disorder can have a significant adverse impact upon the perceptions of safety among the broader community. This concern and perception extends well beyond those who have been directly involved in an incident of alcohol-related anti-social behaviour or harm.
Experts say that a relatively small proportion of incidents involving alcohol-related violence are reported to police. As a result, many violent offences involving alcohol go unrecorded, making it difficult to determine the full extent of alcohol-related violence.
According to one study, among those people who were physically abused by someone under the influence of alcohol or other drugs within a 12-month period, nearly three-quarters (70%) did not report the incident to police.
Reports cite alcohol is also an important risk factor for domestic violence, child abuse and neglect. The high rate of alcohol involvement in intimate partner homicide has already been reported. The consumption of alcohol, either by the offender or victim or both, is also a significant contributing factor in incidents of non-fatal domestic violence, with research demonstrating that women whose partners consume alcohol at excessive levels are more likely to experience domestic violence.
Despite this strong body of evidence, the relationship between alcohol and violence, like many other complex social phenomena, is not a simple or straightforward one. Research shows that heavy drinking and intoxication are associated with physical aggression. In fact, a significant proportion of alcohol-related assaults occurred within a private setting.
Researchers have studied intimate partner violence (IPV) by listening to victims’ reports and by conducting surveys of the general public that ask participants whether they have perpetrated this type of violence themselves. The acts of violence considered by researchers are varied, ranging from slapping and pushing (moderate violence) to battery or using knives and other instruments to inflict pain (severe violence). Studies conducted among patients in treatment for substance abuse problems, victims of battering in women’s shelters, and people selected from household samples in the community, indicate that a high rate of IPV occurs in Guyana.
Research suggests that while drinking a small amount of alcohol is generally not harmful for most people, regular drinking of a lot of alcohol can cause health, personal and social problems for a person over the long-term. People who drink heavily may become dependent on alcohol.
There are degrees of dependence, from mild dependency to compulsive drinking (often referred to as ‘alcoholism’). Alcohol dependence can be a physical problem, or psychological, or both. For instance, to some degree many of us are psychologically dependent on alcohol if we feel that we cannot socialise at a party without a drink.
In the case of an alcoholic person who is both physically and psychologically dependent, alcohol becomes central to their life. Such a person would suffer withdrawal symptoms such as tremor, nausea, anxiety, depression, sweating, headache and difficulty sleeping, if they were to try to stop drinking or to cut down the amount they drink.
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