IN Zambia, a young person is one who has attained the age of fifteen years, but is below the age of nineteen years; and a youth is a person who has attained the age of nineteen years, but is below the age of thirty-five years.
Young people and the youth are very important in driving forward the development of a nation. However, the young and the youths can fall prey to alcohol-related harm. Young people and the youth are people who are at the very top of maximising their abilities.
These same abilities are a way of alleviating alcohol-related harm. Although a person in the process of becoming addicted wouldn’t realise the signs of addiction before it swiftly slides into alcoholism.
However, if one’s senses crave for more alcohol all the time, then there is a good chance of the person admitting they have a problem. But before they get to that stage it is important for a young person to make some important choices in avoiding alcohol abuse. This avoidance of alcohol abuse can begin at a maturity age or earlier because that is the time when one is making full use of his/her abilities.
Everything we do with our abilities is our responsibility. Abilities are inherent, they are natural tendencies and talents to do something good. Essentially, abilities are what make us who we are as human beings and offer us our dignity. The freedom of an adult to drink alcohol is something that must be exercised with caution and prudence.
As we exercise our human freedom vis-a-vis alcohol we experience two opposing forces which can either cause one to drink moderately or immoderately. In human society alcohol can be consumed moderately based on medical reasons or as part of relaxation. There is also the myth that by drinking alcohol one can relieve oneself from personal problems.
To have a sense of responsibility is to be able to make decisions independently. It is so disheartening to see many youths, young people, married men and women living irresponsibly by engaging themselves in alcohol abuse. Responsibility implies being reliable, conscientious and trustworthy. Therefore, in the midst of drinking beer, people should find a way to make mature decisions. However, drinking too much alcohol deters people from being trustworthy and from making ethical decisions.
The alarming situation of alcohol abuse among the young people and youths in Zambia directs our nation into dangerous waters. Over consumption of alcohol is not productive for a developing nation like Zambia. Alcohol abuse has many side effects on the health of the people which negatively affects the working culture of the people. The abuse of alcohol is retarding the nation in the area of human development.
People who abuse alcohol find themselves in the circle of continuous procrastination even on important and urgent matters. The abuse of alcohol leads to a lot of job losses, failing to work the stipulated working hours and not rendering quality time and service at work. The plague of alcohol abuse breeds in many people unproductive lifestyle which jeopardizes their health which leads into the risk of contracting sexual transmitted diseases and HIV and AIDS.
Some people blame unemployment as a cause of today’s alcohol abuse levels. This is not justifiable because a young person without a job is capable of finding something to do in the community. Even in areas where there are few employment opportunities, people should have some work to do to keep themselves busy.
They say that the true measure of a man is in how he chooses to act in the face of the trials. It follows then that a person can decide to be drinking moderately even in the face of a great trial. A high rate of unemployment should not lead to alcohol abuse.
The first place to curb alcohol related harm is in the family. The family has a bigger role to play in preventing alcohol abuse because we all belong to a family. For instance, the family knows the age of each of its members and has a lot of influence regarding the values that are passed on to the children.
It is noted, however, that some parents instead of being good role models are alcoholics. It is sad that homes which are supposed to be places of moral formation have become dens of intoxication. Parents who are supposed to be a beacon of hope and a shining light for their children are, instead, becoming initiators of children in the life of reckless beer drinking.
For instance, some shebeen owners are parents, yet they do not mind who drinks from their places. Why have some of our parents started forfeiting their noble responsibilities by selling beer to the young? Remember! Whatever you feed the young today is what you will reap in the evening of your life as parents.
There is need to establish laws which forbid certain brands to be sold to young people. Selling alcohol to people above the age of 18, which is a common label on many brands and drinking places, seems to have failed us. It is scientifically verifiable that some brands are more addictive than others. So if young people and the youths in their ignorance are exposed to addictive alcoholic drinks, they tend to have greater chances of becoming alcoholics.
We need non-governmental organisations to come on board to curb alcohol abuse. The three church mother bodies and the local communities should also work together at all levels to curb the vice.
There is also need for local authorities to work out concrete ways of regulating the mushrooming numbers of shebeens and taverns. Many of these compound shebeens are illegal and do not respect policy on the sale of alcohol. In some shebeens, people begin drinking as early as 06:00hrs till late.
The education system also has a part to play in alleviating some aspects of alcohol abuse because it through education that people are shaped wholistically. The education given in our schools and colleges should impart to young people a moral staunchness that will aid them to resist alcohol abuse and to begin venturing into productive ways of living even without being employed.
Socially there is need for awareness on alcohol abuse, including an orientation that respects a healthy lifestyle. This can be completed only by a teaching that touches the conscience and involves a practical approach in alleviating alcohol abuse.
To curb alcohol abuse there is need to sensitise young people on the effects of alcohol abuse on their healthy and intellect. Therefore, there is an urgent need for all well-meaning Zambians to join hands together in curbing the vice of alcohol abuse among the young people through individual participation.
Ultimately, the scourge of alcohol abuse will be a thing of the past only when people begin to care for their health.
KABAMBA MWANSA, the author is a pastoral worker- firstname.lastname@example.org