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Alcohol Abuse in Africa

The scope and nature of alcohol abuse in Africa is difficult to understand, because each country has a unique approach to drinking. Complete abstinence from alcohol is common in many countries, but drinking and its many effects nevertheless plague many other nations.

Africa’s Alcohol Abuse Statistics

Alcohol abuse may appear to be a much smaller problem in Africa than in other continents, but such statistics are misleading. For instance, according to a 2007 report from the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol use was responsible for 3.2% of deaths worldwide in 2000, but in Africa that percentage was almost a third smaller at 2.1%. The problem is that this lower number does not indicate a healthier relationship with alcohol. Alcohol consumption is very low in some predominantly Muslim countries, because their customs and laws make alcohol taboo or completely unavailable. But in many other nations men drink alcohol freely, even when women do not. While a smaller percentage of people in Africa suffer from alcohol abuse, the problem may still be large in the countries and communities it affects.

Alcohol Abuse Trends in Africa

Some social and economic changes in African nations contribute to bigger problems with alcohol abuse. These changes include the following problems:

  • Growing economies – As Africans increase their spending power, alcohol producers see growing markets. They advertise to compete with one another to win new customers, and eventually they ensnare more drinkers.
  • More women drinking – According to a 2004 survey from WHO, teenaged girls and women in Zambia drink and abuse alcohol at a higher rate than male teens
  • More young drinkers – The same 2004 report from WHO found that 32.8% of children aged 13 to 15 admitted to regular alcohol consumption

Identifying the size and nature of alcohol abuse in Africa is difficult, because many nations do not actively monitor alcohol sales. But even when alcohol sales are tracked, consumption is still hard to quantify, because homemade alcoholic beverages are prevalent.

How to Address Alcohol Abuse in Africa

Many African nations are recognizing the problems they have with alcohol, and they are making goals to control this devastating issue. For instance, many African nations are beginning the following campaigns to get their citizens sober:

  • Public information campaigns – Factual information about alcohol’s dangers is promoted to counter increased alcohol advertising
  • Restrict availability – Cutting down access to alcohol at schools, work and public festivals
  • Enforce age limits – Underage drinking currently goes unchecked in many areas, but many areas are now enforcing such rules
  • Improved care for alcoholics – Screening for alcohol problems and rehab programs to treat them are rare in Africa, but many countries now offer solutions to such problem drinkers

Priorities and policies like these become more important as alcohol becomes more accessible and acceptable.

Help for African Alcoholics

If you or someone you know in Africa has a problem with alcohol abuse, then call our 24 hour, toll-free helpline to discuss treatment options. Help is available and the call is confidential, so seek help as soon as possible to get well.