Dangers of excessive alcohol intake by Nurse Angela

Having an alcoholic drink now and then is unlikely to harm your health, but drinking excessively can have negative effects on your health and overall well-being. Nurse Angela Motsusi tells us more.

Themba’s story

Themba, a 21-year-old male had a great future ahead of him. He’d just finished college when his mother organised him a job, to look after animals at an animal sanctuary. He also met the girl of his dreams at the same facility.

For a while, things were perfect, but he had a need to fit in with his friends and part of that included not only buying the alcohol for his friends, but also included heavy drinking binges. It first started on weekends but soon evolved into daily binges, which impacted his ability to show up for work and focus on the job. The drinking resulted in him losing not only his job, but his relationships with his mother and girlfriend too.

Currently he’s without a job, no girlfriend and has a shaky relationship with his mother. Themba lives a far cry from what his life used to be. At the center of all this is the alcohol abuse, which has taken away a bright future and turned it into a life of shame and regret.

What is excessive drinking?

Excessive drinking is when you have five or more drinks at one time or more than ten drinks in one week. It includes binge drinking, heavy drinking, and any drinking by pregnant women or people younger than age 21 which can result in alcohol dependency.

Short-Term Health Risks

Excessive alcohol use has immediate effects that increase your risk of many harmful health conditions, such as:

Injuries- such as motor vehicle accidents, falls, drownings, and burns.

Violence- including murder, suicide, sexual assault, and intimate partner violence.

Alcohol poisoning- a medical emergency caused by high blood alcohol levels.

Risky sexual behaviours- including unprotected sex or sex with multiple partners. These behaviours can result in unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV.

Miscarriage, stillbirth or foetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) in pregnant women.

Long-Term Health Risks

Over time, excessive alcohol use can lead to the development of chronic diseases and other serious problems including:

High blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, liver disease, and digestive problems.

Cancer of the mouth, throat, oesophagus, liver, and colon.

Weakening of the immune system, increasing the chances of getting sick.

Learning and memory problems, including dementia and poor school/work performance.

Mental health problems, including depression and anxiety.

Social problems, including loss of productivity, family problems, and unemployment.

Alcohol dependency.

South Africa has a culture of binge drinking and alcohol. Over the years, we’ve seen the negative effects that this can have on individuals, families and communities. If you find yourself experiencing any of the risks I’ve mentioned, The South African National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (SANCA) or the Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) South Africa are good places to start, or you can send me a message to get advice on other ways of finding help.

It’s important to know how to draw the line when having drinks alone or with friends. While an occasional drink every now and then isn’t a concern, finding yourself drinking heavily can take its toll on our bodies, health and lifestyles. A moment on the lips can result in a lifetime of regret.

If you or a friend need someone to talk to, you can speak to me for advice or help here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).

You can be sober and still have fun, here’s how

If you’ve decided to quit alcohol or just want to be able to have fun without being under the influence this holiday, I have some tips for you. Here they are.

Drink mocktails

A mocktail is a non-alcoholic cocktail. It has the same ingredients and same refreshing taste, without the alcohol. You can get creative and come up with your own mocktail receipts based on the fruit and flavours you enjoy.

Have conversations

When we’re hanging out with people and drinking, we can lose focus of the possible connections we could be making. There’s so much to learn, so many interesting things to explore and new connections to be made if you give yourself the chance to.

Enjoy the food

If you’re going to a braai or going out to eat, it’s good to focus on the food and try out as many different things as you can. Focusing on the entire experience of being with friends and loved ones, eating good food and having interesting conversation will help you be in the moment and have more fun. You might not even miss the alcohol.

Tune in to the music

Listening to music is a great way to unwind and have a good time. It’s great to focus on the fun tunes and dance with your friends, even when you’re sober. In fact, you’re more likely to remember the good time you had and cherish those great memories if you don’t drink any alcohol or take any other substances.

While drinking has become a huge part of how people socialise, it’s really possible to have a fun time with loved ones without using any substances. We don’t need to drink alcohol or take any substance because of social pressure or the fear of not having a good time – there are so many other things that you can enjoy and the best part is that it’s guilt free.

Remember if you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Messagea Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).

What are the dangers of homemade alcohol?

A lot of people have turned to homemade beer (pineapple beer and DIY ciders) since the ban on the sale of alcohol was put in place. But did you know that making your own alcohol can be dangerous to your health? Consider these risks before trying to brew your own alcohol.

The history of homemade alcohol

Homemade alcohol has been around for decades. Umqombothi (African beer) is one brew that has been enjoyed in African households for many generations, usually during special ceremonies and occasions. Even though people are making different kinds of homemade brews, the process is almost the same. It includes ingredients like sugar and yeast — which are necessary to start fermentation (the process of letting your mixture sit in order for it to break down and become alcohol).

While homemade alcohol seems harmless, getting the process wrong and using the wrong ingredients (like methylated spirits) can lead to serious health issues and even death.

It can make you sick

When it comes to anything you are going to ingest, good hygiene is key. The incorrect use of ingredients and bad hygiene practices can lead to the formation of bacteria that can seriously compromise your health.

It can cause injury

Homemade beer has been known to explode and even cause injury when you use the incorrect tools (using pots or glass) during the fermentation process, as this can be really unpredictable. This is why it’s important that you have the experience and knowledge to brew alcohol, rather than trying to do it yourself.

It can lead to alcohol poisoning

Consuming large amounts of alcohol can lead to alcohol poisoning, which has its own risks. This also applies to homemade brews. The main concern with making your own liquor is that there is no accurate way of measuring the percentage of alcohol in it, which means that you run the risk of consuming way more alcohol than is required. Remember that alcohol can be damage your liver, kidney and other organs.

While homemade beer has been part of a lot of people’s culture here in South Africa, the brewing of, umqombothi for example, has been entrusted with those people in your family, community and culture who have the knowledge and expertise to do it safely. Making your own brews out of fruit and yeast may have some unwanted effects and be harmful to your health, so it’s better to stay away from it, Choma. Since we are able to purchase alcohol during Level 3 of the lockdown, it’s important to make sure you drink responsibly, don’t drink and drive for any reason and make sure you are not drinking to try and mask stress or anxiety.

If you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).

The Dangers of Drinking Alcohol while Pregnant

You can drink alcohol without any problem but when you abuse alcohol, it can lead to surprising results or risky behaviour like having unprotected sex with someone whose Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) status you don’t know. But what about drinking alcohol while pregnant?

Alcohol is a toxic (poisonous) choma. So when you drink alcohol during pregnancy, the alcohol gets into your blood and then passes through the placenta (a round organ in the uterus which helps nourish your baby with oxygen and food through the umbilical cord). Drinking alcohol at any time during pregnancy can cause serious health problems for your baby.

The effects alcohol has on a baby

Possibly contract Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI’s)

There’s an increase in risky behaviour when you consume alcohol. It can affect your judgement and decision-making and lead you to make bad choices like having unprotected sex with someone who is possibly HIV positive, putting you and your baby at risk of contracting HIV.

Miscarriage or premature birth

Binge, heavy or regular drinking can cause miscarriage (where you lose your baby before you give birth) or premature birth (where a baby arrives before the due date)

Brain damage

If you drink during pregnancy, your baby may be born with severe problems. Your baby’s brain is still developing, so, when you drink alcohol it affects your baby’s brain and prevents your baby’s brain from developing properly. This can cause your baby to:

  • have difficulty concentrating or paying attention
  • have poor memory
  • have lower intelligence
  • struggle with learning languages

Birth defects

Birth defects are health problems babies get at birth. They can change the function or shape of one or more parts of your baby’s body. Birth defects may cause serious problems in how your baby’s body develops or works. Your baby may be born with hearing or visual problems or have heart problems.

How to keep your unborn baby safe

Stay steady

You may sometimes be under pressure to drink, especially if you are out with your friends. If they don’t know that you’re pregnant yet, either tell them that you are pregnant so can’t drink any alcohol because you don’t want to harm your baby, or tell them that you are on a diet and stick to non-alcoholic drinks.

Get support

Speak to someone you trust if you find it hard to give up alcohol on your own, or if you think you may be addicted choma. There are treatment centres for you if you feel like you can’t stop drinking and may be harming your baby by drinking alcohol. You won’t feel judged there choma. You can even ask me on Ask Choma if you need more information. Remember choma, asking for help shows how much you care about your unborn baby.

Are you hanging with the wrong crowd?

It’s true, your happiness shouldn’t be completely dependent on other people, but personal relationships with others do have an impact on how you feel about others and yourself and strongly influence how you see yourself and others. Being in the right crowd can make you a better person, keep you motivated to do better and generally make you happier. But being in the wrong crowd can break you, especially if you’re blind to the fact that you’re in bad company. Here are ways to find out if you are hanging with the wrong crowd.

  • You start doing things you wouldn’t normally do

Do you find yourself drinking too much, lying to your family on your whereabouts or chilling with people that a few months earlier wouldn’t be acceptable to hang out with? Have your marks dropped and do you find that you have changed for the worst? If you have answered “yes” to any of these, then look at the company you’re keeping. If these things started happening around the same time that you made these new friends, then they could have an influence on your behaviour. The minute you have to question yourself and your lifestyle change because of your friends, then they’re probably the wrong ones.

  • They’re too busy for you

If something is important to you, you will always make time for it, no matter what. If you are the only one making an effort to meet up with your friends but they are too busy to meet you, maybe it’s time to re-examine this friendship. It’s difficult to be in such a friendship because there is always an effort made to have a friendship. If someone doesn’t appreciate your presence then it may be time to give them your absence chomas.  

  • You’re uncomfortable around them

It’s natural to feel a little uncomfortable around a new group of people. It can also be intimidating meeting new people. However, after a while you start to get comfortable with these people the more time you spend with them. But, if you’re still uncomfortable around this new group of people then they are probably not the right crowd for you. Listen to your inner voice because that means there’s something about them that is not right for you and your growth.

  • You don’t share the same values

South Africa has a diverse group of people who have different cultures and it’s important to celebrate and accept these differences and not judge. But, as soon as you believe that this group of people does not share the same morals as you, then it might be time to re-evaluate these friendships. If this crowd is constantly rejecting what you stand for or is constantly putting you down because you have different beliefs then it’s time to cut your ties with them.

  • This crowd leaves you more stressed after socialising

Your friends should bring you joy and happiness and not leave you more stressed than before. It’s OK to listen to your friends’ troubles but if that’s all they are bringing to the friendship and taking parts of you without helping you, then maybe they are not the friends for you.

  • Your goals are put on hold

If you find yourself spending more of your time on unimportant and unproductive activities that don’t help you progress in life – like partying almost every night or putting off your assignments just to socialise – it might be time to say “goodbye” to this crowd.

You can only be as great as the people you surround yourself with, so make sure the people you hang out with encourage you to do and be better and be courageous enough to let go of the people who keep bringing you down.

4 Surprising Results of Drug and Alcohol Abuse

Eminem, Fergie from the Black Eyed Peas, Charlie Sheen, TI, Nicole Ritchie, Kid Cudi… These are just a few celebrities who are outspoken about their battles with addiction to drugs and alcohol. Our own MaBrrr, Brenda Fassie, lost her life in an apparent overdose in 2004. It also seems common these days to hear about a local singer or TV star on the news being involved in a car accident under the influence of alcohol.

The most common drugs used locally include marijuana (dagga), cocaine, heroin, “Nyaope” (a mixture of marijuana and heroin) and tik (methamphetamine). And alcohol might be a legal substance once you’re over a certain age, but it can be as addictive as any shady illegal substance.

The SA Depression and Anxiety Group (SADAG) show that illegal drug use in the country is double that of the world norm, and the rate of use is rising. The Cape Town Drug Counselling Centre says that 75% of the people who come to them for help started using drugs in their teens.

Choma, I don’t tell you this to freak you out or to throw statistics at you, but the bottom line is: too many young people are getting caught up in drug and alcohol abuse in South Africa. It’s just not worth experimenting and using drugs, it is highly addictive, destroys lives and negatively affects the people around you. Drug addiction is also permanent chomas, while there are treatment programmes out there, a recovering drug addict has to face their own struggles every day and relapse is very common.

Think you’ve heard all this before? Well, choma, it isn’t just hallucinations, addiction and overdosing that you need to worry about – as if those weren’t bad enough. Drugs and alcohol have many serious consequences that I bet you haven’t even considered:

1. Theft and crime

You start off small, smoking illegal substances with your friends at a party. What’s the harm you think? Well, other than the immediate dangers to your health, you have to know that buying drugs keeps the gangsters in your neighbourhood in business.

Not only that, but a lot of addicts find themselves committing crime too. They report that as your need to keep using grows, and need to chase more intense highs consumes you, they started stealing from their friends and family, and in some cases selling sex for drug money and holding up local businesses for cash. It’s an ugly future that you don’t want, choma.

2. With your health, goes your looks

Ok, choma, this might sound seriously vain, but nobody wants the skin and teeth of someone who abuses drugs and alcohol. There’s a lot of medical reasons why, but the short version is that you can kiss your youthful good looks goodbye when you bring drugs into your life. Think acne, scarring, rashes, rotting brown teeth, bruising, skin lesions and infections, and more.

3. Death on our roads

I know you know, choma, that our lovely country has a serious problem with road safety. Death and horrific accidents are sadly an everyday occurrence on our roads. And drug and alcohol abuse is adding fuel to the fire. According to the Central Drug Authority, as many as 6000 people die on our roads in alcohol related accidents.

4. Brain damage

Even if your body survives the onslaught of alcohol and drug abuse, your young bright mind may not. You don’t just act impaired while under the influence – stumbling, slurring your words, etc – drug and alcohol abuse can have long term effects on your brain. For example, alcohol has been linked to brain shrinkage, memory loss, your ability to process and retain information, among other things.

5. HIV

Engaging in drug addition especially with a partner can also result in events leading to having unprotected sex. Face it chomas, being drunk or taking drugs can leave you in a state where you are not 100% in control and condomising is the last thing on anyone’s mind once things heat up. This leads to risky behaviour increasing your chances of contracting HIV and other STIs as well as getting pregnant.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help Chomas, you don’t have to deal with this alone, there is support and hope out there. If you think you have a problem or need help, talk to trained counsellors anonymously:

Narcotics Anonymous – 083 900 69 62
Alcoholics Anonymous – 0861 435 722