EXPERTISE, NOT POLITICS, WILL WIN THE WAR ON ALCOHOLISM

A recent crackdown on illegal brews inspired by a presidential directive has pushed Kenya towards the brink of a complex social and political crisis whose consequences will be legal, medical and economic.

Most Kenyans while agreeing with the assertion that the fight against illicit brews is long overdue, many doubt whether this should be executed by armed ‘militia-like’ gangs of men and women wielding machetes and other-crude weapons commanded by politicians as opposed to the nations constitutional security forces.

Even as we grapple with processes many are still asking whether requisite steps are being taken to address the underlying social deficiencies that got the nation here in the first place. Could it be that the centre of the Kenyan society can no longer hold? Could it be that we are losing our anchor?

Mr George Soros, Hungarian-born , American business magnate, investor and philanthropist in one of his most widely quoted publications states: “Unsure of what they stand for, people increasingly rely on money as the criterion of value. What is more expensive is considered better…People deserve respect and admiration because they are rich. What used to be a medium of exchange has usurped the place of fundamental values, reversing the relationship postulated by economic theory. What used to be professions have turned into businesses. The cult of success has replaced a belief in principles. Society has lost its anchor…”

While sipping a little wine either for ‘ones stomach’, for ‘the road’ or to simply create oneself a slightly altered perception of reality is as old as the human race, the scourge of alcoholism which is itself a disease curiously coincides with the Kenyan political revolution of 2002 which ushered in a new era of unprecedented social and economic liberalism.

It appears like while we were in a hurry to throw out the ills of president Moi’s era , we made the error of throwing away the baby and the bathwater. The bathwater being the ills of the KANU epoch and the baby being the Nyayo philosophy of peace, love and unity.

While the 2002 kenyan political revolution was beneficial to the nation, the deliberate destruction of a philosophy of peace, love and unity (regardless of who was proposing it) exposed our nation to the dangers of weakened kinship ties, looser social cohesion and shaky  human solidarity.

The economic policy of wealth creation while creating the highest number of millionaires in the history of independent Kenya, has also left in its wake lost hopes and despair that Alex La Guma in the short story ‘out of darkness’ aptly calls, ‘the wreckage which mankind left behind in its onward march’.

The trouble with leaving so many behind is that soon we are forced to go back for them.

Our political leaders may have little time for socialist niceties given that a majority of them campaign using a socialist manifesto but govern using a capitalist manual.

However this is not just socialist niceties, its about digging deep to get the primary of a social cancer which may continue growing while we struggle with getting rid of the distant metastases.

Alcoholism itself as a disease is well defined by the authoritative American Psychiatric Association.In their latest publication that outlines the diagnositic criteria for mental illness , otherwise called the DSM V. The professional body categorises alcohol abuse and dependence as alcohol use disorder which itself falls under substance use disorder

One of the criteria that should be met before a diagnosis of alcohol use disorder is made, is the development of withdrawal after stopping use.

Alcohol withdrawal syndrome that is usually characterized by tremors, seizures and hallucinations is both a medical and psychiatric emergency which if left untreated will proceed to coma and death in upto 25% of the patients. The syndrome develops about 48 hours after the last drink in a majority of patients.

While the legal aspects of having marauding gangs breaking into business premises are best left to lawyers, deaths from alcohol withdrawal illness is already a challenge to the presidential directive demonstrating the dangers of applying purely pragmatic , political solutions to a problem that stretches outside the realm of politics.

DR CHITAYI MURABULA

A medical doctor, trade unionist and writer.

twitter: @Dr_chitayi

facebook: Chitayi Murabuia

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