Alcohol abuse is rampant among the youth, including students. Some get so addicted that they spend most of their time in liquor dens or wasting away at home. Sadly, once hooked, some drop out of school.
The menace afflicts the entire country but has, in recent years, gained notoriety in the central region, where alcohol and drug abuse is prevalent in homes and at trading centres.
What is even more alarming is the finding in a recent study conducted in Nyeri County that alcohol abuse is also fuelling tuberculosis (TB), exposing the imbibers to grave danger. Some 12 out of the 40 people identified during the survey were from central Kenya and rest from eastern, coast, northeastern, Nyanza and western regions.
Alcoholism leaves in its wake a devastated region, where young potentially productive people are reduced to a vegetable state. These young men and some women end up solely depending on their parents for their upkeep, leaving the older people with a huge burden of taking care of the young adults.
Others are left to wallow in alcohol dependency in their world of fantasy. The immediate consequence of this is broken marriages and families, increased domestic violence, reduced productivity and a spike in insecurity.
Excessive consumption of alcohol is a significant risk factor in other infections, too. The crisis is intensified by proliferation of cheap counterfeit liquor disguised as popular alcoholic drinks.
Alcoholism is blamed for unemployment and other socioeconomic challenges, including unwanted pregnancy. As its severity intensifies, especially among the youth, the consequences will be worse for families and communities.
Alcohol control regulations must be stridently enforced to reduce alcohol and drug abuse. The regulation requiring bars to open only after 5pm, for instance, is often ignored as business owners bribe crooked police officers. Some open as early as 5am, allowing the addicts access to alcohol for longer. Heavy fines should be slapped on bar owners who break the law.
Lastly, the national government should rid the country of illicit alcoholic drinks, most of which are lethal, and strictly enforce drinking hours. There is also a need to step up sensitisation programmes and establish more rehabilitation centres.