There was once the ice bucket challenge which saw numerous celebrities pour chilled water on themselves before cameras. It was “cool” because much as it was madness, there was a method to it. It was all for raising awareness and charity.
Then there are other online challenges. One of them is the fad where a person gulps down a whole bottle of alcohol without pausing. It has a name — neknominate, short for “neck and nominate” based on its mode of execution: You empty an entire bottle (the cool ones who use the Urban Dictionary call that act “necking”) then nominate someone else to do it. And it has to be filmed for it to count.
On entry in the urbandictionary.com reads: “Someone who is neknominated has 24 hours after nomination to mix together a variety of spirits (and whatever else they deem worthy/disgusting/difficult) and post a video of chugging it in one go.”
This drinking fad began in late 2013 and it is reported to have caused deaths. We look at it and other seemingly fashionable but harmful things people do in the name of having fun.
Neknominations (alcohol gulping challenges)
February 2014. Ireland. Jonathan Byrne, who died at 19, was being buried after taking part in a competition to gulp down a pint without taking a break.
Addressing those who attended the funeral, the parish priest cautioned against neknominations.
“Just as this craze is supposed to have been started by one person, it can be stopped by one person. Let you be that person. If you are faced with this challenge, be strong, be great, and make a worthwhile contribution. You owe it to Jonathan Byrne,” he said, as quoted by the Irish Examiner.
Despite those dangers and warnings like Jonathan’s death, neknominations are still part of some Kenyans’ parties.
A recent example is a viral video in which a woman was filmed drinking a whole bottle of gin at a go. In the video, one of the woman’s friends is seen grabbing her by the neck to level her head before pouring the alcohol down her throat.
A separate video shows the lady unconscious and unable to open her eyes or even support her head. It caused uproar on social media over the conduct of those who were in the company of the lady, including her friends who could be heard commenting on the amount of alcohol she had taken.
So shocking was the video that the East Africa Breweries Limited, the manufacturer of the liquor that the lady was consuming, later released a statement warning that such practices are dangerous.
“Binge-drinking is harmful to your health and we do not condone it. It is also not in line with our responsible drinking campaigns and information displayed on all our packaging. The messages are there for a reason,” the brewer stated. “Binge-drinking is not cool. It is dangerous and unsafe.”
Medical experts warn that the habit is a ticking time bomb.
Dr Stellah Wairimu Bosire-Otieno, a Nairobi-based doctor, told Lifestyle that excessive drinking and over-indulgence in alcohol has devastating consequences to the body, saying it can lead to death through what she termed an alcoholic coma.
This, she said, can happen when too much alcohol is introduced to the body at a go. In the process of processing the excess alcohol, she said, body organs such as the liver — which produces the enzymes that digest the alcohol — get into a panic mode and collapse, or can sometimes suffer irreversible damages.
“I have seen a video of a young girl who was made to drink 750mls of gin at a go. Let me tell you why this is very dangerous. This is how your body responds to alcohol. At 25 milligrams of ethanol per decilitre (a tenth of a litre) of blood, you start feeling some warmth and happiness. At 25-40, you become euphoric with lapse of judgement. At 50-100, staggering, loss of balance and slurred speech begin to set in. Then past 250 you get to what we call the alcoholic coma, which could be worsened by additional consumption of above 450, which at this point can lead to death,” she explained.
Dr Wairimu said the liver has three enzymes that convert alcohol to acetaldehyde at the rate of about 20-25 milligrams per decilitre of blood, with the final product being water and carbon dioxide. So, when someone ingests 750mls of 40 per cent alcohol concentration, the liver’s ability to break it down is overpowered.
So, what happens?
“Acute alcohol intoxication is the result, with respiratory failure, aspiration (contents of the stomach getting to the lungs), low blood pressure and heart failure, mostly due to abnormal electric activity. Literally, multi-organ failure sets in. And because low sugar is one of the consequences of alcohol intoxication, clinicians resuscitate by giving high dose glucose intravenously. If this is not done in a timely fashion, one gets permanent brain damage and dies,” she said.
Dr Wairimu’s explanation might shed light on the death of Jonathan and two other deaths reported in the United Kingdom in 2014. The Metro reported that in one instance, a 29-year-old man collapsed and died after being filmed gulping down a bottle of vodka.
“His death came shortly after Isaac Richardson collapsed after drinking wine, whisky, vodka and lager. The 20-year-old, a receptionist at a backpacker hostel in Woolwich, south London, was taken to hospital where he died in the early hours on Sunday,” the publication reported in an online story of Monday February 10, 2014.
Dr Wairimu said the recommended intake of alcohol should be at least three to four units per day for men and two to three units per day for women — which is 500ml of beer that contains about four per cent alcoholic content or a 250ml for drinks that have an alcohol concentration of 12 per cent.
Alcohol is a must-have in parties across Kenya, as college student Dan Neville told Lifestyle.
“The idea is usually to have as much fun as possible, without judgement and reservations. I mean, we are all young and are just starting out in life,” he said, noting that instances where some patrons get excessively drunk are part of the fun.
Smoking bhang is considered quite “hard-core”, so those who want to get the high without the smoke have found a solution in weed cookies. These cookies, fondly called edibles, are increasingly becoming an integral part of women’s parties, their discreetness being the biggest selling point.
Ms Wanja Muiruki, a college student in Nairobi, told Lifestyle why the cookies have an appeal.
“Weed cookies are the thing because unlike smoking which sometimes leaves you with a bad taste on the mouth and a smell that can be felt by someone, the cookie is undetectable — which is not only safe but also convenient,” she said.
But she is well aware of the downsides: “The cookies have also been known to have some very bad effects, like giving one a serious high and sometimes hallucinations which can last for long, unlike when someone just smokes the weed. Eating it in the form of a cookie means it is ingested and absorbed directly into your system unlike when you smoke it. That is the consequence of the cookie.”
Much as it is viewed as less harmful, medics say the weed cookie poses as huge health risk as taking puffs of the drug.
Dr Peter Owour, a cardiologist, told Healthy Nation in February that edible drugs like the weed cookie are a possible cause of heart attacks, especially when high doses of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC, the main psychoactive ingredient in marijuana) are ingested.
Marijuana use has adverse effects on child-bearing women, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists says. In an article on marijuana and pregnancy, it warns: “Marijuana and pregnancy don’t mix. If you are pregnant or thinking about getting pregnant, don’t use marijuana.”
In giving the warning, the college cites a research that found a number of effects of marijuana use among mothers, including smaller size at birth, disruption of brain development before birth, lower oxygen levels in the mother’s blood, among others.
You cannot claim to be cool without being seen with a cigar in your mouth, or so popular culture dictates. A number of artistes have been captured rocking cigars in their music videos to depict coolness, from Tanzania’s Harmonize to Kenya’s Prezzo and lately Bahati.
Bahati, who recently switched from gospel to secular music, caused a stir in early June with scenes of him smoking a cigar in the video version of his Fikra za Bahati rap song.
Much as they look princely and cool, cigars come with health risks — according to the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the US government health agency.
“A cigar is defined as a roll of tobacco wrapped in leaf tobacco or in a substance that contains tobacco. Cigars differ from cigarettes in that cigarettes are a roll of tobacco wrapped in paper or in a substance that does not contain tobacco,” CDC says on its website.
“Historically, cigar smoking in the United States was a behaviour of older men, but the industry’s increased marketing of these products to targeted groups in the 1990s increased the prevalence of use among adolescents. Cigar use is higher among youth who use other tobacco products or other drugs (for example alcohol, marijuana, and inhalants) than among youth who do not use these products,” it adds.
The risks associated with cigar smoking, CDC says, include “an increased risk for cancers of the lung, oesophagus, larynx (voice box), and oral cavity (lip, tongue, mouth, throat)”.
mencken indent: It adds that cigar smoking can cause tooth loss, might cause coronary heart disease and increases the risk of contracting a number of lung diseases.
mencken indent: However, there are cigars in the market with neither nicotine nor tobacco, which are made for those seeking to wean themselves from nicotine addiction. They make up a small portion of the cigar market.
Cars, check. Fuel, check. A clear road, check. Youthful drivers, check. You already know where such a list is heading to: A road race.
Some of the most recent ones happened in April, drawing the attention of the National Transport and Safety Authority. In one incident, a group driving souped-up Subaru cars was filmed racing in Tigoni, Kiambu County. The race almost turned fatal because one of the drivers overtook dangerously, almost knocking a cyclist off the road.
In the second incident, two cars were filmed racing at the Pangani Interchange, also seeming to be in a competition.
Thrilling as it may seem, racing invites the consequences associated with dangerous driving. And even if no accidents happen, being caught while racing brings stern action.
The Traffic Act says: “It shall not be lawful for any person, without the written consent of the highway authority and of the (inspector-general of police), to promote or take part in any race or trial of speed between vehicles on a road.”
The consequence of racing, the Act says, is cancellation of a person’s driving licence for 12 months.
Actor and producer Abel Mutua previously confessed through his YouTube channel that, years ago, he raced on the Thika Superhighway with a friend and it ended in an accident where he rammed a car from behind and had to part with a fortune to compensate the driver of the damaged vehicle.
In the January 2020 episode of his YouTube series “Young and Stupid”, he said he was driving at 160 kilometres per hour when he rammed a saloon car on the fast lane near Muthaiga.
Mutua’s narration, where he said they were competing on who would be the first to reach their destination, gave a glimpse of the petty, if reckless, reasons why people race on the roads.
“From that day, I will never speed. I learnt my lesson. A lot of bad things could have happened at that speed. I don’t know why people pull those stunts, but let me just say it was the impulsiveness of youth that was driving us. We were young and stupid,” he said.
Among the more moneyed youths in the Middle East, a dangerous trend called drifting is a common occurrence. It involves making a series of manoeuvres that make a car move while the wheels of one side are in the air.