Alcohol abuse has been pointed out as one of the high social harms in the country. This is because the society seems to have accepted that there is no problem with people consuming alcohol.
Dr Mpho Thula of Sbrana Psychiatric Hospital said this when giving a presentation on the Overview of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Issues in Botswana during a three-day Africa and Middle East Congress on Addiction conference held at the University of Botswana. The theme for the conference is, “The Challenge of Drug and Substance Abuse in Southern Africa: Thinking Globally, Acting Locally.”
He said this is reflected in the number of outpatients and in-patients they receive at the psychiatric referral hospital. He said drugs and alcohol abuse have become a developmental problem in the country and it is on the rise. He said high cases of divorce, road accidents, suicide and mental disorders are common ills associated with alcohol and drug abuse. Thula said Batswana have developed a culture of intoxication. “You can even hear people boasting about it. The current generation does not even classify alcohol as a drug. It has become a common public health concern,” he said.
“The numbers of married people are dropping while cohabitation is growing. We also see many people coming now to seek our services.”
He said four percent of the 24% admissions at the hospital are associated to alcohol abuse. He said although Botswana has a relatively low number of alcohol consumers compared to developed countries in Europe, it has a high number of heavy drinkers. He said a recent study indicated 58% of males drink alcohol compared to 30% of females. And of these numbers 17% females drink heavily compared to 31% of males.
Thula said statistics have indicated that 38% of the people tested for drunk driving on the road test positive while 25% of those are always over the limit. He said this might be the result of reduced religious affiliation and the availability of alcohol in the country. He said the Ministry of Health is coming up with a proper policy on the treatment of substance and drug abuse.
University of Botswana student, Keoikantse Moikgotla, who presented on the influence of stressful life events on alcohol use among UB students, said 65% of the students interviewed at the school drink alcohol.
This stressful life events include failing to cope with academic pressure. She said a lot needs to be done to tackle the adverse effects of stressful life events at the University and teach students better life coping strategies.
University of Botswana deputy vice chancellor (Academic Affairs), Professor Otlogetswe Totolo, said the conference demonstrates the university’s practicality of achieving its intentions and priorities of intensifying research to find solutions to respond to alcohol and drug abuse. He said Botswana is not immune to this social illness and by engaging experts from other countries with similar experiences it will help address the problem.