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MENTAL ILLNESS: Psychiatrists Urge Reps To Enforce Ban On Sachet Alcoholic Drinks

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Mental health experts have urged the House of Representatives to maintain the ban on sachet and small bottled alcoholic drinks, stressing that studies show that high intake is linked to mental health problems, particularly among young people.

The psychiatrists stressed that the availability of sachets and small bottled alcoholic drinks has a more negative impact on mental health and said the ban is in the best interest of the Nigerians.

Recall that the House of Representatives mandated its committee on the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control to probe the circumstances surrounding the ban imposed on the production of beverages in sachets and small bottles in Nigeria.

This followed a motion moved on the floor of the green chamber by members Paschal Agbodike and Philip Agbese, during a plenary session.

NAFDAC, in January, banned the production of beverages in small sachets and bottles to curb rising drug abuse in the country, especially among the youth.

Agbbodike, while leading the debate on the motion, noted that Section 4(2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), empowers the National Assembly to make laws for the order and good government of the Federation.

According to him, Sections 88(1) and (2) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended), empower the National Assembly to conduct investigations into the activities of any authority executing or administering laws made by the National Assembly including National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control.

Reacting to the investigation by the lawmakers, the mental health experts, variously said that if the House of Representatives suspend the ban, it may lead to potential complications related to substance abuse and addiction.

They stressed that people are more likely to abuse and become dependent on alcohol as a result of the accessibility and low cost of sachet alcoholic drinks, particularly young people and those with low incomes.

A Consultant Drug Addiction Psychiatrist at the University of Benin Teaching Hospital, Benin City, Edo State, Dr Kehinde Oderinde, said suspending the ban on sachet alcoholic drinks may increase alcohol-related health issues, social problems, and negative consequences such as impaired judgment, accidents, violence, and alcohol poisoning.

Oderinde noted that the consumption of alcohol, especially in excess, can exacerbate mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders.

He urged the lawmakers to take into account the wider public health effects of lifting the prohibition and to put policies in place to address and lessen any possible hazards connected to easier access to alcohol packaged in sachets.

“There have been studies that have investigated the link between sachet alcoholic drinks and health problems in Nigeria. Research has shown that the consumption of sachet alcoholic drinks, due to their high alcohol content and affordability, is associated with a range of health issues including liver disease, cardiovascular problems, neurological complications, and mental health disorders. These studies have highlighted the negative impact of sachet alcoholic drinks on individual health and public health outcomes in Nigeria.

“The suspension of the ban on sachet alcoholic drinks by the House of Representatives could potentially lead to an increase in rates of alcohol-related illnesses and deaths in Nigeria. Sachet alcoholic drinks are often associated with high alcohol content, affordability, and accessibility, which make them more appealing to individuals, especially those at risk of alcohol abuse.

“In terms of mortality, the suspension of the ban on sachet alcoholic drinks may lead to more alcohol-related deaths due to factors such as alcohol poisoning, accidents, violence, and chronic health conditions associated with long-term alcohol abuse.

“Public health officials, healthcare providers, and policymakers must monitor and address the potential impact of this decision on alcohol-related illnesses and deaths in Nigeria through comprehensive prevention, intervention, and treatment measures,” he stated.

Corroborating him, a Consultant Psychiatrist at the Federal Neuropsychiatric Hospital, Aro, Abeokuta, Ogun State, Dr. Yesiru Kareem, said alcohol can also lead to mental health conditions such as depression, suicide, memory impairment, psychosis, and other alcohol-related mental health conditions.

“NAFDAC is right because spirit alcoholic drinks contain a larger percentage per volume. Some of them contain as high as 40 per cent up to 80 and higher percentages. This means very little of them could cause more disastrous effects than what those in the larger bottles will cause.

“The youths are so used to these drinks in sachets that some will take them in multiple times despite the many health consequences. The consequences of alcohol are numerous; it can cause mental or physical complications. It can contribute to diabetes and other cardiovascular diseases spike.

“Alcohol can also lead to mental health conditions such as depression, suicide, and even memory impairment and psychosis, and other mental health conditions that are alcohol-related.

“It can also contribute to the rate of crime because taking it can make them behave and engage in crime indirectly.

“However, the reason to look at the economic part from the government part should not be the sole reason why it should consider suspending the ban. It is good that the House of Representatives is still investigating,” he added

The psychiatrist, however, said there is a need for the lawmakers to create strategies that would help in regulating alcohol consumption in the country.

“It is good to have it regulated but something needs to be done to reduce the rate of intake, which is becoming popular among the youth population.

“If there are means to regulate the intake of alcohol, then maybe, they wouldn’t have banned it. But the question now is what are the facilities put in place and how sure are we that people are going to follow the directives?

“The suspension is expected to reduce the rate at which alcohol is consumed. It is not just about suspending or banning, it is for whatever regulation or policy that is made to be well addressed and there should be strategic means of implementation,” he maintained.

Sodiq Ojuroungbe