Underage alcohol abuse causes concern

“Alcohol may be hazardous to health if consumed to excess, people under the age of 18 are not allowed by the law to consume alcohol,” reads the inscription on almost every bottle of alcohol.

Juvenile drinkers at Tengwe Gate Shops in Hurungwe.
Juvenile drinkers at Tengwe Gate Shops in Hurungwe.

Increasing numbers of youths turn a blind eye on the law and seem to be getting away with it.

Many openly admit that they drink and others have defended their actions, saying they copied it from their fathers.

One teenager confesses stealing his father’s beer in the fridge at the age of 12. Now 17, he is a heavy drinker.

“I started by collecting all the leftovers from the bottles my father would have left. It started as a habit. Now I want to quit but the urge is so strong, I cannot,” said Takunda, who has been in trouble at a local college because of his drinking habits.

Another student at a government school in Glen Norah said peer pressure forced him to drink.

“I grew up hating beer. I never dreamt of drinking. But my friends forced me. I refused a few times until I complied and ever since I have not stopped drinking,” he said. Gone are the days when it was a taboo for girls to be seen drinking alcohol. They have joined the bandwagon and in some cases suffer severe consequences.

Tariro (16), who lives in Belvedere, said drinking had become the norm when she congregates with other girls for fun.

“We prefer ciders because they are tasty and sweet. Alcohol helps us to open up and spread our wings,” she boasted. One girl from Avondale said she was raped when she was drunk at a party and she does not remember the person who raped her but is now pregnant. Most girls face a similar predicament as males take advantage of them when they are drunk.

A survey conducted by the Institute of Alcohol and Drug Abuse showed that most parents whose children live at home do not know that they are taking alcohol.

One parent only found out that his son was taking alcohol when a doctor raised the alarm. The boy revealed that he had been drinking for the past five years.

Teachers have complained that most students who drink become hostile and aggressive. Nigel Hove, is a teacher at a large boarding school, said it was common for pupils to smuggle alcohol into the school premises. Clubs and bars have been blamed for selling beer to persons under the age of 18. Parents said some of the children were visibly young but bar attendants never asked their age and served them alcohol.

Social commentator Pardon Kadzere said many factors had caused the proliferation of young drinkers, and alcoholism among youths was a sign of the breakdown in social fabric.

“Most of these youths have resorted to alcohol to deal with their frustration. Parents no longer have time to discuss problems faced by their children in today’s world. Children turn to drinking to run away from their problems. Parents are too busy and do not monitor their kids’ activities,” he said.

“Children by nature need guidance. Many were left on their own when parents left for Diaspora. They do not have anyone to protect and guide them so they just do whatever they wish,” he added.

According to statistics released last year by International Traffic Organisation, underage drinking is the leading cause of deaths among youths in roads. Underage drinking contributed to 41% of the accidents globally.

Post published in: News

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