Alcohol addiction can kill you – Expert

By Sarah Achen

Albert Elwa almost lost his life to alcohol and decided to quit before it could destroy him forever. Similarly he lost his best friend Jerome, who lost his life to ruptured pancreas at a tender age of 20. The news of his death was so painful and it plunged Elwa deeper into addiction.

There are several people; young and old like late Jerome who lost their battle to alcohol because they didn’t have access to information.

The director of FORE-Uganda, Elwa explains that April is alcohol awareness campaign month where they are trying to sensitize people about the dangers of alcohol in partnership with SUDU.

“FORE is proud to be a part of the CAODA (Children of Alcoholics and other Drug Abusers) project, that’s run by SUDU. This project aims to support children of alcoholics and other drug abusers, whose needs are neglected due to their parents’ addiction, at the same time intervene to help these parents recover from substance abuse,” Elwa says.

“It was lovely seeing these people smile as we handed over Easter packages to them, largely donated by the public,” Elwa adds.

FORE-Uganda has been actively involved with treatment centres in Uganda through participation in joint capacity building workshops, and also providing psycho-social support to clients in these treatment centres. They have also actively engaged Ministry of Health on different fronts in their attempts to curb the growing problem of substance abuse. They also reach out to schools and universities.

What they do

FORE –Uganda is into prevention, intervention and recovery of individuals and communities from substance abuse and its related harm.

“We reach out to academic institutions, places of worship, community centres, treatment centres, work places, families and other areas of interest. We provide preventive counseling to young ones, and psychosocial support to those in recovery. We work hand in hand with other organisations and the Ministry of Health,” he says. Their vision is to see a society in which healthy individuals build stronger communities.

Future plans

The organization is in the process of acquiring rehabilitation centres the next three months. Other activities trying to explore avenues in which to help those who are trapped in addiction but can’t a ford or access treatment. Month- cases-greatest impact during out reaches, it has been two years since it started.

FORE has seen a number of people recover and still provide them with support, built synergies with ministry of health and other relevant players in the community together with other stakeholders among others and together with other stakeholders held annual recovery walk which was launched last year by the Prime Minister Dr Rukhana Rugunda last year.

They not only raise awareness but also break stigma in surrounding addiction through distributing free copies of their magazine Focus on recovery free of charge.

Besides the numerous achievements, they are challenged by poor funding as most of the contributions come from founding members. This have hindered them from fulfilling their planned goals; carrying out reaches programs since they are not timely meanings that they are supposed to be three per term sometimes they are not able to deliver.

He points out that Uganda’s law regarding alcohol is weak as any child can walk into a shop and purchase alcohol because government allows alcohol advertising which also impacts on the population especially in bars and schools as some share fences and this has made the work hard.

FORE says that the public still attribute addiction to moral deficiency, witchcraft, character defect something that needs to change. Sometimes school heads are in denial, they don’t want to tackle the problem for fear of parents getting back at them because some of them earn money out of the business.

It’s from this background that Focus on Recovery was founded by a group of individuals in recovery together with a few others who have lost their loved ones or seen through suffer from brunt of addiction.

They reach out to schools, treatment centres, communities, and places of worship and other areas of interest. In 2017, Uganda is ranked the 2nd in Africa in alcohol consumption, after Nigeria and few years ago Uganda was number one. 80% of young people under age of 18 and form of vulnerable 56.3% are below the age of 18% making them the most vulnerable.

With addiction, when one is happy or sad, it doesn’t matter as all roads lead to the object of your obsession –in my case booze. Jerome’s death should have served as a deterrent to me but it didn’t. Why? In my case I did not know nor understand what I was dealing with. During that time, addiction was related to moral deficiency and bad character traits; no one knew or understood addiction as a disease in my circles.

Today, there is a lot of information that one can access, either on the internet, from treatment centres or organisations like FORE- Uganda.

When one has a substance abuse problem, usually the relationship with family/loved ones suffers and at times dies out completely, performance at school or work deteriorates a lot and one develops serious concentration issues. If you suspect that you or someone you know may be having a substance abuse problem, you can help them reach organisations.

“Today, I believe if Jerome had access to information and understood the danger he was putting himself in, he might still have been here with us today. To the young ones out there, stay away from alcohol and other drugs, addiction is incurable,” he adds.

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