Monday, Jun 17, 2019
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My uncle ‘drank himself to death’

Karisa Taylor (name changed) said she watched her uncle with a sense of dread as he suffered from liver disease.

It wasn’t unexpected that her uncle would soon suffer a quick and painful death.

For years, he’d been addicted to alcohol and often flirted with narcotics, she said.

“He would get up at 7 a.m. and the first thing he wanted to do was drink,” Karisa continued. “He almost always had one of those small bottles of Gordon’s gin. Every so often, we’d see him take a swig of it.

“His face was swollen. He was skinny but he had a belly and his eyes were usually red.

“When he got sick, he washed the pain away in yet more alcohol.

“He was a functioning alcoholic.

“He worked odd jobs and would go to work after drinking, he’d drink on the job and drink once he got off.”

Karisa’s uncle died in 2010.

“I always said to him, ‘one of these days, alcohol will kill you.’ And, it did. He drank himself to death.”

Karisa, 32, said she watched as her uncle got smaller and smaller, before she eventually guessed that he was sick.

“He only realized he was dying when it was too late. I kept telling [him] to go to the clinic to get checked out,” she said.

“When he finally went to hospital, he died a few weeks later.”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), worldwide, three million deaths every year result from harmful use of alcohol, this represents 5.3 percent of all deaths.

“Alcohol is a psychoactive substance with dependence-producing properties that has been widely used in many cultures for centuries,” an WHO report states.

“The harmful use of alcohol causes a large disease, social and economic burden in societies.

“The harmful use of alcohol can also result in harm to other people, such as family members, friends, co-workers and strangers. Moreover, the harmful use of alcohol results in a significant health, social and economic burden on society at large.

“Alcohol consumption is a causal factor in more than 200 disease and injury conditions. Drinking alcohol is associated with a risk of developing health problems such as mental and behavioral disorders, including alcohol dependence, major noncommunicable diseases such as liver cirrhosis, some cancers and cardiovascular diseases, as well as injuries resulting from violence and road clashes and collisions.

“A significant proportion of the disease burden attributable to alcohol consumption arises from unintentional and intentional injuries, including those due to road traffic crashes, violence, and suicides, and fatal alcohol-related injuries tend to occur in relatively younger age groups.

“The latest causal relationships are those between harmful drinking and incidence of infectious diseases such as tuberculosis as well as the incidence and course of HIV/AIDS. Alcohol consumption by an expectant mother may cause fetal alcohol syndrome and pre-term birth complications.”

Karisa said her uncle was kind and usually in a pleasant mood.

“I’m not sure when my uncle started drinking,” she added. “He was an island man and lived a simple, mostly uncomplicated life. He went to work, when he could find work and he drank.

“But the alcohol eventually caused complications. He was in his 50’s when he died. He didn’t have insurance. He had no kids. His most valued treasure in the world was that bottle of gin.

“Sometimes we would hide the alcohol,” she continued.

“He’d get angry and go find alcohol elsewhere. There was no stopping him when he wanted a drink.”

In 2010, the WHO reported that 8.1 percent of Bahamian males, 15-years or older had alcohol-use disorders and 3.0 percent had alcohol dependence.

That same study showed that 3.2 percent of females in the same age range had alcohol-use disorders and 1.8 percent suffered from alcohol dependence.

It’s unclear how things have changed in the last few years.

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