Sunday, June 10, 2012

Alcoholism, a Silent Problem in the Country

KUWAIT: Many individuals become addicted to alcohol for various reasons. Some, begin drinking as part of a hedonistic lifestyle  while others resort to alcohol as a form of escapism. Alcohol is prohibited in Kuwait but  many residents consume alcohol in the privacy  of their homes, away from the public eye to avoid legal repercussions. A physician at Mubarak Hospital, Dr. Fawaz  Farhan, provided Al Watan Daily with the definition of alcoholism and the number of units  consumed by a moderate drinker and the number of units consumed by alcoholics. Dr  Farhan explained, “A glass or two for the male  per day is fine; anything exceeding that is considered to be alcohol abuse. As for females, the  safe number of drinks per day is one, anything exceeding that is considered to be abuse."

 He further noted that there are various  symptoms that indicate that a person is becoming addicted to alcohol and asserted that many  individuals increase their alcohol consumption
to achieve an alcohol induced high.  He added, “These people keep on drinking until they achieve that ‘high.’ If they do not  increase their intake, they get feelings or irritation such as nausea, low mood, agitation and stress."  He went on to say, “Some people reach the  'eye opener’ stage, the stage when they need to drink alcohol in the morning like others need to have coffee."

Dr. Farhan went on to raise an important issue  about alcoholism and noted that since Islam
forbids alcohol, it makes it difficult for people to talk openly about alcohol abuse. “Furthermore, the law in Kuwait prohibits alcohol.  There is a huge area not covered in regards to  alcohol, and there is a lack of rehabilitation programs for people who are addicted to alcohol,” he concluded.

 For his part, Professor of Social Work at Kuwait University Dr. Hadi Ashkanani asserted  that it is safe to say that the number of people abusing alcohol in Kuwait is relatively high.  He stated, “My experience has led me to  believe that there are many individuals who  are addicted to alcohol, and there is a big problem in this country regarding the consumption of alcohol."

 "As a social observer, I have met people  who have lost their jobs or have been involved .in car accidents as a result of alcohol addiction,” he added.  The academic noted that the options for  recovery for alcoholics in Kuwait are limited because alcohol is prohibited in Kuwait. “Most  of the time alcohol is consumed in secrecy because there is a stigma surrounding those who consume alcohol,” he commented

Dr. Ashkanani further explained that people usually find it easier to open up about alcohol  addiction only to people who share their views regarding alcohol. "Residents who have lived in Western  countries are more comfortable talking publicly about alcohol, but stop doing so once they.realize what a taboo this subject is,” the academic pointed out.

The academic believes that generally speaking, people in the West drink moderately, during social occasions, and during the weekend.  The academic went on to elaborate on some of the reasons that lead individuals in Kuwait  to overindulge. He explained, “The situation  in Kuwait is different. Individuals know that  drinking alcohol is against the law and they  do not know if they are going to have access  to alcohol the following day. So they tend to overindulge."

 "All alcoholics start with a glass of alcohol  but with time it changes to dependency; that  is, such individuals begin to abuse alcohol to reach a certain high,” the academic stressed.
Dr. Ashkanani lamented that it is hard to pinpoint one problem that leads to alcohol addiction.  He stated, “There are many factors that lead to alcohol addiction which include being subjected to physical or sexual abuse at a young age. On the other hand, some individuals consume alcohol for fun or to relax

 The academic pointed out an option that, is available to those who are addicted to alcohol and seek help in recovery. He pointed out  The Psychological hospital in Kuwait has a rehabilitation ward which treats alcoholics. People who come forward seeking treatment do not in any way face legal repercussions.

The academic explained that once individuals admit themselves to the hospital they go
through a three week medical program. During the three weeks, patients are given an antidote that includes a small amount of  alcohol mixed with another ingredient which results in vomiting. This leads the body to reject the alcohol,” he said. He added, “Then the treatment takes another phase which is group  therapy and one-on-one meetings to ensure recovery. There is another phase which is important for full recovery but I do not believe the hospital offers this service; rather it is more of a recommendation.  He noted, “We advise people who have already been through the rehabilitation program and have recovered to join support groups. I am not sure if there is a specific group for alcoholics but there is a group for drug addicts called ‘Group, Anonymous Addicts’ which people who are recovering from substance abuse can join."

Ashkanani stressed that the support groups for drug and alcohol addicts are not affiliated with any government entities. "They are anonymous, local groups which  have been established for people suffering from substance abuse,” the academic concluded.

 Al Watan Daily spoke to two residents who are victims of substance abuse. Rami spoke about his journey from a social drinker to an alcoholic. He recalled that drinking seemed to be an antidote to his struggles. Rami said, “I began having a glass of whisky with friends over the weekend. It seemed  harmless at the time. Furthermore, all of my  friends were drinking too, so there was a kind  of tacit encouragement. One drink led to the other until I realized that I became dependent on alcohol."  Rami explained that he generally likes to stay up late during the nights. He elaborated  "However, there are no places to visit during  the night. There are only shopping centers and  restaurants, which close their doors to customers anywhere between 10:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m."  He added, “This leaves people with one entertainment option: that is getting together  with friends, playing cards and drinking alcohol which helps to numb the reality of the harsh life I endure. Drinking certainly kills the time and puts me and my friends in an elevated mood."

Imad, another resident, spoke frankly of his problems with alcohol. He asserted, “Of course it would be easier if alcohol was legally permitted in Kuwait because many of the people I know including myself began drinking for the obvious reason - we liked the feeling of doing something that seemed forbidden. It is really ironic if you come to think about it; the things in life that harm us are the things  that mostly give us pleasure such as eating chocolates." In my case it is alcohol.  Imad added that alcohol is a harmless form  of recreation. He noted, “However, alcohol is  illegally available which leads to its abuse. I  think it would be correct to state that the taboo behind alcohol has increased its desirability."  Imad lamented, “Unfortunately, many people end up abusing alcohol as a result of the taboo. And many people like me do not seek help because we find solace in alcohol. I find comfort in the feeling of intoxication and even though it may sound bizarre, it is the truth."

 The names of victims of substance abuse in this article have been changed to protect their identity.

With thanks to Ghenwah Jabouri, Al Watan Daily.

Drinking Problem? You are no longer alone! Confidential helpline 99641389 

LWDLIK - This is an old story from 2010 but so worthy of re-posting. Thanks to expat voices blog for reminding us. I knew of two alcoholics, both Kuwaitis, one a pilot and one an aircraft engineer - doesn't seem like such a harmless problem anymore does it. This country and society have to admit there is a problem to be able to tackle it properly. 

Saudi Arabia came up with a pretty good solution; they built a bridge to Bahrain and from Thursday afternoon til Saturday evening Saudis can be seen imbibing, partying and staggering around but at a quarter of the price of imbibing in Saudi. And it's less people getting drunk in Saudi  - the country that is host of the most venerated Islamic holy place in the world. Now that those who like a little drinky know it's just across the bridge then the mad need to go and get plastered at every possible opportunity has diminished slightly.  I am sure the alcoholic rates among Emiraties and Bahrainis are considerably less. It would be an interesting comparison.

How about;
Allowing alcohol into the country but imposing heavy fines and strict laws for being drunk and disorderly in a public place and drunk driving. It would be a huge deterrent and would likely bring down the current high number of deaths on the roads. If there's alcohol available I believe less would be likely to look for their relief from the world in drugs (which is another growing problem). Just my 2 cents worth...


  1. AnonymousJune 10, 2012

    Well, I have to say your argument for allowing alchohol in Kuwait wasn't a very good one. Being illegal has made it desirable so we might as well make it legal so people who want to do wrong things will not drink? Even if it were legal (which it will never be thankfully) then it would be illegal to Kuwaitis (and if legal to Kuwaitis illegal to people under a certain age) it will still be wrong and desirable. Furthermore, I don't see countries with legal drinking having any less of a problem with alcoholism. I am all for democracy and freedom of speech, but please don't argue for something as harmful and socially irresponsible as legalizing alcohol. Whoever wants to drink will find the means to do so. The rest of us would like to keep our children and customs safe.

    1. I wasn't trying very hard to convince anyone. I'm more about trying to find a solution. Perhaps not having alcohol is better for most Kuwaitis. There is a problem that needs dealing with and those were a few points that could keep us all safe.

      The whole point of the article is to show that regardless of it being banned, illegal, taboo it is having an effect on the society for those very reasons. I understand your fear but the reality according to the Drs, not me, is that alcoholism is on the rise. Other countries have alcoholism and it is openly treated without huge social stigma.

      And so you think I wouldn't like to keep my child safe..please get your head out off the sand. The society is crumbling rapidly without the aid of alcohol. Hellloooo open your eyes. Do you read the newspapers?

      Perhaps you and your children only ever holiday in Kuwait or Saudi so as not to have them contaminated by people who have a glass of wine with their dinner.

      I get you not wanting to have alcohol in Kuwait but your statement about being 'all for democracy and freedom of speech, but please don't argue for something as harmful and socially irresponsible as legalizing alcohol. Whoever wants to drink will find the means to do so. The rest of us would like to keep our children and customs safe.'- is contradictory and patronising.

      Your 'customs' pre-date the banning of alcohol in Kuwait. I believe up until the 1960's opium was commonly used among some members of the society - now that's a custom that needed to go. Mini skirts were a common item worn by Kuwaiti women in the 1960's, hijabs were rare, abayas were loosely worn around the shoulders, and there was alcohol served on Kuwait Airways up until 1977 to anyone who wanted it - so what customs are we talking about exactly?

      But thank you for your comment makes interesting debate.

  2. In today's paper *sigh* :

    Bootlegger in custody; Drunks fight

    Kuwait: A security guard faces alcohol trade charges after being arrested recently with possession of three liquor bottles in Ahmadi. The Asian man was caught near the building where he works. After raiding his apartment, 30 bottles of liquor were found. The suspect remains in custody pending trial, reported Al-Anba.

    Drunks fight
    Three people were arrested while seven others escaped after police raided an apartment where a fight broke out between drunken residents. Officers raided a Salmiya apartment late at night after neighbors reported loud noises. Three suspects were arrested while investigations revealed that seven others escaped before police arrived. Investigations revealed that the fight broke out after disputes arose between a group that gathered to drink alcohol behind closed doors, reported Al-Rai.

    1. Hi GK, I know it's every day in the newspapers. It takes up precious time for customs officials and the police.

  3. Alcoholism is more rampant out here amongst the expat community as there are not many channels to socialise or do something on the weekends. People take to alcohol here to get over their woes n worries or to have a good time with their mates. Perhaps if it was made legal, we wouldn't have spurious alcohol which can be injurious to health in the long run.
    SN: I don't drink:)

    Thanks for visiting Expat Voices

    1. Agree, a problem for all nationalities here. Thank you for the comment and the visit.

    2. I heard of a guy who was a recovering alcoholic who thought coming to Kuwait was a good idea...Didn't work out so well.


Always great to hear from you :O)