Alcohol is widely consumed in the Philippines. One reason for this may be that the Spanish colonizers not only brought with them the Roman Catholic religion but also their drinking culture. There is a generally positive view of alcohol among most Filipinos, but there are growing concerns about the impact drinking is having on society. As the islands become more urbanized there appears to be a growing reliance on alcohol to help people deal with stress.
The most popular drink in the Philippines is beer followed by lambanog (whiskey made from coconut) and wine. In the past drinking alcohol was predominately a male pursuit but things have change in recent years. The Filipinos seem to be adopting a more western approach to alcohol and so are developing all the problems associated with this. It is common to see people drinking in the media – especially in TV soap operas where it can be portrayed as glamorous or sexy. The Philippines even has a month devoted to the celebration of beer – the Philippine Octoberfest has become hugely popular and is sponsored by San Miguel.
There are no available statistics on the full extent of the alcohol problem in the Philippines, but there is little doubt that it is a real problem. Public drunkenness can be occasionally witnessed and alcohol problems do cause havoc in some homes and communities. The Filipinos are the second highest consumers of alcohol in South East Asia (the Indonesians are first), and the number one wine drinkers. It is estimated that 5 million Filipinos drink on a fairly regularly basis – it is believed that 39.9% of the population drink on an irregular basis. A relatively small number of people will seek medical help for alcohol problems, but this is likely due to the fact that most do not view it as a medical matter even when their health has deteriorated as a result of the abuse.
Alcohol abuse is a problem in the Philippines – it also seems to be on the increase. Most worrying of all is that chronic alcoholics often fail to seek help for their problems, and this means that they end up with incurable conditions such as liver cirrhosis.
The recommended level for safe alcohol consumption is:
* 2 drinks per day for adult men.
* 1 drink per day for adult women.
* 1 drink per day for anyone aged over 65.
* Those people who are younger than 18 should avoid alcohol completely.
* Anyone who has a problem controlling their intake should avoid drinking completely.
The above recommendations classify a drink as being a standard beer, or a standard glass of wine. Anyone who drinks significantly above these limits can be described as abusing alcohol, and the dangers of this type of behavior include:
* Those people who drink an excessive amount of alcohol in a short period of time will be at risk of alcohol poisoning. This is a potentially life threatening event.
* Those individuals who abuse alcohol are at risk of developing alcoholism. Once people become mentally and physically dependent in can completely destroy their life.
* Excessive alcohol intake can lead to physical health problems. It is not necessary for people to be drinking for long before they enter the early stages of alcoholic liver disease.
* Drinking can seriously damage mental health – it can lead to symptoms of depression and exacerbate existent problems.
* Those who abuse alcohol are far more likely to commit suicide. This is because intoxication makes people act impulsively, and it interferes with their ability to make good decisions.
* Some people behave badly when they are intoxicated. They may become verbally or physically abusive.
* Alcohol abuse is frequently related to domestic abuse.
* Those people who drink excessively will tend to be unproductive at work the next day.
* It means that the individual will be far more likely to have accidents.
* It can be a drain on finances, and some families may be doing without essential items because the money is being spent on alcohol.
The legal drinking age in the Philippines is 18, but it is estimated that 60% of young people will have at least tried alcohol before then. Underage boys are far more likely to drink than underage girls, but the females seem to be closing the gap. The fact that so many young people drink alcohol is a real worry because:
* Those individuals who drink at a young age are far more likely to develop alcoholism later in life.
* Those young people who drink are in particularly danger of problems related to mental and physical health. This is because alcohol interferes with normal development that occurs during adolescence.
* Those people who drink at a young age are far more likely to experiment with harder drugs. For some individuals their early experiences with alcohol will be a stepping stone into lifelong drug abuse.
* Drinking prevents people from performing well in school. This means that the individual may handicap their future due to poor academic qualifications.
* Alcohol abuse among the young can lead to promiscuous sexual behavior. This could mean unplanned pregnancies or sexually transmitted disease.
* Those who are inebriated can more easily become the victim of a sexual assault.
* These individuals are more likely to commit crimes or become the victim of a crime.
* There is a worrying link between drinking at an early age and suicide. This is because alcohol can make people more prone to this type of act.
Many Filipinos who become addicted to alcohol are resistant to any type of intervention. There are a number of treatment options including:
* Alcoholics Anonymous has meetings in many parts of the Philippines. This fellowship not only helps people escape their addiction but also gives them a program that allows them to build a better life.
* There are a number of private rehabs in the Philippines but a growing number of Filipinos are looking abroad for help. One of the best treatment facilities in South East Asia can be found in Thailand.