The New Today

Commentary

Do Grenadians have a drinking problem?

A little alcohol can boost creativity and strengthen social ties. Research has shown that alcohol tends to reduce people’s ability to focus on some things and ignore others, which also happens to benefit creative problem solving. However, there’s nothing moderate about the way many Grenadians drink today.

In 1998, a study entitled, “Alcohol Consumption in Grenada”, was conducted by Richard Emil Lehman, of St George’s University. The purpose of the study was to estimate the consumption habits of secondary school students and working adults in Grenada.

The study found that twenty-seven (27) percent of the adults had first consumed alcohol between 15 to 17 years of age, and an additional twenty-six (26) percent at the ages between 18 to 20 years old.

Excluding the 21% of adults who have never drunk alcohol, 5.7% of the adults surveyed responded that they no longer drink alcohol and 35.4% drink alcohol “monthly or less”.

The majority of the adults (67%) responded that they drink between “monthly or less” and “2 to 4 times a month”.   39.2% of the women consume alcohol in the “monthly or less” category, while 33.7% of the males responded “Two to four times a month”.

For the last three categories the males’ results show a 2-to-6-fold higher response. 76% of the younger adults’ drink at a “monthly or less” and “two to four times a month” rate. This rate was compared to the older adults of whom 23% responded they drink at a rate of “four or more” times a week.

Grenada was involved in an Adolescent Health Survey in 1996, which was sponsored by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) to determine the prevalence of substances such as cigarettes, liquor, marijuana, inhalants and cocaine.

1255 students from primary and secondary schools participated in the survey. General results indicated that a significant majority had never once used any drugs. Of the substances used, alcohol appeared to be the most used substance (48%).

In 2014, the World Health Organisation (WHO) listed Grenada as having the highest alcohol consumption per capita in the Caribbean. In its 2014 Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health, the WHO said the island was given a 12.5 per cent rating, followed by St Lucia at 10.4 per cent.

In 2018, the Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health indicated a decrease in alcohol per capita consumption (APC) (in litres of pure alcohol) in Grenada from 12.5 litres to 9.3 litres, a difference of 3.2 litres. Nevertheless, on average, Grenada’s daily intake of 40.4 grams of pure alcohol was higher than the world’s average daily intake of 33 grams of pure alcohol.

It should be noted that not only the Grenadians living in Grenada consume this alcohol but also Grenadians living in the diaspora who take some of the rum back with them on returning.

GRENADA AND RUM DRINKING
Grenada has a long and illustrious history in the rum industry. When sugarcane was first brought to Grenada in the 18th century, rum production began. Molasses was made from sugarcane, and eventually rum was made from the molasses.

River Antoine Estate Distillery was founded in 1785, making it the Caribbean’s oldest water powered rum distillery. Since then, the distillery has consistently produced high-proof rum distilled from sugarcane juice and stored in wooden barrels at River Antoine Estate giving the rum produced there its distinctive taste.

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There is also the Grenada Distillers Ltd (GDL) which was previously known as the Grenada Sugar Factory; this distillery was first part of the sugar factory’s operations. The sugar factory was established in 1936 on the Woodlands Estate in the south of Grenada.

By 1959 sugar’s market price was so low that it wasn’t economically viable to make sugar at the factory. To keep the rum flowing, the factory transitioned to making and distilling rum from cane syrup. In time, using cane syrup was more expensive than importing molasses, so imported molasses became part of the distillery’s operations.

Around the 1960s, the Clarke’s Court became GDL’s flagship brand. Other premium brands produced by the GDL include Black Gold, Old Grog, Clarke’s Court #37.

Other alcohol producing companies in Grenada include the Westerhall Estate Distillery, which is in Westerhall, St. David and is known for its high-quality aged rum.

Renegade Rum, which is milled, distilled, matured, and bottled in Grenada, with all raw materials needed for production grown on the island itself. No additional flavouring, sugar, or colouring is used in their spirit and all rum is distilled as a ‘single rum’, i.e. distilled at one single distillery.

It is the newest large-scale rum distillery to be built in the Caribbean for over 15 years; the Blue Light Gin Distillery located in St. David, which is a new player in the local spirits scene and is quickly gaining popularity for their high-quality gin; CARIB Brewery (Grenada) which was formerly known as the Grenada Breweries Ltd and was established in 1960 and brewed and bottled its first beer in December 1961.

It produces its flagship brand – Carib, Stag, Hurricane Reef, Caribe’, Shandy Carib, Guinness, and Mackeson. Additionally, CARIB Brewery Grenada is the sole distributor of Heineken and Smirnoff Ice in Grenada, and it exports Carib, Stag, Mackeson, Shandy Carib, Caribe, Hurricane Reef and Ginseng Up to regional markets. It is located on the Maurice Bishop Highway in Grand Anse, St. George.

CONSEQUENCES OF ALCOHOL
In the Caribbean, the harmful use of alcohol is causally linked to over 200 diseases and injuries, such as road traffic injuries, cardiovascular disease, cirrhosis of the liver, suicide, cancer, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.

In addition to the health consequences, alcohol abuse or misuse can have both social and economic consequences. Based on a report by the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO), the Region of the Americas has the highest consumption of alcohol in the world.

Alcohol consumption, especially among youth, is a major public health concern. As a result of this, the Caribbean Public Health Authority (CARPHA) has alcohol control as one of CARPHA’s new areas of work and has been supporting the development of a Regional Strategy towards the reduction of the harmful use of alcohol.

We, here in Grenada, can also play our part by drinking alcohol in moderation or not drinking at all. THINK ABOUT IT.

Simeon Collins is a former Director of the Grenada Bureau of Standards and the first Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA), a CARICOM Institution