Are you an alcoholic? Kenyan doctor breaks down the blurry line between social drinking and alcoholism

Are you an alcoholic? Kenyan doctor breaks down the blurry line between social drinking and alcoholism


  • Women should not exceed 14 units of alcohol per week while men should  not go above 21 units of alcohol per week.


Is it the holidays? Are you going out with friends? Are you attending a concert? Then you must learn how to manage your alcohol in order to avoid becoming an alcoholic in the future.

Kenya is a drinking nation, and I do not mean water. You ask any person from a different African country and they will tell you drinking with Kenyans is a different ball game. 

Every occasion is an excuse to partake in alcohol, it could be a birthday party, a send-off party, a wedding or just a casual evening after a long day at the office.

But do we know the difference between drinking socially and drinking too much to a level where you now become an alcoholic?

Dr. Liz Wanjiku and Dr. Felix Okoth who were speaking on Citizen TV’s Day  broke down the difference.

According to Dr. Wanjiku, there is a required intake of alcohol and it is different for females and males. 

When these levels are exceeded, then one is likely to slouch into alcohol dependency or simply alcoholism. 

Women should not exceed 14 units of alcohol per week while men should  not go above 21 units of alcohol per week.

And no, the 14 units should not be taken in one occasion but rather spread over a week.

Dr. Wanjiku says the difference is based on the fact that the female dilution of alcohol is less because of a lower lean body mass and more fat content in a female’s body.

“Alcohol is a toxin, there’s normally a required intake and its normally divided in gender, so for a female intake in a week in 14 units and that of a male is 21 units. Once you go over and above the required unit, then now you enter into alcoholic liver disease, liver cirrhosis and all that.”

“In females the intake is lower because females tend to have a lower lean body mass and the fat content is much more and the total water body is less, meaning the dilution of alcohol is less.” Dr Liz said.

According to Dr Liz, “One unit is calculated in terms of the alcohol by volume (the percentage on the can), multiplied by the percentage of alcohol, divided by 1000 to give you the number of units taken.”

When it comes to the genesis of alcoholism, Dr. Wanjiku says it begins upo

According to Dr Wanjiku, once you start feeling like you are drinking too much and need to cut back, you are probably right. 

“Once you start asking you start asking yourself if you need to cut down or if people have asked you to cut down the alcohol intake and then if every morning the first thing you think of is taking alcohol.”

“…fatigue, general body weakness, nausea and vomiting, upper quadrant pain” are some of the symptoms one can present with when having liver disease.

Meanwhile, Dr. Okoth advises that the very popular diet in Kenya, red meat and alcohol, is not a healthy combination.

“Alcohol raises the uric acid level in your system, similarly red meat also has a lot of uric acid. If you do a lot of red meat and alcohol, there are chances of uric acid level getting higher than normal which will interfere with the level required, getting diseases like arthritis and headaches on and off…”