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Alcohol and Substance Misuse



​In Uganda, it’s legal to drink alcohol when you are 18 years or older.

Some people choose not to drink any alcohol for a variety of reasons – for example, their religion or health. But, it may be okay to drink alcohol from time to time. For example, you might enjoy a cold Club with your friends when watching sport. 

So, when does drinking alcohol become a problem?

1. Alcohol can be dangerous – if you drink too much alcohol at one time, this can poison your body – you can feel sick, or even fall unconscious. This can be a very bad experience for you and your carers.

2. Alcohol can be addictive – this means, you crave alcohol, you cannot do without it.


One way of knowing if you have a problem is answering these 4 questions:

-    Have you ever felt you need to cut down on your drinking?
-    Have people annoyed you by criticizing your drinking?
-    Have you ever felt guilty about drinking?
-    Have you ever felt you needed to drink when you wake up in the morning? 

If you answered yes to 2 or more of these questions, you may have a serious problem with alcohol. 

3. Alcohol can be a depressant – if you are already feeling low (see our page on depression), drinking alcohol can make you feel worse. Depression and alcohol use can lead to a downward spiral. 



Substances include prescription drugs or illegal drugs. All chemical substances can have a profound effect on your body and can be dangerous.

A substance misuse disorder occurs when use of drugs impairs your health or how you function in your daily life. 

Signs you may have a substance misuse disorder include:

•    Hiding or lying about your substance use
•    Planning your day about obtaining and using the substance
•    Using more than you wanted to, for longer than you planned, even if you told yourself you would stop
•    Needing higher and higher doses for the same effect
•    Spending less time doing things you used to enjoy, with friends and families
•    Fighting with those around you
•    Not taking care of yourself
•    Experiencing symptoms when the substance wears off, including anxiety, shakiness, trembling, nausea, headaches 


What shall I do if I think I have problem with alcohol or substances?

The most important thing is to recognize the problem. You may wish to confide in someone who you trust. They may be able to help you make a plan to cut down your alcohol use. You may need to avoid social situations which you associate with alcohol or substances. 

There are also support organizations you can join in Uganda, such as Sober Uganda (Alcoholics Anonymous).

By joining such a group, you will receive support from people who have experienced the same struggles as you. You won’t be judged, you will be helped. 

If the problem is so bad, you may need to seek support from a mental health professional.

Support for mental health challenges including alcohol and substance misuse is available in Uganda. Please find more information about where to get help here.

Mental health challenges are treatable. Treatment is free in Uganda.

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