Kava drinkers in the Pacific region are being urged not to mix traditional kava sessions with alcohol.
A researcher from Waikato University, Apo Aporosa, recently visited Samoa, Tonga, Fiji and Vanuatu to gauge reaction to his study funded by New Zealand’s Health Research Council that examines kava and drink driving.
Mr Aporosa said he was advising people to avoid a trend he observed in the Pacific called a ‘wash-down’.
He said this is when people drink alcohol after a traditional kava session, that can last for hours.
“What is unknown is whether or not that washdown process, having that beer or mixing kava and alcohol or whatever, is a safe practice. The message we are pushing at the moment is that there is some suspicion that it is not, and so we are trying to encourage more people not to do that,” said Apo Aporosa.
“We don’t know what the science is, and what is happening in the liver but there is some suspicion that ‘washing-down’ – and that is either drinking just before, with, or just after drinking kava (yaqona) – that there is the potential to damage your liver,” Aporosa said.
“Most of us know people, even some sporting figures, who have liver issues and there may be some suspicion there may be a relationship between the use of kava and alcohol.
“At this stage we are really encouraging people not to do it,” Aporosa told Radio Tarana.
A “wash-down” is a common term among Pacific Island, or Fiji Indian, communities, referring to drinking beer or spirits after consuming kava.
“We know that it is something that is common. In fact, I was out drinking kava on Friday night and there were some people talking about going home and ‘washing-down’.
“What we said to them was, you might be able to do this 100 times, 200 times , but 101 or 102 times might be the time it gets you,” Aporosa said.
“And if you mess up your liver you won’t be drinking kava or alcohol, so we’re really encouraging people not to do that.”
Mr Aporosa said more research was needed in this area.
Buy Reputable Kava
Apo Aporosa also said he is urging people who drink kava in New Zealand that originates from the Pacific to make sure they purchase the product from a reputable trader.
Kava in New Zealand now sells for $US75 a kilogram compared to $US20 just 18 months ago.
Mr Aporosa said some Kava sellers were diluting their product.
“One of the concerns though, is that we still have some unethical people in some of the process who are cutting kava and taking out some and replacing it with flour and other bits of rubbish so some of the kava that we are drinking here in New Zealand is being adulterated, purely for profit,” Apo Aporosa.
Mr Aporosa said people in this country seem to be interested in buying kava because it is cheaper than alcohol.
He said in New Zealand it is estimated more than 20,000 people use kava on any given Friday or Saturday night.