Kochi: Kerala, a state with high per capita liquor consumption, is facing a peculiar situation wherein increasing number of tipplers are committing suicide due to unavailability of alcohol.
While only one death has occured so far due to coronavirus in the state, seven alcoholics have committed suicide after the government’s decision to keep bar hotels and the Beverages Corporation (BevCO) outlets shut during the lockdown period.
Suicides have been reported from across districts including Ernakulam, Kollam, Thiruvananthapuram and Thrissur.
There has been sharp increase in the number of admissions at de-addiction centres and mental health hospitals after the unavailability of alcohol. Many de-addiction centres and NGOs in mental healthcare sector have launched tele-counselling facility to help the alcohol addicts. ‘Vimukthi’, the Excise Department’s de-addiction programme is also getting several distress calls.
Spouse or family members get panicky because alcoholics display serious withdrawal symptoms and are seeking the help of psychiatrists and clinical psychologists.
In the wake of the serious social implications of the unavailability of alcohol, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan recently instructed the Excise Department to provide liquor to those with serious withdrawal symptoms and other complications, based on a qualified doctor’s prescription.
Though the government earlier considered online sale of liquor, the move has been dropped as it requires amendments in Abkari rules.
However, the Indian Medical Association and the Kerala Government Medical Officers Association came strongly against the government’s decision to provide liquor on doctor’s prescription.
The KGMOA has sent a letter to the chief minister asking him to revoke the decision on liquor supply.
“The decision to give alcohol to tipplers with serious withdrawal symptoms is not scientific and unfortunate. Alcohol addiction can be effectively treated for which there are international treatment protocols. Alcohol is not used in its treatment,” said Dr. Joseph Chacko, state president of KGMOA in the letter to chief minister.
State excise minister TP Ramakrishnan has urged habitual drinkers with serious withdrawal symptoms to approach de-addiction centres in their respective districts....