With the increasing number of suicide case in Kerala, after liquor shops were closed during the lockdown, State Chief Pinarayi Vijayan directed the Excise Department, which controls the sales and distribution of liquor, to provide liquor to alcoholics, with medical prescriptions.
Kerala has the highest number of alcoholics in the country with 1.6 million consuming it on a daily basis. The state government has also asked the Excise Department to provide free counselling to those with withdrawal symptoms in its de-addiction centres.
Vijayan has said the government was also considering the option of online sales of alcohol as the sudden unavailability of it could lead to social problems.
The decision comes after the state recorded about seven suicides following people suffering withdrawal symptoms after they were unable to fulfil their daily need for alcohol.
Kerala has 565 licensed bars, selling liquor, and over 3,600 licensed shops selling a locally brewed drink known as toddy.
“As large numbers of people are dependent on alcohol, the deprivation can lead to withdrawal symptoms and further serious consequences. It can lead to delirium – a state of disorientation and confusion", Dr Roy Kallivayalil Professor and Head of Department of Psychiatry, Pushpagiri Institute of Medical Sciences and Secretary General at World Psychiatric Association told Sputnik.
Meanwhile, the Indian Health Ministry has also launched a countrywide toll free number -08046110007- for people who have been facing mental health issues including depression over not being able to buy alcohol.
“There were some reports of mental and behavioural issues in the country due to the 21-day lockdown. Keeping that in mind, NIMHANS has launched a helpline number. People can call them for consultation", Lav Agarwal, a top official from the country's Health Ministry said on Sunday.
India has over 16 million people who consume around six billion litres of alcohol per year. With the announcement of a 21-day lockdown by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on 24 March, liquor outlets across the country also closed down. State governments in Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, and Jharkhand have also been receiving complaints of withdrawal-related syndrome, a medical condition among those who have become physically dependent on alcohol.
India has reported a total 1,071 Coronavirus cases, which includes 48 foreign nationals, and 29 deaths according to the federal Health and Family Welfare Ministry.