KOCHI: The alcohol addicts in Kerala seem to have gotten used to the prolonged non-availability of liquor. The number of distress calls to the excise department's de-addiction programme 'Vimukthi' has come down to just five-10 per day from over 200 calls in the initial days of the lockdown. Moreover, there has been no suicides or attempts reported due to the withdrawal symptoms in the last four-five days, said officials.'
"The withdrawal symptoms are mostly seen in the first three-five days, after which they get used to it. We have not seen any instances of suicide attempts or cases of withdrawal symptoms in recent days," said B Tennymon, CI, excise divisional office.
Kerala has seen at least six suicides while the Vimukthi centres received hundreds of distress calls from addicts in the first two-three days of the closure of the liquor outlets.
"We used to get over 200 calls in the first couple of days, then it has come down significantly. In the last few days, there were hardly any calls. It seems things have settled down," said B Suresh, assistant excise commissioner, who also oversee the Vimukthi de-addiction programme.
He, however, added that there may be a few instances where the alcoholics may be getting illicit liquor from other sources. "We cannot completely rule out the possibility, given the fact that there have been an increase in cases of illicit brewing in the state," he said.
According to him, though the excise department's toll-free number 14405 received over 200 calls per day, only about 10 people required immediate admission at its de-addiction centre in Muvattupuzha. "At Muvattupuzha, we have only 10 beds; so in many cases which required hospital admission, we referred the cases to the nearby taluk hospitals," said Tennymon.
Mukkampuzha Nandakumar, chairman, Development Action Council for Kerala, an NGO group, termed the decline in alcohol withdrawal-related cases as a positive outcome of the lockdown. "The government should use the occasion to close all Bevco retail outlets. The government can open pubs at each panchayats where the Bevco employees can be rehabilitated," he said.
"There was a perception created that most Malayali men are alcohol addicts and they cannot withstand long periods of alcohol unavailability. The lockdown has shattered such theories. Since liquor is a major source of income for the government, it can sell the alcohol via pubs," he said.