Withdrawal hits tipplers in Telangana as lockdown keeps booze out

In Nizamabad district, three persons died due to complications from withdrawal symptoms

tipplers, alcohol, coronavirus, COVID-19, Telangana, alcoholics, de-addiction centres, Lockdown
To purchase liquor, one needs to book a slot in the virtual queue through the BevQ app and nearly 3.5 lakh people have downloaded the application. Photo: PTI

Tipplers in Telangana are on the edge. With all wine shops and toddy outlets being closed since March 22, following a shutdown announced by the state government, the habitual boozers are going through severe withdrawal symptoms as they are deprived of their daily fix — the alcohol.

The Institute of Mental Health (IMH) in Hyderabad is now witnessing a spike in the number of people approaching it, complaining of withdrawal symptoms.

“Normally, we see about 40 new patients every day. However, in the last few days, there has been an influx of alcoholics coming to us with withdrawal symptoms. On an average, more than 120 patients are visiting the hospital everyday,” said hospital superintendent Dr Umashankar.

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The patient walk-ins at the outpatient wing of the institute, a 600-bed facility in the heart of the city, have been on the rise. Many were treated in the OPD while a few had to be admitted.

Most of the people who visited the institute showed symptoms such as restlessness, cold sweats and headache.

“We will first determine the severity of the problem and prescribe tablets or injections. If it is a serious case, we admit them and begin the process of detoxification, which takes about 10 days,” Dr Umashankar said.

“We have enough facilities. This is a 600-bedded hospital. We don’t have a problem even admitting 200 or more patients. We will be able to handle it. We have enough medical supplies as well,” he said.

No relaxation

Over the last week, at least four deaths have been reported across the state. In Nizamabad district, three persons died due to complications from withdrawal symptoms.

On April 3, a 50-year-old daily wage worker committed suicide by jumping off a building in the city as he was upset over not being able to get liquor due to the 21-day countrywide lockdown imposed in a bid to curb the spread of coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, the State Excise Minister V Srinivas Goud has advised tipplers to take to yoga and meditation to overcome withdrawal symptoms. At the same time, he advised their family members to spend more time with them.

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He ruled out any relaxation and said the government was determined to ensure total closure of liquor outlets.

The minister’s assertion comes in the backdrop of Kerala government’s recent order providing some relief to the alcoholics. It allowed people with withdrawal symptoms to apply for a liquor pass with a doctor’s certificate, saying the person is suffering from withdrawal symptoms.

However, the Kerala high court last week stayed the government’s order on special passes for tipplers.

The medical fraternity had also opposed the government’s move, saying alcohol addiction was a disease and issuing such certificates to boozers was against medical ethics.

What are withdrawal symptoms?

If a regular drinker suddenly stops consuming alcohol, the withdrawal symptoms start after 24 hours. The mild symptoms are anxiety, irritability, headaches, nausea, vomiting, insomnia, and sweating.

However, the things can turn worse with heavy symptoms like seizure, suicidal tendencies, harming others, depression, and hallucinations.

“In 48 to 72 hours, one may develop severe side effects like withdrawal seizures, delirium, incoherence, fever and other disorders,” said a representative of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA), an NGO engaged in running de-addiction camps.

The AA-community conducts around 40 meetings a week to help the addicts to kick the habit.

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In view of the lockdown and social distancing requirement, the AA community has now started their regular meetings through video conferencing and the content in different languages is being made available on social media platforms.

“The incidents of consumption of spurious liquor or disinfectants that smell like alcohol cannot be ruled out in such times of desperation,” said Dr D. Keshava Rao, senior psychiatrist and former president of Telangana Psychiatric Society.

Telangana has 2,400 licensed liquor outlets and around 700 bars which are currently shut. Except for stray incidents of wine shop owners selling their stock at homes at exorbitant prices, alcohol is completely out of bounds for the common man.

“As responsible citizens of the society, we have agreed to close down shops to prevent the spread of coronavirus. We are keenly watching the developments and will strictly follow the instructions from the government,” the president of Telangana Wine Dealers’ Association D Venkateshwara Rao said. edge; withdrawal symptoms on the rise

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