Recent studies from Asia have revealed that India is suffering an alcoholism epidemic even though for the majority of their Muslim population it is illegal to drink alcohol.
Alcohol and hard liquor is sold from bootleggers and on the black market but is available to a small number of permit holders who can purchase alcohol from regular drink shops. Pakistan does have a number of breweries but the majority of their alcohol products are sold oversees by export, or consumed by the non-Muslim population.
India by in large is considered a ‘dry’ country as 96% of its population cannot legally drink alcohol. Muslims found guilty of consuming alcohol may face the punishment of 80 lashes but the penalty is not strictly enforced.
Officials in India have told the BBC that alcohol-related diseases have risen by a shocking 10% in the last five years. Recovery centres and rehab clinics are on the increase to help stem the growing problem in the region.
Tahir Ahmed, a former alcoholic who now runs a rehabilitation organisation in India, Therapy Works, said: “Unfortunately drinking in Pakistan is not recreational,” he continued, “It’s much more escapist and much more relief-seeking. That means drink till the bottle is emptied.”
Drinking among the affluent is especially noticeable according to research. Some senior politicians are rumoured to drink, and alcohol is served at some high-society events, though never on camera. But it affects everybody and is by no means an ‘upper-class’ problem. Last month, at least 12 people in Karachi died after drinking toxic home-made liquor at a social event.
The medical market in the country is unregulated so treatment ranges from centre to centre with some places more strict than others. As the country adapts to the increasing problem the authorities and population must adapt and introduce a network of support to help alcoholics and people struggling with substance abuse to receive treatment.
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